When the House and Senate go back into session on January 17th and January 23rd respectively, shortly thereafter the Congress is expected to take up the issue of raising the nation’s debt ceiling from $15.2 trillion to $16.4 trillion, an increase of $1.2 trillion.
Communicating and visualizing a “trillion” of anything is difficult. So let’s put a “trillion” in perspective. According to CNBC.com:
This stack of cash – in $1 bills – would measure 67,866 miles, stretching approximately 2.72 times around the Earth’s equator.
If denominated in $100 bills, $1 trillion would be enough to fill 4.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools, with a total volume of 398,000 cubic feet. For comparison, there is only about $625 billion worth of $100 bills currently in circulation, according to the US Treasury bulletin, which would fill about 2.8 Olympic swimming pools.
With Occupy Wall Street’s “redistribution” rhetoric running rampant, perhaps another way to illustrate the enormity of America’s trillions of new debt is this: even if the government were to confiscate the net worth of the entire Forbes 400 list of richest Americans–people who create hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as spin-off jobs and businesses–their combined $1.5 trillion of wealth would barely cover the forthcoming $1.2 trillion debt-ceiling increase.
Still, despite the vastness of the nation’s debt crisis, as recently as this morning, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman dismissed “debt worriers” as being unduly influenced by “people who get their economic analysis from the likes of the Heritage Foundation.”
In his piece titled “Nobody Understands Debt” (except, presumably, Mr. Krugman), Mr. Krugman explains that “the allegedly urgent issue of reducing the budget deficit” reveals a level of economic ignorance and “misplaced focus.” At the close of his article, Mr. Krugman begrudgingly acknowledges that the nation’s trillions in debt matter.
So yes, debt matters. But right now, other things matter more. We need more, not less, government spending to get us out of our unemployment trap. And the wrongheaded, ill-informed obsession with debt is standing in the way.
Perhaps Mr. Krugman would do well to walk around planet Earth 44.6 times (the length of our national debt in $1 bills) or go rustle up another 10 lists worth of Forbes 400 wealth creators (the equivalent of $15 trillion) to get a better sense of what all those patriotic “debt worriers” are so concerned about.