Thursday, November 20, 2008

What is a trillion, anyway?

It seems that Americans are starting to suffer from number fatigue. We have become accustomed to hearing astronomically high numbers batted around in the news, but if your net worth isn't $50 million dollars, or if you're not used to getting $3 million dollar bonuses, it's a little hard to translate what a number like 700 billion actually means.
Author Rob Simpson felt the same way when he heard that the U.S. government had spent 1 TRILLION dollars fighting the war in Iraq. In answer to the question "Why aren't taxpayers more outraged at the money spent on the war?", he decided to take that 1 trillion dollar figure and translate it into something more concrete. What We Could Have Done With the Money: 50 ways to spend the trillion dollars we've spent in Iraq is not a scholarly tome and I don't Simpson is really arguing that throwing a trillion dollars at a problem is a fast and easy way to fix it, but the suggestions in this somewhat tongue-in-cheek book definitely get you thinking.
We could build 6,667 miles of monorail, or pay for 1.9 million more teachers for our schools, or provide housing for over 10 million homeless families. We could pay off every credit card and gas card in America and still have $230 million left over. My favorite example? We could cover every highway in America with gold for only a third of that trillion dollars.
Feeling outraged yet?

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