How much is $700 billion?


My colleague, Steve Mullis, is putting together some graphical depictions of how much $700 billion is — the current estimated amount of the big financial bailout being debated in Congress. This isn’t one of them, but this is the largest bill in U.S. currency. $100,000.

It would take 7 million of these to make up $700 billion. These bills are not in circulation. And, besides, only 42,000 of these were printed.

So we’d have to use these:


We’d need 7 billion of them, of course. Each bill weighs one gram. Four-hundred-fifty-four bills equals one pound. So $700 billion in $100 bills weighs 15,418,502 pounds — 7,709 tons.

At current weight limits, it would take 24 51 railroad freight cars to deliver the cash.

  • Freight car loads typically weigh around 200,000 pounds. Union Pacific has a max. load size of 286,000 pounds. In my experience with grain shipments, I have never seen a load that heavy. (I suppose coal or iron ore loads are loaded heavier.)

    I don’t know where you got your figure, but if 15,418,50 is divided by 24, each car would have to weigh 624,438 pounds.

    It not only sounds more impressive to say it would take 77 freight cars, it is more accurate.

  • And to think… what some people would do for ONE of those $100 bills.

  • Bob Collins

    According to the BNSF site, the freight car I chose was weight limited at 150 tons. That’s the number I used. I shop local. (g) Wouldn’t surprise me if I dropped a zero here or there.

    I guess it would be more economical to ship it via barge.

    Unrelated note: Did you know the money paper is printed on comes from only one site? Crane Paper Company in Dalton, Mass., in the Berkshires. When they ship the paper, they use trucks. And a few police cars.

  • sm

    How about something related to the moon, like how many times this would reach to the moon and back in $1 bills.

    I mention the moon because this strikes me as a variant of “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” We have one chance to get this right and “failure is not an option”. Other than the failures that have already happened, that is.

  • sm

    I forgot to add:

    We all better get ready to work until we drop because baby, we just lost the Moon (Social Security, bye bye)

  • JohnnyZoom

    Was it Reagon who said that to be a millionaire, you would need a four inch stack of $1000 [sic] bills, but to have a trillion dollars, one would need a stack 67 miles high? (I get 63 miles, but I get the point)

    Back to this issue: I come up with that many $1 bills reaching about 18% to the moon.

  • Joel Xavier

    If the basement of this problem is home mortgages and if we were to buy houses, the $700 billion dollars could buy 3.5 million of them at $200,000 each. That would provide 70,000 houses for each state in the union.

    If they were to be built in my neighborhood that would build a new house for everyone in Martin County;

    and everyone in Watonwan County;

    and everyone in Jackson County;

    and everyone in Cottonwood County;

    and everyone in Faribault County.

  • Tony

    This entire crisis is the work of free market fundamentalists intent on controlling the wealth of our great nation. Everyone interested in this subject (and everyone should be) needs to read “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein. That which has already destroyed other nations wealth and economies is now upon us, and it’s entirely the fault of those who have foolishly embraced the economic theories of Milton Friedman and the University of Chicago.