A few days ago I was watching some screaming head on the news complaining about the usual range of things wrong with the war in Iraq. When referring to the dreadful expense of waging that particular war its opponents like to use the phrase "cost in life and treasure." Yes, we are paying for this war in corpses and Spanish doubloons.
I am not a big fan of the Iraq war myself, but I do kind of understand where all of the people who support the Iraq war are coming from: Stupidtown. They're not all the same kind of stupid, because that would be a wild generalization, but they are all stupid with the exception of one group: the guys who are getting all of the treasure. Those guys knew exactly what a shitfest Iraq would become and they didn't give a damn about our rationale or goals.
For the war profiteers it has been a bonanza in Iraq. More than 250 billion dollars has either been dumped into that country or has been approved and is in the process of being dumped into that country. Tens of millions go missing on a daily basis with no investigation and no follow up. If one were given to cynicism they might even dare to believe that the government was colluding with the war profiteers in some sort of military and industrial complex.
I'm not going to lecture all of you on why the Iraq war is stupid, and you are stupid, and your mom is stupid, and your brother is stupid. We've been through all that before and, yes, I know I'm a lieberal faggot who needs to be punched in the face. But all this talk of lost treasure got me to thinking about just what we might have done with that 250 billion dollars instead of blow up half of a country, throw it into civil war and get a few thousand arms and legs blown off. The answer is that we could have done a lot, an awesome lot.
250 billion dollars is such a vast amount of money that most people, including myself, have difficulty even really comprehending it. You get to about a million dollars and people like me just see this huge cloud floating off in the sky that rains prizes from the Price is Right. I could buy anything I could imagine with 250 billion dollars. Even magic! Listing a bunch of random things I can imagine buying with nearly unlimited amounts of money doesn't really help anyone get a grip on the staggering 250 billion figure, so let me put it in terms that will help you visualize all of that squandered treasure. I like to call it The Awesome Deferred.
With 250 billion dollars the United States could have purchased...
...454 of the Tallest Building in the United States
Ever since those fucking cheating Petronas Towers stole our glory the United States has been scrambling to play catch up in the giant phallic symbol game. My home town of Chicago is getting ready to get started on a new contender called the Fordham Spire, which sounds like an awesome futuristic wizard's tower or something.
The council approved a measure that raises the height limit on structures at the site to accommodate the 2,000-foot tower. The building, named the Fordham Spire, would top Chicago's Sears Tower and the planned Freedom Tower in New York as the tallest in North America.
The $550 million, 124-story building to be developed by the Fordham Co. will have about 300 condominiums, 250,000 square feet of hotel space, retail stores and restaurants. It will overlook the Chicago River where it meets Lake Michigan.
That's right, instead of thousands of dead bodies and hundreds of interminable speeches from political blowhards on both sides of the spectrum, that 250 billion could have paid for 454 of the tallest building in the United States. Think about that. Even if you are profoundly retarded and still think Saddam had something to do with 9/11, we could have replaced the World Trade Center 454 times with the money we have spent failing to catch the guy actually responsible. Blowing up houses and crap with missiles and chain guns is pretty awesome, but it's not that awesome.
...two manned missions each to the moon and Mars
This one is a real sticker because Bush was the one who gave the nod for both the disastrous Iraq war and the manned missions to the moon and mars. Too bad he forgot to tell NASA, or congress, that he was going to sink the federal budget into half a trillion dollars of deficit spending.
The cost of the human and robotic missions to the moon and Mars would total roughly $120 billion by 2020, according to estimates from a NASA chart. NASA's current annual budget is $15 billion.
Alright, the moon is old hat and boring, but it's pretty much there so we can practice our moves on the dance floor before the big show on the red planet. I mean, would you rather be able to tell your kids "I watched us give up and pull out of Iraq on live TV" or "I watched us land on Mars on live TV?" Chances are one of those things will happen in your lifetime and I'm betting it ain't the United States landing on Mars. I mean heck, we could have passed on the Iraq war thing, flown to Mars once and still had enough dough left over to buy 200 or so of the tallest buildings on earth.
...more than 80,000 of the world's biggest truck
We like things big in America, but South Africa and Australia get to have a modest glut of the world's biggest truck. According to the truck's creator only 50 to 75 are ordered every year. Why would we ever need to go to war again if we have 80,000 of these trucks? We could just drive over anyone who opposed us like some sort of apocalyptic monster truck rally.
It's quite different from what you might expect. For a start there isn't one huge engine powering the wheels, as you would get in a regular truck. Instead, a 3650-horsepower (2723-kilowatt) diesel engine generates power for two electric motors in the rear axles. So it's more like a huge electric railroad locomotive than a conventional truck.
SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY! NITRO BURNING AMERICA TAKES OVER THE WORLD WITH ITS CAR-CRUNCHING MONSTER MASHING MONSTER TRUCKS! If only we had a good price estimate on Truckasaurus, it would be a combined arms crush-a-thon. This truck wouldn't even notice an IED.
…156,250 episodes of Arrested Development
An article printed in the Wall Street Journal estimated that each individual episode cost roughly 1.6 million dollars to produce and market (hah). They went on to say that Fox lost about 400,000 dollars every time it ran the show with production costs less advertising revenue, although that's not really worth factoring in since it probably would have hit 1.6 million again once you consider opportunity cost. They could have put some profitable trash in the timeslot.
Instead of going to war, with people dying and crap exploding, we could have subsidized 12,000 years worth of Arrested Development. Almost no one dies because of Arrested Development. That's great news for Arrested Development fans, but what would be in it for those of you who don't like Arrested Development? Look at it this way: as it stands now you're looking at well over 12,000 years of Arrested Development fans bitching about their favorite show being cancelled. The Universe will expire from heat death to the whimper of a few Arrested Development fans still clinging to the false hope that they can raise enough money on their blog to clone the cast and make a new episode.
...298,412,466 Sony Wega 23" LCD HDTVs
That number may not seem to clarify the issue, but it is an HDTV for every single person in the United States of America. Man, woman, child. Old or young. Everybody gets an HDTV from Sony courtesy of the government. Even better, the actual cost of doing this is only about 235 billion, leaving another 15 billion to actually ship the things all over the country and probably enough on top of that to buy a DVD player for everyone. Not a good DVD player, but like one of those Acer DVD players you can get out of the soda machine at Wal*Mart. The kind of DVD player that you have to put the DVD in sideways and it always defaults to having French subtitles.
Too bad the Democrats were too busy falling over each other to be the first in line to vote for the Iraq war. They really could have pitched this one to the people. "Guys, look, we could go get misguided revenge and blow up Iraq…or…we have this beautiful 23 inch crystal-clear Sony HDTV for each and every American citizen." The thing is, this is probably going to cost another 250 billion, so why don't the Democrats pitch this to the American people now? "We'll bring the troops home and hey, everybody gets a TV!"
...Full ride 4-year college scholarships for 7,260,000 students
Alright, so it might be hard to actually find 7,260,000 people in America without degrees who are worthy of a 4-year scholarship, but that's no problem. We could just look outside the United States. We used to be really good at sucking all of the brains out of other crappy countries like some sort of doctor zombie. Their smart kids get knocked over the head by a recruiter and wake up as Americans attending a university in Boston.
If you're like me you haven't had a native born doctor since your pediatrician, but with the way things have been going Johns Hopkins is going to be opening franchises in Beijing and Calcutta. You're going to have Indian dudes cracking jokes about their crazy-talking American doctor, Paul Smith. There will be a class full of Chinese kids scratching their heads as Jennifer Johnson tries to teach them quantum physics. Why can't she just learn to speak Chinese?
...Give every adult man and woman in Iraq 16,000 dollars and a plane ticket to the United States
This probably isn't such a hot idea now that most of them want to smack us in the face with shoes, but instead of invading their country to get rid of Saddam and turning it into an apocalyptic hell storm of violence we could have just flown everyone who wanted out to America. They'd have a nice startup nest egg. They could put a down payment on a decent 3-bedroom house somewhere in the Midwest, get jobs and live the life of freedom we seem to cherish so much. Everyone's happy! The money we gave them goes right back into local economies, we get a bunch of great folks from Iraq to enrich our melting pot culture, all of the people who hate Saddam get to leave him in the dust and the dumb jerks who like Saddam can stick around. On top of that he wouldn't have enough people left in his army to gas curds of cottage cheese.
Oh, I forgot, we don't really like the Iraqis. We aren't really a melting pot. We didn't even really give a shit about Saddam gassing people. Gotcha.
…29 Statues of Liberty that shoot laser beams out of their torch
Bear with me on this one. The Statues of Liberty cost approximately 350,000 dollars to construct, including its base. Assuming all of those bucks are 1884 bucks that's worth 6.9 billion in 2005 bucks. The Statue of Liberty is one of the most enduring symbols of the Freedom and openness in the United States. But, we are living in historic times. We are living in the epoch of the terrorist, when our monuments, buildings and ports are in danger.
Enter the ABL or airborne chemical laser. This huge turret is capable of cooking missiles, aircraft and just about anything else that falls within its beam of death.
A focusing mirror that started out as an unwieldy 2,000 pounds now weighs in at just 300 pounds, he noted. Last summer, the laser was tested to 110 percent of its design power for nearly five minutes. The first of the seven planned ABL airframes will be delivered around January. The aircraft--a brand-new, off-the-assembly-line commercial 747 freighter--will be flown from the Boeing factory in Washington state to Wichita, Kan., where Boeing will modify it over 16 to 17 months into the Attack Laser-1.
A laser-wielding Lady Liberty could be stationed in every US mega port as well as several of our large urban centers. What better way to ring in the dawn of this new age than by transforming the symbol of our nation's heritage of freedom into a death-spitting dark angel presiding over the time of ruin? There is no better way. That was rhetorical.
I would like to encourage all of our readers to indulge me in a little side project once the update is over. I would like each and every person to think of the coolest thing they can imagine owning and then determine how many of that thing they could buy with the money we spent on the Iraq war. Then I want you to email me your results. It's sort of like fantasy football only more depressing than that time you squandered a first round pick on Terrell Owen and then he developed a case of glass ankle.
Do you wish to know what computers will be doing in the year to come? With a sigh I shall exert the minimal effort it takes to reveal all. Feel free to print out these predictions and share them with your friends via fax.
Old mixed signals feeling a little stale? Try some new ones!
day 2: still working on the car
The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.