If you go to the historical budget information of the US government and look at Section 3, table 3.1 (Excel file) you can see budget figures for "National Defense" over the years [does not include veteran spending]. Way back in 1978 the spending for the war department topped 100 billion dollars and continued to grow over the years. I'd say that means that well over a trillion dollars was dumped into the war-hole between 1978 and 1988 [not to mention that with the FY 2010 $533.8 billion request from Obama-Gates [official DOD pdf letter] - it now takes just two years to officially get to that magical trillion-plus number for keeping us safe!]
But if a watered down pathetic bit of health insurance reform legislation might cost $1 trillion over the next ten years then OMG! even chief planet monkey David Kastenbaum says, "I really can't wrap my head around a trillion dollars." He explains that it's "six times NASA's budget..."
At least Linda Wertheimer has the sense to ask, "How would it compare to the Iraq War?" But David's not going down that road and dismisses it with a simple "100 billion a year is roughly, ballpark what we are spending on the Iraq War." God forbid he mention that the old Iraq War will probably cost a bit more than that - at least by a factor of 2 if not 5!
As readers have noted, Dean Baker has been an astute critic of NPR's economic monkey business and he has already noted the silliness of NPR's fixation on the figure of a trillion.
Got to love the comment under the piece on NPR's website by Madchen Vapid who writes, "Dear Planet Monkey, What does 1 trillion bananas look like?"