Wall Streets' Great Recession Cost Us All $30 Trillion

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The government generally made out OK from the economic fallout of the Great Recession -- but the economy is quite another story.

With the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s recently announced sale of $2.4 billion in Citigroup ( C) bonds, that marks the end of Uncle Sam's investment (or "bailout") in Wall Street investment banking firms.

While the U.S. government turned a tidy profit on the Citi deal, earning almost $15.5 billion from it, the financial damage inflicted on the nation and its citizens is both staggering and historic -- but not in a good way.

In fact, Americans may want to sit down as the Dallas Federal Reserve offers a final financial loss figure from the economic collapse of 2007-09 and resulting economic stagnation of the past five years.

That tally comes in at $30 trillion once you factor in "additional costs arising from psychological consequences, skill atrophy from extended unemployment, a reduced set of economic opportunities and increased government intervention in the economy," as the American Enterprise Institute puts it.

The Dallas Fed digs deep into the numbers -- not an easy exercise given all the moving parts involved in tallying up the damage done. In an economic letter released this month, Assessing the Costs and Consequences of the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis and Its Aftermath, the Dallas Fed notes that "any estimate of the toll exacted is bound to be incomplete -- for example, there may be future expenses not yet recognized -- so it's useful to calculate a range of likely costs."

The Fed breaks out its calculator and determines that the "bottom line" cost of the Great Recession ranges between $6 trillion and $14 trillion, but that seems like a conversation starter with additional considerations in the mix.

"The crisis consumed an enormous sum of financial and housing wealth," the Dallas Fed says, adding in its report that U.S. household net worth plunged $16 trillion, or 24%, from third-quarter 2007 to first-quarter 2009 and that the collapse also must take into consideration what the Fed calls "human capital," including current wage income and discounted future wage income (a household's expectation of potential earning power).

"If the effects of the crisis are permanent, the path of consumption observed since 2007 suggests that the cost of the crisis may be more than double the $6 trillion to $14 trillion estimate," the report says.

That gets the country to a numerical loss of anywhere between $12 trillion and $28 trillion -- so where does the $30 trillion figure come into play?

The AEI weighs in at the higher end of the Dallas Fed's estimates, and even adds several trillion with the costs of an "oil-shocked-induced recession" that set the U.S. economy back by $2.1 trillion. Sum of the loss: about $30 trillion.

That's a huge figure, and is one likely to induce sticker shock on average Americans as well as economists and global investors.

But it's the one the country is left with, and is a vivid reminder of the lessons of 2007-09.