Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Trillion Dollars...

The Obama administration throws around quantities of trillions of dollars the way LBJ used to do with millions.  But how much money is a trillion dollars?  It's really hard to wrap your brain around it, as a trillion (1,000,000,000,000) is not a number we often run into.

So I came up with a couple of mind exercises to more intuitively understand it.

First, imagine you were going to buy some cars for $25,000 each – enough cars to use the entire trillion dollars.  Further suppose that you bought one car every minute (wow!).  How long would it take for you to spend that trillion dollars?  The answer: just over 76 years.

Ok, that's a lot of money.  But how big a pile would it make?  Suppose you got your trillion dollars in $100 bills - in that case the pile, packed as tightly as you could, would occupy just over 450,000 cubic feet.  That would be a pile 100 feet long on each side, and 45 feet high – the size of a block full of large houses.  The pile would weigh a little over 10,000 tons.

That's a lot of money.

When Obama talks about a budget running a $1.8 trillion dollar deficit, that's the kind of debt he's obligating the American people to pay off...

1 comment:

  1. Sadly I remember sometime around when I was in High School when the debt went over a trillion for the first time. And at the time there were similar attempts to convey how vast that amount of money is. Taping dollar bills end to end cirling the sun, coins to the moon, filling football fields.

    Looks like we've come a long way since then. Administration after Administration, Congress after Congress. Back and forth between the two ruling aristocracies and now we can incure that much debt in a single year.