A cartoon like this one is going to inevitably inspire debate about the accuracy of the numbers, so here’s how I came up with mine.
1. Estimated cost of war $10 billion a month:
â€œIn FY2007, DODâ€™s monthly obligations for contracts and pay averaged about $12.3 billion including about $10.3 billion for Iraq and $2.0 billion for Afghanistan.â€ [CRS Report, 2/22/08]
2. $10 billion divided by 30 days in a month comes out to $333,333,333 a day. Divided by the number of seconds in a day (86,400) = $3858 a second.
3. Total final cost of war $3 trillion. That estimate comes from “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” which is discussed here. Same source for the figures about Social Security and children’s health care, though one thing that I should have made clearer — the figure regarding children’s health care indicates what could have been done with this sum with plenty left over:
By way of context, Stiglitz and Bilmes list what even one of these trillions could have paid for: 8 million housing units, or 15 million public school teachers, or healthcare for 530 million children for a year, or scholarships to university for 43 million students. Three trillion could have fixed America’s social security problem for half a century. America, says Stiglitz, is currently spending $5bn a year in Africa, and worrying about being outflanked by China there: “Five billion is roughly 10 days’ fighting, so you get a new metric of thinking about everything.”
4. Avg distance to moon = 238,907 miles x 5,280 ft/mi = 1,261,428,960 ft to moon x 12 inches = 15,137,147,520 inches to moon, divided by 6.14 inches (length of dollar) = 2,465,333,472 dollar bills end-to-end to reach the moon one-way
Mulitplied by two: 4,930,666,944 dollar bills end-to-end for a round trip to the moon.
Three trillion divided by 4,930,666,944 = 608 round trips to moon
(This site was extremely helpful in figuring out this last bit.)
Any errors are of course mine alone, and still entirely possible, given that I am a right-brained, math-challenged cartoonist.