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What $1 Trillion Can Buy (Besides the War in Iraq)

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

What $1 Trillion Can Buy (Besides the War in Iraq) It's hard for the human mind to make sense of a figure like $1 trillion. Millions, billions, trillions—they all sound the same. The best way to come to grips with that much money is to think about what you could buy with it: $1 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public-health campaign, such as universal health care in the U.S. and immunizations to save the lives of millions of children around the world; universal preschool across the country; a huge increase in reconstruction funds for New Orleans; improved national security; and a peacekeeping force to put an end to the genocide in Darfur. All that would be one way to spend $1 trillion. Here's another: The war in Iraq. Before the war began, the Pentagon estimated that it would cost $50 billion. That's way off the mark. Some experts are now arguing for an eventual price tag of closer to $1 trillion. Think of what else you could buy with that money. When you do that, a trillion stops sounding like millions or billions.

David Leonhardt