Big Budget Events

Big Budget Events

If you are dumbfounded by the amount of money the federal government is pouring into the private sector to ease the nation's financial crisis, it's worth a look at how much Uncle Sam has spent on other major projects and historic events in the past, such as wars, bailouts and engineering marvels.

Thus far, only one item surpasses the $700 billion allocated to the government's main rescue fund, what's known as the Treasury Dept.'s TARP program. Other expenses and/or commitments, from Federal Reserve lending and guarantees to FDIC insurance fund losses to complex financial market mechanism, put the total cost at some $3.8 trillion (as of Oct. 23). Click ahead for a big-budget ride through time.

Hoover Dam

Photo: Ville Miettinen

Original Cost: $49 million
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $782 million

When completed, the Hoover Dam was the world's biggest electric power generating station. The 726-foot high dam — 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas — is now a National Historic Landmark.

Panama Canal

Photo: AP

Original Cost: $375 million
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $7.9 billion

The Panama Canal was the single most expensive construction project in US history to that time. Amazingly, unlike any other such project on record, the American canal had cost less in dollars than estimated, with the final figure some $23 million below the original estimate, in spite of landslides and a design change to a wider canal. The first ship sailed through in January, 1914.

Gulf War I

Photo: AP

Original Cost: $61 billion
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $98 billion

The United States joined a coalition of 34 nations to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait after Saddam Hussein led his army to annex Kuwait. The expulsion of the Iraqi troops began in January, 1991 and the war was over by February.

Marshall Plan

Photo: National Archives

Original Cost: $12.7 billion
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion

The Marshall Plan (or the European Recovery Program) was the strategy for rebuilding Western Europe after World War II. By 1951, the economy of every participant country, with the exception of Germany, had grown to pre-war levels.

Louisiana Purchase

Original Cost: $15 million
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion

The Louisiana Purchase was the United States' acquisition of 829,000 square miles of land from the French for the Louisiana Territory. The land covered territory from the Mississippi River that reached out as far north and west as Montana and Wyoming and south into parts of Texas.

Race to the Moon

Photo: AP

Original Cost: $36.4 billion
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy called for a man on the moon by the end of the decade. However, NASA green lighted the project two years earlier with the approval to develop a rocket that would support a manned moon mission. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's "giant leap for mankind" occurred on July 20, 1969.

Savings & Loan Crisis

Photo: AP

Original Cost: $153 billion
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion

Savings & Loans or "thrifts" were faced with new competition for deposits from higher yielding money markets. Deregulation and loosening of lending standards led many thrifts to take big risks, many of which suffered huge losses. Over the 1986-1995 period, 1,043 thrifts with assets worth over $500 billion failed.

(Pictured: Charles Keating of Lincoln Savings & Loan)

Korean War

Original Cost: $54 billion
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion

As the first major conflict of the Cold War, Soviet-backed North Korea and US-backed South Korea fought to reunify Korea under their respective regimes. Over 2.5 million people lost their lives before an armistice

The New Deal

Original Cost: $32 billion (Est)
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)

In an effort to create relief for the unemployed, reform business practices, and help lift the economy during the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out a number of new plans to facilitate the recovery. The New Deal ended with the outbreak of World War II and a new focus for the country.

Gulf War II / War on Terror

Photo: National Archives

Original Cost: $551 billion
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President George Bush declared a new War on Terror with the stated objectives of securing the homeland and disrupt the international terrorist networks. In October 2001, the US and its allies launched Operation Enduring Freedom and invaded Afghanistan. On March 20, 2003, the second Iraq War began as the reports alleged that Iraq had amassed weapons of mass destruction that threatened the US and its allies.

Vietnam War

Photo: Yoichi Okamoto

Original Cost: $111 billion
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion

Like the Korean War, the Vietnam War was another proxy war in the broader Cold War with North Vietnam supported by its communist allies and South Vietnam supported by the United States and its allies. Americans were deeply divided over the costs and benefits of the longest war in its history, including the deaths of over 58,000 US servicemen.

(Pictured: Pres. Lyndon Johnson and Sen. Richard Russell)

NASA (Cumulative)

Original Cost: $416.7 billion
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

It takes the cumulative 50-year spend of the entire National Aeronautics and Space Administration to get above the spend level of the $700 billion TARP plan. Born in part out of the Cold War, NASA's mission is to "pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research."

World War II

Original Cost: $288 billion
Inflation Adjusted Cost: $3.6 trillion

Just two decades after the War to End All Wars, the deadliest war in history began. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the US formally joined forces with the Allies and declared war. WWII was the most costly endeavor this country ever has been through in terms of dollars and in terms of lives.

Note: CNBC based its computations for this "running tally" on government data and news releases, as well as estimates from a variety of sources.

References include US National Archive, US Dept of Defense, US Bureau of Reclamation, Library of Congress, NASA, Panama Canal Authority, FDIC, Brittanica, WSJ, Time,, and a number of non-news Websites.

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