Only in Washington can $7 billion dollars be considered a small amount.   But that seems to be the feeling among many in Congress, which is on the verge of approving a bailout for Detroit automakers.   As approved by the House on Wednesday, the program would provide for $25 billion in low-interest loans aimed at Detroit automakers to build more fuel efficient cars. (The program is discussed in more detail here.)   The Senate may take up the matter as early as today as part of the continuing resolution on appropriations.

As estimated by the Congressional Budget Office, it will cost taxpayers some $7 billion to finance the $25 billion in loans.  That may sound like a lot of bucks to you and me, but some — such as Michigan Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) — think its hardly worth counting.   Says Dingell, as quoted in Motor Trend magazine:

“Some critics will call this loan package a bailout. It is not. These loans amount to a little more than one percent of the real bailout — the one the Bush administration wants for Wall Street at a cost of $700 billion to taxpayers.”

That’s new math on steroids.   Dingell would be well-advised to remember Everett Dirksen’s remark that if you spend a billion here and a billion there, it will soon add up to real money.

And $7 billion may become real money even faster.