January 16, 2009
By Ernest Istook
My 6-year-old granddaughter Abby bragged recently that she could
count to 20. She proceeded to demonstrate, and I praised her. Then
she asked how high I can count.
I told her that I don't know; I've never tried because it takes
Today we talk about numbers so big that we cannot comprehend
People often ignore dangers they do not understand, such as the
government spending disaster that threatens to swamp us like a
gargantuan tidal wave.
When officials confirmed the annual federal deficit now exceeds
a trillion dollars, President-elect Barack Obama noted that it
probably won't be a one-time deal. Indeed, he promised to pile on
almost another trillion dollars of extra spending, using the
all-purpose excuse that spending "stimulates" the economy.
No matter what the money is spent on - roads, bailouts, welfare
handouts, pork projects, tax rebate checks, whatever - we're told
it doesn't matter because any and all spending has a
Crystal meth is also a stimulant, but fortunately it's illegal.
And it's less addictive than government spending.
It's disingenuous to claim government spending is an economic
boost. As The Heritage Foundation's Nicola Moore and Brian Riedl
have noted, "Every dollar that government ... 'injects' into the
economy must first be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. No new
spending power is created."
The truth is that government is already spending money it
doesn't have. It is borrowing more and more every day. interest
must be paid. As debt becomes due, it must be rolled-over into new
debt at ever-higher interestrates. Eventually, not enough can be
borrowed, as Bernard Madoff learned when his Ponzi scheme
collapsed. His house arrest is still far worse punishment than what
befalls politicians who pull the same trick. They tend to get
re-elected rather than punished.
And who will suffer the losses and be asked to pay off the
trillions of new debt? Our children and grandchildren.
Poor dear Abby!
She'll get to pay off the debt. But she'll never be able to
count to a trillion, so she can understand the magnitude of that
burden. If she did nothing but count - one number a second - it
would take her 31,000 years to count to a trillion. That number is
too big for any adult to understand, much less a child.
A trillion one-dollar bills, laid end-to-end, would reach 96
million miles, all the way to our sun. But that's impossible,
because there's not even that much money in circulation. The
Federal Reserve reports that the total of all American currency is
only about $800 billion.
As innumerable as the stars are, there are only 100 billion in
our galaxy, the Milky Way. It takes 10 whole galaxies to total a
The historical cost of our entire space program - 50 years of
spending for NASA to send probes to the planets, launch satellites
and space shuttles, and put men on the moon - is "only" $800
We cannot repeal the laws of economics any more than Capt. Kirk
could repeal the laws of physics. For each trillion dollars
borrowed, the interest alone (at 6 percent, like a typical home
mortgage) is $166 million each day. Paying it off would cost us
about $3,200 apiece for each and every member of our families.
This is why it's outrageous that the incoming president asks us
to accept both this year's record debt plus the new debt that will
be piled atop it. This year's $1.2 trillion deficit is almost three
times the previous high.
Yet President-elect Obama (and many others in Washington) give
only lip service to addressing the debt "someday," while proposing
even more debt today. As Obama said last week, "potentially we've
got trillion-dollar deficits for years to come, even with the
economic recovery that we are working on."
By being unwilling to tackle excessive spending immediately,
Obama essentially told the country to get used to it.
Until Americans appreciate the magnitude of a trillion dollars,
they won't appreciate how profligate spending will worsen an
already serious problem. It's happening in plain sight, pushed by
leaders who claim the solution for today's problems is to push them
down the road until tomorrow.
Tomorrow is another day. And it could be a scary one.
Istook is recovering from serving 14 years in Congress and
is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared on WorldNetDaily.com
My 6-year-old granddaughter Abby bragged recently that she could count to 20. She proceeded to demonstrate, and I praised her. Then she asked how high I can count. I told her that I don't know; I've never tried because it takes too long. Today we talk about numbers so big that we cannot comprehend them.
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