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Commentary

With Twelve Billion Dollars We Could Buy So Much Voltron Cosplay



American farmers are among the casualties in the Trade War. President Trump is offering them $12 billion in emergency aid to soften the blow. We have, therefore, a wealth-transferring policy on top of a counterproductive wealth-destroying policy. What are the alternatives? What else could we get for that $12 billion? It’s pretty well known that people don’t handle large numbers particularly well—the average person doesn’t quite get the difference between one million and one billion, because both are simply “a lot”—so here’s a bit of perspective. Inspired by a social media post from Zach Weinersmith of the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic, here are some of the other things we could get for $12 billion.

Pay 200,000 people to form a giant human Voltron for eight hours a day for a year (Weinersmith’s suggestion). Let’s be a bit more specific. The population of Birmingham, Alabama (where I live) is 212,157—that’s people who live in the city not the larger metro area. For $12 billion, you could pay every man, woman, and child in Birmingham $18 an hour to form human Voltron eight hours a day for 365 days. In fact, this would only cost $11,150,971,920. That would leave with about $849,000,000 with which to pay cash for the city’s arena renovation and new stadium. Twice. With almost $250,000,000 left over.

A Super National Science Foundation. The NSF’s 2018 budget request was $6.653 billion. That $12 billion could either fund the NSF for almost two years. Or maybe we could establish a Super National Science Foundation. We could call it the National Mad Science Foundation as a nod to Weinersmith and nerds around the world. If it produces a working lightsaber, it’s worth it.

Buy every man, woman, and child in America breakfast at Waffle House for a week. Every Wednesday is “Waffle Wednesday” at our house. Unless we’re out of town you can find us at the Five Points Waffle House where you can get a waffle, scrambled eggs, and coffee for $5 and a kids’ waffle, meat (bacon or sausage), and a drink for $4.50. You’d probably need to bring a dollar or two of your own to cover tax and tip.

Fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for almost 27 years. The CPB’s FY 2018 operating budget is $445,500,000. $12 billion would buy you a lot of episodes of Sesame Street and All Things Considered.

Or just hand every man, woman, and child in America about $37.42. These are all cool ideas, but you might disagree. Maybe you didn’t grow up with Voltron like I did. My kids and I love Waffle House. You might not. Who am I to tell you to eat waffles? Just pass out the dough as a refundable tax credit or something and let the market work.

But these are just a few suggestions. Answer in the comments: what would you buy with $12 billion?


Art Carden is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and an Associate Professor of Economics at Samford University’s Brock School of Business.






  • MyGovCost.org
  • FDAReview.org
  • OnPower.org
  • elindependent.org