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Financial Crisis Tab Already In The Trillions and Counting

Given the speed at which the federal government is throwing money at the financial crisis, the average taxpayer, never mind member of Congress, might not be faulted for losing track.

CNBC, however, has been paying very close attention and keeping a running tally of actual spending as well as the commitments involved. And there's been quite a jump since we last tabulated things two weeks ago.

Try $7.36 trillion dollars. That's more than double what was spent on WW II, if adjusted for inflation, based on our computations from a variety of estimates and sources.

Not only is it an astronomical amount of money, it's a complicated cocktail of budgeted dollars, actual spending, guarantees, loans, swaps and other market mechanisms by the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and other offices of government taken over roughly the last year, based on government data and news releases. Strictly speaking, not every cent is a direct result of what's called the financial crisis, but they're all arguably related to it.

The bulk of the sum falls under the Federal Reserve's umbrella, while another good chunk ($700 billion) is the under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) as defined under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, signed into law in early October. (The TARP alone is bigger than virtually any other US government endeavor dating back to the Louisiana Purchase. See slideshow.)

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The total figure is a combination of what's been committed (where it is defined) and what has actually been spent or lent (where a given program has started. )

So, for example, we counted the full $800 billion committed Tuesday in the form of measures directed at supporting consumer loan and mortgage-backed securities, even though none has yet been allocated. We counted the full TARP, even though only $320 billion has been spoken for.



The total figure is a combination of what's been committed (where it is defined) and what has actually been spent or lent (where a given program has started. )

So, for example, we counted the full $800 billion committed Tuesday in the form of measures directed at supporting consumer loan and mortgage-backed securities, even though none has yet been allocated. We counted the full TARP, even though only $320 billion has been spoken for.

But we're using specific numbers where available. Some $900 billion, for instance, has been allocated to the Term Auction Credit Facility, known as TAF. Another $1.8 trillion has been set aside for the commercial paper funding facility.

Individual firms such as Bear Stearns, AIG and Citigroup, to name a few, have also received billions of dollars in government aid, in some cases through a variety of means.

(Editor's Note: CNBC's Steve Liesman and Sabrina Korber have been keeping a running tally of the government's efforts, while Sean Entwistle, Yolaiki Gonzalez, Giovanny Moreano andAriel Nelson researched and computed the data for the comparisons with other major historical events in the slideshow.)

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