Still not comprehending how much $1 trillion is? Then you’ll like this description by Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, from his book “Notes from a Big Country.”
Bryson asks his readers to guess how long it would take to initial and count $1 trillion dollars if you worked without stopping.
“If you initialed one dollar bill a second,” writes Bryson, “you would make $1,000 every 17 minutes. After 12 days of non-stop effort you would acquire your first million. Thus, it would take you 120 days to accumulate $10 million, and 1,200 days — something over three years — to reach $100 million. After 31.7 years you would become a billionaire. But not until 31,709.8 years elapsed would you count your trillionth dollar bill.”
We all understand that very large numbers are OK so long as they add up. So long as we have trillions of dollars coming in to the government to balance out the trillions of dollars we have going out, we should be OK.
But that is the frightening part. We are not even close to covering our spending. Our economy has not recovered enough to generate the growth and tax revenue we need to pay our bills.
Piling on new entitlement programs and lots of new regulations, rules and mandates certainly isn’t helping the recovery.
And so we limp along racking up debt and our leaders are doing little to address this incredible challenge. In fact, we have racked up more than $11 trillion in new debt since George W. Bush assumed office in 2002. We are the proud owners of nearly $17 trillion in debt, a startlingly incomprehensible sum.
Yet too few people worry about it. Who can blame them? After all, $17 trillion is only $17,000 billion.
Tom Purcell is a author and a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.