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The story of $100 billion: A mysterious number that may explain what's wrong with America

Monday, February 27, 2006 by: Dani Veracity
Tags: government spending, counterthink, health news

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What's wrong in America? Interestingly enough, many of our nation's problems can be summed up in one unlucky number: $100 billion. Sure, sometimes the government's $100 billion expenses signify a positive, worthwhile expense, such as the $100 billion that the federal and local governments spend on elementary and secondary schools. Who could argue with that? However, this example seems to be the exception rather than the rule. As both history and current society demonstrate, $100 billion price tags are usually connected to what's wrong in American society, rather than what's right.

Wouldn't we all love a secret budget in which we could hide our unnecessary, often impulsive, expenses? Spend too much on a pair of shoes, a new outfit or a luxurious personal electronic item? No worries; just put it in your private budget and no one will know about your indiscretion but you.

Yes, given this license for secrecy, some of us would undoubtedly put more in our hidden budgets than others, but even the most wasteful shopper could not possibly have a secret budget that equals the U.S. Government's. In his book, 20 Years of Censored News, Carl Jensen explains, "The 'Black Budget' funds every program the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency want to keep hidden from view; in the past three years, $100 billion has disappeared into the Pentagon's secret cache." Now, $100 billion is a lot of money to just disappear. In any other employment sphere, such a disappearance would call for widespread inquiry, but it's the government, so apparently it's okay.

$100 billion in government pork

Where exactly did this money go, and where are similar funds going? We, the American people, don't know because it is secret, after all. According to current government behavior, it's very easy to spend $100 billion, which may be news to those of us in less well-funded areas of society. During his presidency, Ronald Reagan gave his home state of California an average of $100 billion per year in military contracts, most of which was paid to workers in Los Angeles County. A "mistake" in the final draft of the real estate tax rules, which provided businesses with tax incentives to purchase new equipment, cost the federal government up to $100 billion in revenues until the 1986 Tax Reform Act fixed the problem.

Of course, we can't forget those other capital vacuums: The major corporations. The processed meat industry alone makes $100 billion per year. The American telephone system is another $100 billion-per-year industry, and online retail sales in general also average $100 billion annually. Fortunately for the American media, these capital vacuums also include them, as major corporations spend roughly $100 billion on advertising annually.

$100 billion in the disease industry

Ironically, many of these $100 billion-per-year industries make products leading to damages totaling -- you guessed it -- $100 billion annually. For example, consumption of processed meat can be linked to cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease: The best estimate of cancer's overall cost is more than $100 billion per year, according to Innocent Casualties author Elaine Feuer. Obesity's price tag is also $100 billion dollars, when you consider money spent on health services, disability and work productivity losses. Furthermore, 10 to 15 percent ($100 billion) of all the money Americans spend annually on health goes to the treatment of adult-onset diabetes -- a product of obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and other risk factors. As you have probably already surmised, cardiovascular disease costs Americans almost $100 billion, as well.

Additionally, we must consider health care fraud, which wastes -- that's right, you guessed it again -- approximately $100 billion per year in the United States alone. In other words, $100 billion is a magic figure in the healthcare industry, the corporate sphere and the government. And when these skyrocketing costs make consumers worried about their financial situations, the resulting stress-related illnesses and behaviors -- including psychiatric disorders, smoking and other addictions -- result in expenses yet again totaling $100 billion per year in medical expenses, decreased work productivity and excessive absences.

So, what are the usual "solutions" to all of these problems? The supposed solutions are pharmaceuticals, of course, which is why Americans spend far more than $100 billion on pharmaceuticals every year.

$100 billion for car repairs

When we're not pouring money into taxes, consumer products or care for our bodies, we're spending it on our cars. Americans spend $100 billion on car repairs every year, $40 billion of which is unnecessary, according to consumer activist Ralph Nader's estimate.

Now, for the most part, the United States is a car-orientated society, especially in the West and Midwest, where "spread-out" cities and large expanses of open land make public transport difficult. However, due to these repair and maintenance costs, as well as the recent increase in gas prices, it's becoming increasingly difficult for most Americans to own a car.

Furthermore, many experts agree that if these factors stay unchanged, the situation can only get worse. In his book, The Hydrogen Economy, Jeremy Rifkin explains former member of the U.S. Congressional Research Service Joseph Riva's perception of the upcoming oil crisis: "Planned oil production expansions ... are less than half that needed to meet the 2010 world oil demand projected by [the International Energy Agency], but will cost in excess of $100 billion, plus an additional $20 billion to upgrade and expand Persian Gulf refineries to meet growing world product demand." These costs are sure to, once again, be passed on to the consumer.

So, what can the United States do to avoid a future situation that may uproot our way of life in this car-oriented society? Vehicles powered by hydrogen seem to be one part of the solution, but Rifkin writes that it would cost more than $100 billion to create a national system that would produce, distribute and store hydrogen cheaply enough to make a hydrogen economy feasible. Yes, that magic number $100 billion is both the price tag of our current situation and part of the necessary measures to fix some of what's wrong with our car society.

The figure $100 billion is so common in experts' figures and estimates that it seems somewhat of a joke; however, these references are all very real. Why is $100 billion the figure of choice? Perhaps experts have a subconscious tendency to round figures off to that smooth-sounding sum. Or maybe it's just that $100 billion is so large and incomprehensible to mere mortals that its meaning escapes the common folk. And that, of course, may be the whole idea.

The experts speak on the United States' bizarre link to $100 billion price tags:

Cities, states, and the federal government today spend close to $100 billion a year on elementary and secondary schools.
Free to Choose A Personal Statement by Milton & Rose Friedman, page 170

During the Reagan presidency, his home state would prosper as the number one recipient of military contracts, averaging $100 billion each year. By 1983 California's defense contract payroll would top $8 billion, most of it paid out to workers in Los Angeles County.
Betrayal Of Trust By Laurie Garrett, page 13

Businesses were supposed to be granted tax incentives for purchasing new equipment, which stimulated economic growth. However, a "mistake" was made in the final drafting of the real estate tax rules, allowing these incentives to apply to new owners of old buildings -- creating a massive real estate tax shelter industry with no corresponding economic benefits. This leakage is estimated to have reduced federal revenues up to $100 billion until it was corrected by the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
God Wants You To Be Rich by Paul Zane Pilzer, page 251

In all, the U.S. government spent about $100 billion on Alliance for Progress programs, which included health and education programs, housing projects and general economic development.
The Facts On File Encyclopedia Of The 20th Century by John Drexel, page 25

The deficit was easy to cover with national savings. But as the size of the annual deficit grew -- first to $100 billion, then to $200 billion, then to a staggering $300 billion -- the government consumed more and more of the supply of capital available in the United States.
Everyone's Money Book by Jordan E Goodman, page 238

By allowing large companies an unlimited tax deduction for the amount spent on their employees' health care and not taxing the employees for the benefits they receive, the federal government unwittingly subsidizes health care for middle- and upper-class individuals. Moreover, this massive indirect $100 billion subsidy lies at the root cause of our ever-spiraling health care costs.
God Wants You To Be Rich by Paul Zane Pilzer, page 164

The $5 billion a year spent by the government is swamped by the costs to industry and consumer of complying with the regulations. Conservative estimates put that cost at something like $100 billion a year.
Free to Choose A Personal Statement by Milton & Rose Friedman, page 192

"Those other capital vacuums, the major corporations"

The nitrates and nitrites have not been banned, and they are still in use in the $100 billion processed-meat industry.
Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M Haas MD, page 456

Domestic cash receipts for the meat industry totaled roughly $100 billion in 1997. If Campbell's estimates are correct, it's possible that this industry is a net drain on the American economy.
Food Revolution by John Robbins, page 436

The American telephone system is the world's largest switched-distributed network providing point-to-point connections. The combined local telephone exchange market, with annual revenues of about $100 billion, is far more profitable than the $20 billion U.S. cable business.
The Road Ahead by Bill Gates, page 241

Online retail sales (called B2C for business-to-consumer) for all market segments in the United States reached almost $50 billion in 2001 and are projected to reach over $100 billion by the end of 2003.
Marketing on the Internet by Jan Zimmerman, page 400

In 1970, computers were becoming more prevalent and the cost of computing was declining. At the same time, market segmentation and demographics were the buzzwords of the day. Add to this lifestyle data, psychographics, and a computer at the end of each marketer's fingertips, and we now have a direct-marketing business in excess of $100 billion dollars annually.
Internet World Guide to One-To-One Web Marketing by Cliff Allen Deborah Kania and Beth Yaeckel, page 95

Large corporations pump $100 billion per year in advertising dollars into the coffers of the US media alone.
Toxic Sludge Is Good For You by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, page 194

There are no accurate figures on cancer's overall cost. The best estimate is more than $100 billion a year.
Innocent Casualties by Elaine Feuer, page 126

The approach of the NCI and FDA is overwhelmingly in support of toxic chemotherapy. They have abrogated their duties as the defenders and protectors of the cancer patients. They function today on behalf of the industry they were supposed to challenge and oversee. They are the drug testing and law enforcement arms of a vast $100 billion a year business, the cancer industry.
The Politics Of Cancer-Prevention Revisited by Samuel S. Epstein MD, page 557

After years of underestimating the cost, in 1987 the US authorities admitted to a total annual expense of $71 billion for the nation as a whole. The figure today is probably well over $100 billion. Many individuals are bankrupted by the cost of such care and it contributes greatly to society's enormous medical burden.
Cancer Therapy by Ralph W Moss PhD, page 13

About $65 billion is spent each year on health complications related to obesity. Add indirect costs, such as disability and lost work productivity, and the total climbs above $100 billion.
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 820

Certainly obesity, with its $100 billion a year (and growing) price tag in health services, justifies some involvement by the government, or at least by large national organizations.
Fat Land by Greg Critser, page 170

The cost of diabetes and its medical complications (resulting from a failure to control the disease) is an estimated $100 billion annually, accounting for about 15 percent of current health-care spending.
Alternative Medicine by Burton Goldberg, page 692

Diabetes is the leading cause of foot amputations, accounting for about half of all such amputations (60,000 annually) other than those performed as a result of accidents. Every year, 15 percent of U.S. health-care dollars -- $100 billion -- is spent on the treatment of this disease.
Natural Pet Cures by Dr John Heinerman, page 85

There is the $100 billion annual price tag for the care and treatment of diabetics, the majority of new cases being a direct result of excess weight. That boils down to one in every ten dollars dedicated to health care. In terms of federal resources, diabetes alone commands one in every four Medicare dollars.
Fat Land by Greg Critser, page 147

The Costs of Diabetes The growing incidence of diabetes is exerting a tremendous financial toll on our country. In 1997, the most recent year of available statistics, direct health care costs for the treatment of diabetes were $44.1 billion. Add to that $54 billion in indirect costs such as lost wages, and diabetes is costing us upwards of $100 billion per year.
Reversing Diabetes by Julian Whitaker MD, page 417

Americans spend nearly $100 billion a year on medical care and lost wages from cardiovascular disease.
World Medicine by Tom Monte, page 251

The Philadelphia Business Journal (4/19/96) reported that the General Accounting Office estimates medical billing fraud and abuse diverts around ten percent of the estimated $1 trillion in health-care payments made annually in the United States, or about $100 billion a year.
20 Years Of Censored News by Carl Jensen, page 330

What could be better than stopping the waste of $100 billion (at the very least) in medical, dental, and pharmaceutical fraud, and using the money for any good purpose, including lower federal taxes for all?
The Medical Racket by Martin L Gross, page 137

Richard Lamm, visiting professor at Dartmouth College, has estimated that inefficient and unnecessary health care expenditures add $100 billion annually to the cost of American goods and services, which jeopardizes our ability to compete in the emerging global economy.
Beating Cancer With Nutrition by Patrick Quillin, page 12

It is not organized crime, just an enormous cottage industry that is ingeniously and creatively ripping off America to the tune of some $100 billion dollars a year, and perhaps much more.
The Medical Racket by Martin L Gross, page 103

According to the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association, the yearly loss totals between $31-$53 billion; according to the authoritative General Accounting Office, the annual loss is $100 billion; according to other investigators, the amount is as high as $250 billion.
20 Years Of Censored News by Carl Jensen, page 330

In all, the estimated $100 billion a year in health care fraud is probably understated, especially since policing is lax.
The Medical Racket by Martin L Gross, page 104

Americans currently spend more than $100 billion annually on treatment of various addictions, neuropsychiatric problems, obesity, and Alzheimer's disease.
The Edge Effect By Eric R Braverman MD, page 10

Overall, stress-related ailments cost American business and industry more than $100 billion annually in lost productivity and absenteeism, Dr. Eliot says.
New Choices In Natural Healing by Prevention Magazine, page 641

The estimated cost of smoking is somewhere between $50 and $100 billion a year.
Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M Haas MD, page 962

The National Academy of Sciences estimates that indoor pollution contributes up to $100 billion annually in health care costs.
The Headache Alternative by Alexander Mauskop MD FAAN, page 84

Treating low-back pain costs up to an estimated $100 billion a year.
Healing Arthritis the Natural Way by Luke Bucci PhD, page 139

According to the Alzheimer's Association, four million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease, which translates into $90-$100 billion in yearly heath care costs.
Under The Influence Modern Medicine by Terry A Rondberg DC, page 19

Americans are expected to spend over $500 billion on drugs this year -- not including the extra $100 billion estimated for the Medicare drug benefit program. Spending on prescription drugs is now the fastest growing portion of healthcare spending in the United States.
Ephedra Fact And Fiction by Mike Fillon, page 176

Direct costs are $500 billion, and continue to increase at twice the rate of inflation (The Economist, December 17, 1988). If indirect costs have continued to rise at the same rate, then the total cost of cancer in 1991 will be over $100 billion.
The Cancer Industry by Ralph W Moss, page 12

Noting that health care spending had jumped from 5 percent of GNP in 1960 to 12 percent in 1990, and lost productivity due to death and illness had risen, the official report estimated that "injury alone now costs the nation well over $100 billion annually, cancer over $70 billion, and cardiovascular disease $135 billion."
Betrayal Of Trust By Laurie Garrett, page 559

The National Council on Patient Information and Education reports that over 50 percent of people with high blood pressure fail to take their medication as prescribed; 42 percent of people with diabetes do not take their medication as scheduled; and 39 percent of adults with asthma do not follow the regimen of drugs set by their doctors. The cost of such failure to comply with doctors' instructions has been estimated at more than $100 billion a year in additional doctor visits, medications, and hospitalization.
Smart Medicine For Healthier Living by Janet Zand LAc OMD Allan N Spreen MD CNC James B LaValle RPh ND, page 10

"Failure to take medications properly costs more than $100 billion a year due to increased hospital admissions, nursing home admissions, lost productivity and premature deaths."
Prescription For Disaster by Thomas J Moore, page 209

Although Americans spend $100 billion a year on automobile parts and service, every third car repaired requires a return visit to the shop, according to automotive consultant J.D. Power and Associates.
The Consumer Bible by Mark Green, page 270

The key question facing the automobile industry during the transition to hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered vehicles is how to produce, distribute, and store hydrogen cheaply enough to be competitive with gasoline at the pump. Some studies estimate that it would cost more than $100 billion to create a national infrastructure for producing and distributing hydrogen in bulk.
The Hydrogen Economy by Jeremy Rifkin, page 208

Out of the $100 billion Americans now spend annually on auto repair, Ralph Nader estimated that Americans now shell out more than $40 billion unnecessarily.
The Consumer Bible by Mark Green, page 268

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