Recently, I heard a wise man say that the average human being simply cannot get his brain around the concept of how many is a billion.
When I was a kid, the richest folks I ever heard of were millionaires. A million is a good-sized number… I remember in 2nd grade I decided that I was going to impress my teacher and classmates by writing the numbers to a million.
I found a new notebook, sharpened my pencil, got a good night’s sleep, ate a fine breakfast and settled in one snowy Saturday morning in 1952 and proceeded to make numbers. I figured I could be done by Monday morning if I dedicated myself to the task.
I was still excited about the project at about 100. By 500 my interest span was wearing thin; but I hung in there to about a thousand. I was exhausted, my fingers ached, the pencil was half as long and I suddenly realized that I had to do this 999 more times to achieve my childish goal. If I worked every Saturday, I would be 29 years old when I finished.
I was glad that I had not trumpeted my plan to the teacher and the class when the idea arrived in my brain. The experience had one benefit, however. I gained a healthy appreciation for what a “million” actually is.
Being a millionaire has apparently lost much of its luster these days. The only folks that get ink and respect these days are the billionaires. For you who paid attention in your math classes, you know that there are 1,000 millions in a billion. Try writing to a billion some time.
Here is how many a billion is: A billion seconds ago was in the middle of 1959.
A billion minutes ago, Jesus walked the earth. A billion hours ago, our ancestors were living in caves and it was called the Stone Age. A billion days ago, there were no cavemen or anything else that walked on two feet.
OK, dear reader, are you impressed? Are you getting a feel for how many is a billion? Well, heck, lets not spoil the fun. Let’s go to a trillion! Wow! But wait, let’s not have all the fun now… more about trillions in a minute.
So when you hear politicians talking about billions for this and billions for that and you now know how much that is… pay attention! It is your tax dollars they are throwing around.
For example: Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D) is asking Congress for $250 billion to rebuild New Orleans from the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Sounds about right. Right?
I was in New Orleans for a week last year and I saw very little visible damage. Nevertheless Ms. Landrieu thinks that is what the city needs. With closer examination, we find that sum of money divided between the 484,674 residents of New Orleans would net every man, woman and child $5l6,628.
There are 188,251 homes in the city. Divide Senator Landrieu’s request among the homeowners and each would get $1,329,787. Or if they cut the red tape and just gave the money to families; your family of four would receive $2,066,012.
And these tax dollars would rebuild homes and infrastructure, much of which is below sea level and the mighty Mississippi. And what will happen the next time a major hurricane hits… well, unless they have invented a way to keep water from running downhill… the same thing all over again!
Now that you are starting to get your mind around the concept of a “BILLION” you will be pleased to know that your government spends a billion dollars of your hard-earned tax dollars every eight hours.
That’s right, that is over $2 million a minute and it goes on 24/7… 365 days a year. And what the government doesn’t get from taxpayers it borrows from countries around the world. And some of those lenders don’t like us much.
To date America is paying interest on $9,000,000,000 (Yes, that is trillions). We call that obscene figure the national debt and it is growing like the Green Monster in the Black Lagoon.
Your assignment, dear reader, should you choose to heap on the grief, is to divide nine trillion dollars by the number of adult taxpayers in America. Remember that 51 percent of our population are children, stay-at-home parents, retired people, the unemployed, the handicapped, the imprisoned and those on welfare. They will not help much in paying off the debt.
But wait! Mr. Obama says he has this thing figured out! Maybe the most inexperienced, liberal senator in the Congress whose record of tax-and-spend really has a plan with his battle cry of Hope and Change.
Maybe Hope and Change will bring to pass a miracle. Maybe that green monster growing ever larger in that frickin’ lagoon will be hog tied by this smooth talking fellow. Gosh, I hope so.
If that happens, it would certainly be CHANGE unlike anything we have ever seen. And with everything falling apart, all that is left is HOPE.
Four years from now, lets revisit the issue and do a post-mortem. In the meantime, any bets?