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Opening Arguments

A trillion here, a trillion there

Since trillion is apparently the new billion, I suppose we're going to have to learn how to grasp that scary number. This is an interesting use of time some people point to to make the comparison:

A million seconds is 12 days.

A billion seconds is 31 years.

A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.

If you just say "a million, a billion, a trillion," it's a safe-enough-sounding progression -- hey, it's just math. But when you see that actual enormous leap between a billion and a trillion, what the government is doing gets really scary.


Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:23pm

Numbers in isolation don't really tell us anything. There are about 1.5 sextillion molecules in a drop of water.

Comparing this to, say, World War II -- WWII cost about 25% of GDP. The estimated GDP for the U.S. in 2008 was $14.58 trillion. The $800 billion amounts to about 5.4% of GDP. So, if it's true that WWII was what pulled us out of the Depression, then it may well be that this stimulus program is too small.

Masson’s Blog - A Citizen’s Guide to Indiana &ra
Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:43pm

[...] Numbers By Doug The large number associated with the stimulus bill is being used as a boogey man with which to scare people. There are legitimate reasons for concern, but the number, taken in [...]

Leo Morris
Mon, 02/16/2009 - 5:01pm

Your isolated numbers lack context as well. Federal government spending peaked at about 44 percent of GDP in 1943 and 44 during WW II, then dropped immediately to more historic levels. For the 50 years after 1953, when spending first topped 20 percent of GDP, it hovered between 16.5 and 23.5 percent. Just look at how flat that graph line looks ( http://www.truthandpolitics.org/outlays-per-gdp.php ) Some are estimating that, before this is over, the government will spend at least another $2 trillion in bailouts/recovery/whatever -- now, we're getting into the 20 percent of GDP range, just for this new stuff. Add that to the projections we already had based on things like Social Security and Medicare . . . well, if government spends 50 percent or more of GDP, good luck on even keeping a GDP.

Bob G.
Tue, 02/17/2009 - 10:08am

Remember people...ALL those ZEROS don't mean a darn thing...
It's when you stick a NUMBER in front of them, that things get interesting.


Michael B-P
Tue, 02/17/2009 - 3:18pm

You guys really need to get a grip and check out IowaHawk's enlightening piece on number concepts:


("Mathematicians Discover Largest Number")