Monday, May 18, 2009

Understanding the meaning of "Trillions"

Nowadays we are seeing numbers mentioned in government spending, that should belong in astronomy rather than accounting. They are so HUGE, it's hard to grasp. Here are some sites that can help:

What does one TRILLION dollars look like?
All this talk about "stimulus packages" and "bailouts"...

A billion dollars...

A hundred billion dollars...

Eight hundred billion dollars...

One TRILLION dollars...

What does that look like? I mean, these various numbers are tossed around like so many doggie treats, so I thought I'd take Google Sketchup out for a test drive and try to get a sense of what exactly a trillion dollars looks like.

We'll start with a $100 dollar bill. [...]

It's a good visual presentation. Here is one example of what One Hundred Million Dollars (in $100 bills) would look like, stacked on a palette:

Follow the link to see what a Trillion Dollars would look like in $100 bills. It's mind boggling. Then multiply THAT by 10, and you will have our current National Debt. Unbelievable... and unsustainable.

HT: Walker at Subtle oak flavor; Pleasing finish

Here's another article that tackles the topic:

Obama’s dangerous budget leaves GOP at loss for words
[...] Insensitivity to scope is a major obstacle to understanding the Obama administration’s $3.6 trillion 2010 budget. People simply have trouble understanding a number so big. A recent poll asked Americans how many million are in a trillion. Twenty-one percent of respondents got the answer right — it’s a million million. Most people thought it was a lot less.

Republicans are facing that obstacle as they try to explain the dimensions of Obama’s spending plan. The GOP pollster told me he tries to explain it by asking people to think of a dollar as a second — one dollar, one brief tick of your watch. A million seconds, the pollster explained, equals eleven days. A billion seconds equals 31 years. And a trillion seconds equals 310 centuries.

The task of educating voters got a little more urgent Monday, when the government announced the not-terribly-surprising news that federal tax revenues will be smaller this year than previously thought. After a review of the Obama budget’s numbers before formal submission to Congress, Budget Director Peter Orszag said this year’s deficit will be $1.841 trillion — $89 billion more than previously estimated. If you’re listening to the ticks of your watch, that’s about 570 centuries. [...]

570 centuries worth of seconds... dang. Such numbers, applied to currency and accounting balance sheets, are very scary indeed. And for good reason.

1 comment:

Walker said...

Thanks for the HT!

Great item. Thanks. I've been on the lookout for more comparisons for the size of 'trillion'