We know that several large, U.S. banks will receive $25 billion in taxpayer funds that Henry Paulson says they don’t need.

Among the $25 billion beneficiaries is Wells Fargo Bank, whose chairman, Richard M. Kovacevich, is said to have protested strongly that his bank did not need a bailout.

So massive and unprecedented is the scale of this fleecing of the American taxpayer that $25 billion no longer sounds like an astronomical amount of money, but in an interview with the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal last year, Genentech CEO Arthur D. Levinson helps us put that figure in perspective:

…look at how much society is investing in cancer. In the absence of better care, 42% of everybody out there is going to get cancer. And half of those 42% are going to die of cancer. It’s the leading cause of death among Americans under age 85. So how much are we spending on drugs for cancer? We have a $12 trillion GDP [gross domestic product]. And we’re spending $15 billion. If I do that math, 1/800th of GDP for the leading cause of death. And people say cancer drugs are bankrupting America! Give me a break.

Presuming Dr. Levinson has his facts straight, U.S. taxpayers are giving to a single bank whose chairman doesn’t want the money – and the Secretary of the Treasury says doesn’t need the money – almost 70% more money than they invest in a year on cures for cancer.

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