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Washington busy spending lots and lots of money

Monday, November 24, 2008 | 6:02 p.m. CST; updated 10:47 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wars. Bailouts. Unemployment aid. Automakers. Washington has opened the tap on big spending and money is gushing down the pipeline.

The national debt now stands at $10.6 trillion, compared to about $5.7 trillion in 2000 before George W. Bush took office. Buckle up, because that figure is going to climb.

Here's where some of the big bucks are going:

  • Iraq war. Various estimates put the total cost of the military operation since 2003 at about $600 billion.
  • Bailout. The Troubled Assets Relief Program signed on Oct. 3 provides $700 billion in financial relief. Of that amount, the Treasury Department has committed about $270 billion in cash injections for banks and another $40 billion for the insurance company American International Group.
  • Economic stimulus. In February, President George W. Bush signed into law a $168 billion stimulus package that included rebates for households and tax breaks for businesses. President-elect Barack Obama is preparing another stimulus plan, and Democratic lawmakers say they expect the package that will be considered by Congress in January could total between $500 billion and $700 billion. That figure will include Democrats' tax cuts, aid to states and new spending on health care, clean energy and public works.
  • Detroit. General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC and their suppliers have been authorized $25 billion by Congress to retool their assembly lines for making more fuel-efficient cars. Now, the Big Three automakers want an additional $25 billion in cash infusions from Washington to ensure they will have the funds to operate through next spring. Congress could act on it in December.
  • Housing. Bush in late July signed a housing bill including $300 billion in new loan authority for the government to guarantee cheaper mortgages for troubled homeowners. In addition, the Treasury in September took over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, pledging up to $200 billion to back their assets.
  • Jobless aid. As its last act before recessing last week, Congress approved an extension of up to three months for expiring unemployment benefits. The cost to the government is almost $6 billion.
  • Federal Reserve. In the past year the Fed has increased its lending and purchases of debt by $900 billion, to almost $2.2 trillion.
  • The federal deficit — the difference between what the government received from taxes and other revenues and what it spent — in the 2008 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 was $455 billion. That compared to $161.5 billion in 2007. Just one month into fiscal 2009, the budget deficit had already reached $232 billion, including $115 billion going directly on the deficit ledger for bank stock purchases last month as part of the financial system bailout. The Congressional Budget Office counts the bailout cost so far at $17 billion, which represents the "present value" of the money. The deficit for fiscal 2009 could climb closer to $1 trillion.

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