Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Trillion Here, A Trillion There . . .

. . . and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

A reader commented yesterday about finding a "visual" for 700 million dollars, or better yet, 3 trillion dollars, since those are some of the numbers being thrown around these days as if they were nothing at all.

I was intrigued by what that might look like myself, and while I didn't find any pictures, I did come across some information that might help put these numbers into at least some sort of perspective. Bear in mind, all of the below are dealing with a single million or billion or trillion; extrapolate the examples as you may need.


A million seconds is 12 days.

A million dollars is equal to a stack of $1,000 bills 4 inches high

(this one is really too easy, isn't it? Let's move on, shall we?)


A billion seconds is 31 years.

A billion dollars is equal to a stack of $1,000 bills 358 feet high.

A billion seconds ago it was 1978.

A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

At an average rate, it would take about 95 years to count to one billion.


A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.

A trillion dollars is equal to a stack of $1,000 bills 67.9 miles high. To put that in perspective, you could drive 60 mph for a full hour with this stack laid out on the road next to you and still not reach the end. And remember, these are thousand dollar bills.

If you spent a million dollars a day starting on the day Christ was born, you would not have spent a trillion dollars until the year 2737.

Assuming that a box of Girl Scout cookies is $3.50 and the world population is 6.7 billion, a trillion dollars could buy everyone in the world 42 boxes of cookies.

To cover a trillion kilometers, you would have to go to the moon and back 1,300,718 times, or to the Sun and back 6,684 times, or to Pluto and back (at its closest proximity to Earth) 116 times.

I don't know about you, but even with all that, I'm still having a hard time grasping how big a "trillion" really is. But you know what else? Maybe it's better if we can't really comprehend it after all.


Kimberline said...

Thank you for your help in clarifying those numbers. I am completely appalled when I try to grasp the enormity of what is happening. It makes me physically ill to even work my way around understanding how big this is!

The problem is that the government doesn't WANT us to comprehend these numbers. If more people DID comprehend them, we would be seeing more tea parties, more states rufusing to take any of the money, and people wouldn't still be idiotically discussing that the presidential honeymoon is "still going strong." We are in grave trouble! I see quite clearly that most politicians don't care if we disapprove of how they are running up the debt of this country, they just want us to pay for their poor money management skills.

Meanwhile some of the scoundrels who are responsible for this mess in the first place...some who can't even manage their own fiscal responsibilities for what is owed the IRS, are being placed in key positions of authority in government at the sacrifice of financial stability for this country and the well being of its people.

The government created a society full of supposed "victims" where no one had to be accountable for their poor decisions. It works out well because those are potential votes to support the people responsible for this abysmal money plan. As long as they continue to appropriate some of the ill gotten money to feed the pigs at the trough for their handouts, they will have a nicely established voter base. I am enraged that I fall into the category of the chosen ones who can pay for the feed going into the trough. We will continue to toil away, being financially responsible and will train our children up to do the same. Unfortunately, my children and your children will bear the burden more heavily because it will be upon their shoulders when the piper finally demands his due.

As far as I am concerned our government just floated checks so they could go on living the good life. Nancy Pelosi already said another stimulus package may be needed in short order. If "I" did what the government just did, I'd be in jail.

It is hard to stand on the sidelines and watch our elected officials act so foolishly with money we don't even have and likely won't have in the future. Personally I think that all of the politicians who are riding pork projects through this stimulus package should have to pick up the tab.

My 2 cents worth...and in comparison to the mounting deficit, I think we should hyperinflate that saying to stand up against the amount of the stimulus package and our mounting national debt. Perhaps it should be "My 2 trillion cents worth."

I'll sign off now, stunned by the difficulty I am having in grasping the concept of one trillion,


Lightening said...

Do you have $1000 bills in the US? Here the largest denomination is $100. It's an interesting way to put it into perspective isn't it?

Blaine Staat said...

Good question; the answer is "yes" and "no". The U.S. used to print several "high" denomination bills, including a $1,000 bill that featured president Grover Cleveland. These high denomination bills were last printed in 1945 and officially discontinued in 1969 (all of them are still considered legal tender, though they are worth far more now because of collector value). Currently the U.S. prints bills in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations.

You should also know that I didn't know all of the above until this morning, so thanks for your question. I did know that $1,000 bills (and larger) existed, but it never even occurred to me that the U.S. was not printing them any more. I do not, however, wish to attempt using $100 bills in any of the examples given in this post.