Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seconds

I recall reading an article years ago by Douglas Hofstadter in which he lamented the fact that while we had a term for those who couldn't read and readily understand written language; illiteracy, we had no corollary for those who had no real appreciation of numbers.  He offered the neologism "innumeracy " to describe when people were incapable of dealing with higher order mathematics. I've a feeling that word describes a large percentage of the American populace. 

 I've joked for years that if the average American actually understood what a trillion dollars really was, there would be a politician, bureaucrat, or lobbyist hanging from every lamp post in Washington. So, in the week that the national debt has passed the 16 trillion dollar point let see if we can't make that number a bit more understandable. Since none of us have any experience with that kind of money, lets look at it in terms of something we do understand, time. 

 I'm writing this on Thursday evening the 6th of September. If we take each dollar as a second, a million seconds ago it was Sunday morning on August the 26th. 

 One billion seconds ago it was the spring of 1980, Jimmy Carter was president, and Reagan's election was still six months away.

 One trillion seconds ago it was 29,687 B.C. Our Cro-Magnon ancestors were just beginning to explore a Europe slowly revealed by the retreating glaciers of the last Ice Age, and the first cities, and anything we would remotely describe as civilization were still 20 thousand years in the future.

16 trillion seconds ago it was 505,344 B.C. and the first recognizable humans had just began to trod the path that leads to their prodigal descendants, us.

  If we were to freeze the debt where it is today, and pay it down at the rate of one dollar per second, we'd be clear of it sometime in the year 2519. Of course, that's not including the interest. At the current prime rate, at a dollar per second, that will take an additional 19,054,409,787,071.6 years.

 As the late Senator Everett Dirksen used to say; "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

20 comments:

The Debonair Dudes World said...

I think that we should be speaking and writing about the situation around the Iranian's nuclear program has been getting more, and more heated every day. Ahmadinejad threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the earth every time he has the chance to speak. And our relations with our one time best ally Israel has never as cold as it is today. In fact just today it was reported that the White House (and the White House really means Barack Hussein Obama) DECLINED NETANYAHU'S REQUEST TO MEET WITH OBAMA. How's that my Jewish friends? Still what to vote for this man? Still impressed with him? What this man has done to this country is unforgivable.

Today Egyptian protesters raided the US Embassy in Cairo, climbed over the gates and tore down OUR flag burned it, and replaced it with a Black Islamist flag to protest a U.S. produced film that they didn’t like! The mob was chanting that our ambassador must leave.

Is this why Obama took part in overthrowing Hosni Mubarak's regime?
Also tonight reports from Libya say that gangs of militants also attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi with rocket-propelled grenades, and stormed the embassy. The United States ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were KILLED! They also protested a Movie film they denounced as blasphemous. They attacked our embassy, shredded our flag, and replaced it with the al Qaeda flag.

All this over a Movie! Is that why Obama helped to KILL Moammar Gadhafi? Is that why Obama wanted to replace the Libyan Government with the Muslim Brotherhood?

Thank You to Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary Clinton, for what you have accomplished!
And you want 4 more years? Are we crazy, or what?

KP said...

Great perspective, SF!!

Makes my stomach ache but it is good medicine be reminded of reality.

jez said...

Innumeracy is certainly wide-spread. In 2009 a civil servant at the UK Treasury was sure that UK debt was expressed using the British billion (which is 10^12) when it turns out that we use the American billion (which is 10^9). Hurray, we're in one thousandth of the debt we thought we were this morning!

http://xkcd.com/980/

Bunkerville said...

When Dirksen made the statement in 1956, our budget:

THE U.S. Government is headed for more red ink in the current fiscal year—on the official estimates. Income will hit $62.1 billion, spending $63.8 billion, for an overall $1.7 billion deficit. But are the estimates correct? In Washington last week, the talk was that they were pessimistic, that next June 30 would see the first balanced budget in five years. If so, tax cuts might be in store for the U.S. As a result, a hot debate is bubbling up. Last week Virginia's Democratic Harry Byrd, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said flatly that he would fight a..

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,807968,00.html#ixzz26GLf1FN0

Bunkerville said...

When Dirksen made the statement in 1956, our budget:

THE U.S. Government is headed for more red ink in the current fiscal year—on the official estimates. Income will hit $62.1 billion, spending $63.8 billion, for an overall $1.7 billion deficit. But are the estimates correct? In Washington last week, the talk was that they were pessimistic, that next June 30 would see the first balanced budget in five years. If so, tax cuts might be in store for the U.S. As a result, a hot debate is bubbling up. Last week Virginia's Democratic Harry Byrd, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said flatly that he would fight a..

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,807968,00.html#ixzz26GLf1FN0

conservativesonfire said...

What a great way to smack America in the face with reality. Would that every American would read your post today. It is that important!

Z said...

The sound of "....and Reagan's election was still six months away" felt SO GOOD that I couldn't read any more.
Oh, that Reagan would be elected in six months today.

Ducky's here said...

Z, the topic is debt.

What did Saint Ronnie Raygun do about the debt or Chucklenuts?

Why wasn't the fringe right protesting those increases as loudly?

Hint: The deficits are part of the fringe right's plan to roll back Social Security and Medicare.

Go with the Ryan plan and give folks a $6000 voucher. Let's see if AOW can find family coverage for six grand.

FreeThinke said...

Oh what the HECK, SilverFiddle!

So WHAT?

After all, it's ONLY MONEY, right?

Think of all those poor starving children out there and their ever-pregnant mothers.

SOMEBODY'S got to take care of the, right?

What's mere MONEY in the face of REAL HUMAN NEED?

Think of it this way. It might give you a bit of comfort:

IF everybody would just agree to work for NOTHING, there would be no need to worry about DEBT, and no need whatsoever to pay TAXES.

It's high time we got enlightened and realized this profound truth.

~ FreeThinke

Rock Elements said...

Saw this today and if it's not stopped what you point out will be nothing!
http://endthelie.com/?x=0&y=0&s=scytl#axzz26GmfdLdS

Do a search for SCYTL and see that Spain is counting the election votes. The comp. just happens to be connected to Soros.

This has been known for some time, but I'd just come across it on Stan Deyo's site.

Ducky's here said...

You're getting close to suggesting that people withhold their labor, Freethinker.

Silverfiddle, is bringing out the Marxist in you.

Darth Bacon said...

Romney's response was right on target, this president is a Winpand a do nothing empty suit, someone has to tell it like it is...

Silverfiddle said...

Viburnum wrote this, not me. (although I do heartily concur)

Ducky's here said...

You're getting close to suggesting that people withhold their labor, Freethinker.
Viburnum is bringing out the Marxist in you.

Finntann said...

Okay, I'm a little confused about the math.

If 16 trillion seconds ago it was 505,344 BC... how can we pay off the debt by 2519 at a dollar a second? Shouldn't that be in 507,356 years?

But I get your point.

Why do we tolerate this?

Because if you drop a frog in boiling water it will jump out.

But if you put him in a cool pot and slowly turn up the heat, he will sit there and cook.

Cheers!

Jersey McJones said...

Silver,

I know a little about math. Ya' know why we say "one trillion" and not just say "trillion?" Because we have to assert the number of of unites in the trillion we're discussing.

So, as you rather elegantly observed, if you put the units at seconds, than you can show the sheer volume of seconds over time.

It tells you nothing about the US national debt.

JMJ

viburnum said...

Fintann: "Shouldn't that be in 507,356 years?"


You're right. Apparently I mistook the comma for a decimal point.

Kid said...

Another way to look at it...

Bernanke and Paulson "printed up" 30+ trillion to bail out the big banks foreign and domestic by buying their worthless mortgage derivative paper (which will always be worth Zero) with perfectly good US treasuries.

What's another 16 trillion print job ?

Print it up, clear the slate and call it good. Like a brattish 16 year old claiming chapter 7 with way too many maxed out credit cards and no other option. Course that's only good so many times.

Greece has no intention of paying anyone back, at least we'd be paying back with slightly diluted dollars.

Z said...

Ducky..

"The deficits are part of the fringe right's plan to roll back Social Security and Medicare."

HINT: "ROLL BACK?" You're not really believing the lie that Ryan and Romney are going to get rid of Social Security OR MEdicare, right? Not REALLY.

If you don't think Conservatives are angry at Bush for not increasing the debt, you're not quite as well read as you like to crow about.

Proof said...

To show the effect of inflation (and profligate government spending) I believe the original Dirksen quote used the word "million" rather than "billion".