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Middle-class peeves cost more money than exists

Statistics confirm our worst fears

Next we come to some dark territory: illegal drugs. Some of them, like reefer and acid, are relatively harmless, but the bulk of them are addictive and deadly: lost wages, broken families, theft, murder - the drugs racket has got it all. The cost to society is $97.7bn, and the cost of the drugs themselves adds another $57.3bn. We know this because the NIH says it's so. Incidentally, we've calculated the cost of the drugs because, unlike the cost of booze, cigarettes, Happy Meals, or wagers lost, drug money goes into a black hole of crime and filth, and rarely provides any useful return.

We wondered if we should add the cost of health benefits paid by employers here, or if we should have stated it at the outset as a fixed, unavoidable cost. We decided to add it here because the costs have become fluid, with American employers re-evaluating their obligations to employees on an hourly basis. We've learned that the tab, for the moment, is a mere $383.2bn.

To this we must add the cost of insurance fraud, which drains $96.8bn from the coffers of the good hands in which we all rest secure.

And lest we forget, there is the $31bn in business costs that retail theft exacts.

Computers have become an indispensable part of our work lives, and we hope that the ludicrous sums spent acquiring and maintaining them (which, by the way, we are not calculating) generate a net profit. We doubt it, but we hope it. Nevertheless, there is a dark side here: cybercrime. It costs businesses $400bn a year, we are told.

We might have included spam in the cybercrime estimate, but just as noise is any sound that you do not welcome and cannot control, so too is spam largely a matter of perception. It's not necessarily illegal. We find that, regardless of one's perception of its legality, dealing with it at work accounts for $17bn in lost productivity.

On top of that, unauthorized web surfing on the job drains our good employers of another $178bn.

We've seen many wild estimates of the cost of illegal immigration (although, surely, letting crops rot in the fields while waiting for US citizens to line up, eager to perform stoop labor for $3.50 an hour with no benefits, seems, at best, a potential disappointment), we found a very modest statistic claiming that the national cost is a mere $10bn, and cite it here.

Now let's wrap up with the NCAA Tournament representing $3.8bn in lost productivity, the Super Bowl, which represents $821.4m in lost productivity, and the World Series, which represents $465m in lost productivity.

We come up with a grand total of $7.39 trillion - well in excess of the $6.70 trillion that actually exists. That's right, when you allow for the basic costs that we've all got to put up with, and the inevitable losses to criminals like Ken Lay and Ted Bundy, and then pile on the items that meddling little turds hate to see us enjoying, it all costs more money than there is.

Unfortunately, our little study is incomplete. We can only wonder what the social costs are from needless worry and stress brought on by the torrent of fraudulent statistics concocted by finger-wagging, middle-class farts.

Now that would be a number worth knowing. ®

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