If a Hollywood villain wanted the thrill of hundreds of millions of dollars at his fingertips, he wouldn’t have to stage a high-stakes heist. He’d just have to become a bureaucrat.
In the 1988 movie Die Hard, villain Hans Gruber and his crack team of code-breaking and martial arts experts take the guests of a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza building hostage. Their objective: to steal $640 million from the company’s vaults while distracting the cops with elaborate demands. Their problem: John McClane, the tough and resourceful New York cop played by Bruce Willis, who evades their notice and then methodically sabotages their heist.
Six hundred million dollars dwarfs the sum Marilyn Monroe hoped to land by matrimony in How to Marry a Millionaire in 1953, and it’s still pretty tony by today’s standards. Tiger Woods was estimated by Forbes Magazine to be worth $600 million in 2010. It’s also estimated to be the worth of Elizabeth Taylor’s fortune at her death, and she’s fondly remembered as no scrimper at parties and fundraisers.
But $640 million is chump change to the US government. According to this year’s numbers, the federal government will spend $3.8 trillion dollars this year. That’s over $400 million an hour. That means the federal government will spend $640 million in about an hour and a half this year. That’s less time than it would take you to watch Die Hard.