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A Graphic Representation of How Much Is Being Spent on Bailout

Once you start talking about $50 billion, $700 billion, $1 trillion, the numbers stop mattering to most minds. There's just no way to wrap your head around numbers that big. You can try the old reporter's trick, and write things like: If you stack up $700 billion in $1 bills, it would form a pillar 52,00 miles high, which is a little less than one-fourth the distance from the Earth to the moon.

Yeah, not so helpful, right?

Here's an illustration The Ticker found that's better, thanks to our good friend Nell Minow, editor of the Corporate Library, a corporate governance watchdog. She found it on The Big Picture, a blog by quant investor Barry L. Ritholtz.

It's a simple but effective graphic that breaks down the billions into $50 billion squares, and then assembles them into bigger rectangles to represent the cost of the Bear Stearns bailout, the commercial paper funding facility, the AIG bailout and so forth, compared with the cost of the Vietnam War, the New Deal, the moon race and so forth.

The results are pretty astonishing.

Over the past 12 months, the U.S. government has "spent, lent, consumed, borrowed, printed, guaranteed, assumed or otherwise committed" $206 trillion, writes Ritholtz, author of "Bailout Nation."

Which is waaaaay more than the U.S. has forked over in major expenditures over the past 206 years -- dating back to the Louisiana Purchase -- combined. (Yes, inflation-adjusted.)

Check out the graphic by clicking here. You'll be sorry you did.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  June 19, 2009; 3:25 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: AIG, Bear Stearns, bailout  
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