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Wanna take a $3 trillion shopping spree?

Since co-authoring The Three Trillion Dollar War with Linda Bilmes, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has tried to help American taxpayers wrap their heads around just how much our government is spending on the conflicts and subsequent occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan by doing some comparison shopping.

"Try filling your shopping cart with what the cost of the Iraq War could buy: health care for every American? A new home for every subprime borrower now facing foreclosure? An Ivy League degree or two? You haven't even gotten started," Stiglitz said.

To illustrate Stiglitz's assertion, the folks at True Majority and Brave New Films launched the Three Trillion Dollar Shopping Spree, where consumers can fill their carts with $3 trillion worth of virtual items that could save the world or just make their own lives easier.

I barely broke the $1 trillion mark on my shopping spree, even with a cart full of goodies like fighting AIDS in developing nations ($15 billion), worldwide compliance with the Kyoto Protocol ($400 billion), worldwide no-kill animal shelters ($7 billion), achieving universal literacy ($5 billion) and a vacation in space for $20 million (hey, altruism has its limits).

Apparently, it's a lot easier to spend the big bucks on armed conflict. According to Stiglitz and Bilmes, this is how $3 trillion is being spent by the Bush administration in its war efforts:

  • $526 billion - borrowed money poured into Iraq so far
  • $615 billion - total interest costs for taxpayers
  • $280 billion - to rebuild our military
  • $590 billion - disability benefits and health care for Iraq veterans
  • $1.5 trillion - estimated costs through 2017

So while it's fun to fill your virtual shopping cart with items like universal health care for all Americans (about $6,000 per person), It's hard not be infuriated when you see where this money is actually going. The Three Trillion Dollar Shopping Spree gives people a clearer picture of how their tax dollars could be better spent.

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