$13 trillion in inches is a lot of miles

When press reports indicate that a CBO cost analysis of a health care proposal will exceed one trillion dollars, or when they report the February congressional vote to increase the federal debt ceiling to over 13 trillion dollars, most people do not have much of a concept of what that means.  The following may help one gain a concept of the magnitude of a trillion dollars.

Take out a piece of paper and mark out 10 inches.  Each inch in our chart will represent 100,000 dollars.  This is roughly the equivalent to two years worth of the median household income in the United States.  Ten inches, represents one million dollars and therefore about 20 years of family earnings. 

Take your sheet outside and go for a walk.  Count your paces.  As you walk along occasionally glance at your chart to remind you how "far" one million dollars is.  After 278 steps, stop.  At typical pacing, one should have walked two complete football fields and almost 80 yards of a third. This distance is the equivalent of one billion dollars.

We have only begun to get a concept of one trillion dollars.  To do this you will need your car, and of course your million dollar paper.  Proceed to the nearest freeway and upon arrival, set the trip recorder on your odometer while simultaneously setting your cruise at 60.  Take note of the time.  As you drive, periodically look at your million dollar chart and at the distance going by.  After two hours and 37 minutes, pull over.  Your trip meter should be reading approximately 158 miles traveled.  This distance represents one trillion dollars.  You have over 31 more hours to drive and 1894 more miles to travel to get a concept of the 13 trillion dollars our debt ceiling was just raised to.

Does the average taxpayer have any concept how much a trillion dollars is?  Does the typical politician?

Maybe we should require our legislators to walk a measly 10 inches for every million dollars they propose to further indebt our children.

The math:

10 inches represents one million dollars

10,000 inches represents one billion dollars

10,000,000 inches represents trillion dollars

10,000,000 divided by 12 = 833333 feet.  833333 divided 5280 feet per mile = 157.8 miles.

13 trillion dollars of debt represents a distance of 2051.4 miles

When press reports indicate that a CBO cost analysis of a health care proposal will exceed one trillion dollars, or when they report the February congressional vote to increase the federal debt ceiling to over 13 trillion dollars, most people do not have much of a concept of what that means.  The following may help one gain a concept of the magnitude of a trillion dollars.

Take out a piece of paper and mark out 10 inches.  Each inch in our chart will represent 100,000 dollars.  This is roughly the equivalent to two years worth of the median household income in the United States.  Ten inches, represents one million dollars and therefore about 20 years of family earnings. 

Take your sheet outside and go for a walk.  Count your paces.  As you walk along occasionally glance at your chart to remind you how "far" one million dollars is.  After 278 steps, stop.  At typical pacing, one should have walked two complete football fields and almost 80 yards of a third. This distance is the equivalent of one billion dollars.

We have only begun to get a concept of one trillion dollars.  To do this you will need your car, and of course your million dollar paper.  Proceed to the nearest freeway and upon arrival, set the trip recorder on your odometer while simultaneously setting your cruise at 60.  Take note of the time.  As you drive, periodically look at your million dollar chart and at the distance going by.  After two hours and 37 minutes, pull over.  Your trip meter should be reading approximately 158 miles traveled.  This distance represents one trillion dollars.  You have over 31 more hours to drive and 1894 more miles to travel to get a concept of the 13 trillion dollars our debt ceiling was just raised to.

Does the average taxpayer have any concept how much a trillion dollars is?  Does the typical politician?

Maybe we should require our legislators to walk a measly 10 inches for every million dollars they propose to further indebt our children.

The math:

10 inches represents one million dollars

10,000 inches represents one billion dollars

10,000,000 inches represents trillion dollars

10,000,000 divided by 12 = 833333 feet.  833333 divided 5280 feet per mile = 157.8 miles.

13 trillion dollars of debt represents a distance of 2051.4 miles