When the Red, White and Blue Is In the Red

generic capitol congress house cash money budget CBS/AP

During the Johnson administration, the Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen was railing one day against government spending and managed to say, "...a billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

That's almost quaint these days, and I'm not even talking about the cost of health care.

I used to say I had been around so long that nothing surprised me. But last week, I got surprised - I should say I had a jaw-dropping shock is a better way to say it - every time I picked up the newspaper and read about the numbers we're throwing around lately.

Like yesterday when I picked up The New York Times to discover we have spent more money rebuilding Iraq's schools, hospitals, water treatment and electrical plants - $54 billion - than we have spent on any construction project since the Marshall Plan, which you'll recall was to rebuild Europe after World War II.

Sobering but not surprising: Many of those facilities may close when we leave because there are not enough trained Iraqis to operate them.

Another number in the news last week that I found astounding: It is now to keep one U.S. soldier on the ground in Afghanistan, not to mention that for every soldier there, we have one civilian contractor.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Afghanistan

Which helps explain another shocker that came out last week: that 10 years ago, we owed the government of Spain more than we owed China. Yet, when President Obama came calling to China, we owed the Chinese more than a trillion dollars.

Yep, old Ev Dirksen was right. A billion here and a billion there did add up to real money - and a big pile of bills - but has going a trillion dollars in hock to one country made us more secure?
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    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.


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