A word we should stop using
"Billion" is a word we need to stop using. It represents such a vast amount that it's vague to the point of meaninglessness to anyone not a mathematician. Any discussion using "billion" is automatically and immediately evicted to the realm of the terminally abstract, lacking any reference to the world as we know it.
What do we use as a replacement? The phrase per capita, which provides with a clear and undeniable connection to the real world. The calculations are simple: there are approximately 330 million people in the United States. A billion is 1,000 million, so dividing 1,000 by 330 equals 3.03. In other words, when the federal government spends one billion dollars, the proportionate share for every man, woman, and child is a little over three dollars. Every time you hear that a government program costs X billions of dollars, just multiply the lead number by three to arrive at your share of the spending. You should then wonder, "Did I get my money's worth?"
Instead of saying, "The U.S. Department of Energy 2021 budget ask is $35.4 billion," we should say, "The budget ask is $106.20 for each and every person in the United States." The Department of Education's ask is $66.6 billion. That works out to $199.80 for every American.
Let's take some hypothetical situations to see what this means. The federal tax burden of family of four of these two federal departments will be $424.80 for energy and $799.20 for education for a total of $1,224. Remember that this is just two of the many federal budget line items.
A family of eight, for both departments, would pay $2,448. Remember: these amounts are just for federal taxes. There could also be state and local taxes earmarked for education or green energy. These could be special items such as property taxes, special assessments, and state taxes.
The question everyone should ask is, "Am I getting my money's worth?" I'll bet most people in Texas don't think they are getting their money's worth from the Department of Energy just now.
Here is a list of the 100 worst schools in America as of June, 2017. I will bet most people with kids in these school districts don't think they are getting their money's worth from the Department of Education.
So...the next time you hear or read the word "billion," just think "three dollars." Then ask yourself, "Is it worth it?" You might be surprised how often the answer is no.
By the way, President Biden is proposing a $1.9-trillion stimulus package. Your share of that amounts to $5,700. Do you think you will get your money's worth?
Image: Michael Marcovici.