Summary: Editorial: Trying to fathom 13-figure spending
February 13, 2009
A million here and a million there, the saying used to go, and pretty soon
you're talking real money.
Today, the idea of million as a supersized amount seems quaint. And
billion? Out of date, too. As the nation evaluates President Obama's
economic stimulus package and the financial system bailout, the operative
sum is mind-blowingly big, requiring a pause simply to compute the zeros
involved: 1 trillion.
That's 1,000,000,000,000. Or, 10 to the 12th power; a thousand billion; a
million million. Times three, since the combined cost of both programs is
estimated at more than $3 trillion.
The mathematically gifted minority can compute the monster charge the
nation is poised to put on its Visa card. It's difficult for everyone else to
truly grasp the magnitude of the dollars involved. That's a problem when
we all share responsibility for the bill.
A number of attempts have been made recently to help people wrap their
heads around what a trillon means. National Public Radio offered this
perspective: $1 trillion is enough to buy each person in the United States
1,000 boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies. Time magazine estimates