Federal Spending Transforms America

Over the Fourth of July weekend, the third Transformers movie, Dark of the Moon, made box-office history by pulling in $118 million at the domestic box office.  The movie is 137 minutes long.  The federal government spends about $7 million per minute, which means that during any given showing of Dark of the Moon, the government spent $959 million… over eight times its stupendous opening take.

During the course of the movie, the hero’s girlfriend is given a fantastic sports car as a perk by her lecherous boss.  The hero quickly looks the car up online, and sees that it is worth $200,000.  We’ve just learned that the President’s own economists concede that every job “created” by his trillion-dollar stimulus program cost $278,000.  That means taxpayers could have bought one of those sweet sports cars for every one of the workers who got a “stimulus job,” along with $78,000 to fill up the gas tank.

While we’re talking about the relationship between money and time: Democrats have been peddling the notion that ending the Bush tax cuts for the highest income bracket would somehow help to resolve the budget deficit.  By the most optimistic and unrealistic static analysis, ending those tax cuts would bring in $69 billion per year – and that’s if we pretend there would be no reduction in tax-producing economic activity after these tax hikes.  $69 billion would fund the operations of the federal government for about 7 days.

When Barack Obama tried to finger corporate jet owners as the villains who somehow inflated the deficit with their undeserved tax break, castigating them six times in a single speech, he was complaining about roughly $2 billion in “lost” revenue over 10 years.  That works out to $200 million per year.  If you went to the movies this weekend, the government spent that much during the advertising, trailers, and “shut off your cell phone, you inconsiderate moron” messages that preceded the movie.

The current federal budget… well, the Democrats haven’t passed a “budget” in almost 800 days, but the current yearly spending of the federal government stands at $3.6 trillion.  It would require the combined opening weekend gross of over thirty thousand movies as successful as Dark of the Moon to provide that much funding.  The top 20 films of all time grossed a little over $8.5 billion combined, which is not enough to run the federal government for even a single day.

People have trouble engaging with the federal budget crisis on an intellectual level, because the numbers are so huge they become meaningless.  A billion dollars is small change, hardly worth arguing about.  Sometimes it helps to have something realistic, like a giant alien robot who can turn into a car, to measure those crazy spending figures against. 

It’s also useful to remember that such immense sums cannot be subtracted from the private sector without fundamentally transforming it, and not for the better.  Over a million tickets to Transformers: Dark of the Moon were sold during this holiday weekend, making it a bona fide pop-culture phenomenon… and generating enough revenue to fund the federal government for 16 minutes and 51 seconds.