Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

Letters to the Editor

October 10, 2013

Incomprehensible sums

I remember when a billion used to be a number so big nobody could comprehend it, though it is still a massive number.

According to Snopes.com 1 billion seconds equals 31.7 years. A billion seconds have elapsed since 1981.

One billion minutes is equal to 1,901 years — which would take us back, almost, to the time Jesus Christ roamed the Earth.

One billion hours is equal to 114,000 years — which would take us back to the Stone Age.

In more recent times, our inability to comprehend the sheer magnitude of 1 billion has been eclipsed by our inability to comprehend 1 trillion.

One trillion is equal to one thousand billion.

Our federal deficit has been averaging nearly $1 trillion since the collapse of 2008 — causing us to rack up more than $5 trillion in new debt.

In order to cover our nearly $4 trillion annual budget, the U.S. Treasury spends about $1 billion every two hours — accumulating $1 billion in new debt about every eight hours.

ABC’s Jake Tapper tried to simplify these incomprehensible numbers. He compared America’s finances to a typical American’s finances. By removing eight zeros from America’s $3.8 trillion budget, he came up with a sum of $38,000.

Now if you are a retiree, you are probably getting by OK if you are able to spend $38,000 a year — unless your finances are as messed up as America’s.

Though you are spending $38,000 annually, your income is only $29,000 — you are growing your debt by $9,000 every year.

What’s worse is that you already owe nearly $170,000 to creditors. Paying off that amount of debt with $38,000 in income would be hard under any circumstances.

But of course your income is $29,000, not $38,000, so you must borrow about $175 a week to keep up with your expenses.

In other words, the U.S. government is growing our debt by $175 billion a week, which is producing around $1 trillion in new debt every year.

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about rental permit fees. The Centerville City Council has conducted two working sessions and a third one is planned in order to get a feel for the public's appetite about raising rental permit fees from charging a landlord $25 every two years to charging a certain amount per rental unit per year. So, the question of the week is, "Are you in favor of Centerville increasing rental permit fees?"

A. I'm in favor.
B. I'm not in favor.
C. I'm not sure.
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