Financial Crisis What You Could Get for $700 Billion

The US Congress is going to take another stab at passing the gigantic bank bailout package on Friday. But how much money are we talking about? SPIEGEL ONLINE gives you an idea.

Money makes the world go round -- and certainly with $700 billion -- that's $700,000,000,000 -- you could accomplish a great deal. That's how much the US government wants to pump into the financial system  in order to avoid another bankruptcy on the scale of Lehman Brothers.

The deal stumbled in the House of Representatives on Monday, leading immediately to a steep stock exchange fall in New York and markets around the world. Now, though, after a bit of tinkering, Congress has been asked to vote again. The Senate has already given "Bailout Package: The Sequel" its seal of approval with the House set to vote again on Friday.

But just how much money are we talking about here? Most folks' eyes get glassy once the number of zeros gets up above six. As a public service, SPIEGEL ONLINE has come up with a list of other things one could possibly do with $700 billion, were it lying around.

Pay the Salaries of 22 Million People

$700 million would be enough to a pay the average annual salary for 22 million people in the United States. According to the US Department of Labor, the average pay for a week's work in August was $612.

Establish Universal Health Coverage

The US could finally establish universal health insurance, a goal which, up to now, has consistently stymied politicians. The government could finance as many as six years of health insurance for each and every US citizen.

Purchase a Communications System for Emergency Medical Services

Washington could purchase an urgently-needed, modern, uniform communications system for all the country's emergency medical services 47 times over. Estimates put the price tag for such a system at up to $15 billion.

Build Levees around New Orleans

The project to strengthen the levees around New Orleans could actually be paid for a hundred times over. Since Hurricane Katrina, the government has spent about $7 billion on such efforts.

Buy Denmark -- Twice

$700 billion is enough to fund the economies of entire countries. The sum being considered in Congress is more than twice the gross domestic product of Denmark, which in 2007 ran to about $312 billion.

Finance Germany's Entire National Budget for Over a Year

Projections put Germany's national budget for 2009 at €288 billion, which, with current exchange rates, comes to around $420 billion. With this sum of money it would be possible to fund the country for 1.6 years.

Fight Poverty in Africa for 10 Years

This amount of money could finance the UN's programs to fight hunger and poverty in Africa for 10 years. According to UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, the continent requires $72 billion in development aid every year.

Finance all US Intelligence Operations for 15 Years

The US government could finance all 16 of its intelligence agencies for more than 15 years. Currently the combined annual cost, including 100,000 employees, communications systems, reconnaissance equipment, and weapons totals around $44 billion.

Launch Multiple "New Deals"

FDR would be green with envy. His "New Deal" from the 1930s, unmatched till now as a program for growth, could be financed many times over. According to the Wall Street Journal, the program's infrastructure investments would cost about $250 billion in today's dollars. These investments helped build or renovate 8,000 parks, 40,000 public buildings, and 72,000 schools.

Save the Earth (Instead of Banks)

Instead of helping banks, $700 billion could be used to save the environment. This, at least, is the opinion of M. A. Sanjayan, lead scientist for the environmental protection group The Nature Conservancy. Although the data from research institutes varies considerably concerning the precise amount that would be necessary to get the environment back on a healthy footing, everyone agrees that $700 billion would go a long way.

Stay in Afghanistan and Iraq for another Seven Years

Numbers from Washington show how absurdly expensive wars can be: Since invading Iraq, the US has spent nearly $648 billion on the war. At current levels of expenditure, $700 billion would be enough to wage the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for another seven years.

Fly to the Moon, Repeatedly

The sum would also be enough to fund four separate manned missions to the moon. NASA's "Apollo" program during the 1960s cost about $164 billion in today's dollars. The money could also purchase seven international space stations.

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