A Short Lesson In National Debt – Is There Really Any Difference Between a Million and a Trillion?


Everette Dirksen  a politician from Illinois, about 40 years ago made a comment about the federal budget. His comment about controlling the federal budget  was ,” You know, a million here a million there and  pretty soon it all starts to add up.”

We are now using the words billion and trillion  like we used to use million, I wondered how much difference is there between a million and a trillion?

A Little exercise in the US National Debt this morning… Spent some time with a calculator and came up with these numbers although my calculator doesn’t really recognize the idea of a trillion and I’m much older than my calculator.

Suppose you dropped a dollar bill down a hole every second of every hour of every day non-stop. How long would it take you to drop a million dollars  in the hole without any food breaks or potty stops? The answer is about 11 1/2 days. Now, to shorten your problem,   for you to drop a billion dollars down the same hole at the same rate under the same conditions would take you around 32 years.

Remembering  the rules for zero’s in multiplication and division students (sorry…. old habit) because your calculator probably doesn’t do trillions,  you will either need to do some hand figuring or just add zeros.

The final test question is, ” at the rate of 1 dollar a second how long would it take you to drop a trillion dollars down the same hole? ( assumption : the hole is deep enough which will be on next weeks test)

Hint: Add three “0”s to the “billion” answer remembering that the label stays the same!  The label of course being years.

In round numbers.

A trillion dollars would take 32,000 years at the rate of 1 dollar a second, non-stop.

In seconds

11 1/2 days = million seconds

32 years = billion seconds

32000 years = trillion seconds

If you take the contract for the  dollar a second job it will take about  600 generations for your descendants to finish the job on a trillion dollars

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About safrisri

I have been a teacher since 1971 and have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. My writings will reflect on my past mistakes and successes and what my students have taught me about education.
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