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Saturday, January 22, 2011


It's actually a cute sounding word. It kind of rolls off the tongue nicely. Sounds like a nice little trill on the piccolo or something. Kind of magical. But when you consider that the federal government has projected $3.83 trillion in total spending for 2011, it kind of makes me want to ask ... "what's a trillion?"

Well, it's simple! A trillion is simply 1,000 times a billion. Easy, right? I mean, think of a billion and then add 1,000. No! Not add! Multiply. So, let's see ...

If we went back 1 billion seconds from now, we would go back about 32 years. If we went back 1 trillion seconds from now, we would go back almost 32 thousand years. One billion minutes ago was almost to the time of Christ, but one trillion minutes ago was 1.9 million years ago. Or how about this? If you traveled 1 trillion feet, it would take you just about the 98 million miles to the Sun ... and back.

How about in terms of money? The government plans to spend that $3.83 trillion this year. Estimates and averages place the cost of feeding one average African for a day at $4. There are currently about 1.25 billion people in Africa. If we took our budget for the 2011 fiscal year and bought them food with it, we could feed all of them ... for two years. Or how about our national debt? We are at $14 trillion right now. With the current 312 million Americans, each of us would need to pay $45,000 to pay it off. (The average income per person in the United States is about $33,000.) Look over at that cute little kid in the stroller. How long do you think before she is going to pay her share? So that's not reasonable. Let's do it by household. With 115 million households, we'd each need to pay $122,000 to pay it off. Since the average household income in America today is about $50,000 per year, don't count on that being paid off any time soon.

Without offering judgment or evaluation or recommendation, I have to say that, while a "trillion" may sound "cute", it is really a number beyond my common perception. And we are consuming 3 times that amount this year. Which may be a bad thing since we owe more than fourteen times that one trillion mark. That is, if we simply stopped all national spending entirely and paid everything we planned to pay toward paying off our national debt, it would take us four years to pay it off. No, not so cute now at all.

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