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Thread: What is a trillion?

  1. #1

    What is a trillion?

    People are tossing the word trillion around like chocolate bars. A trillion here and a trillion there, pretty soon we have something really significant, right? A recent article (Source) suggested that our government has committed over $8.8 trillion to bail out the economy. So, how much $8.8 trillion? Well, it is useful to bring this amount of money into perspective.

    According to the following web site, it is ten thousand hip-high standard pallets (48" by 40") of $100 bills. So, how much is that? Well, 10,000 is 100 x 100. So $1 trillion is a space that is 400 feet by 380 ft, more than two football fields worth of standard pallets. If we stack up 9 pallets (assuming that each is 3 feet tall), that is about 27 feet tall. In short, it would take a warehouse that is 3 stories tall and covers two football fields to hold that much money. Well, you say that this is not so much. But, let's see what a trillion pennies would look like (a cube with the dimensions of 273 x 273 x 273 feet)

    A pile of about 1.8 trillion pennies could make a structure about the size and shape of the Empire State Building

    Look at it from another perspective. Let's say that we spend a dollar a second. By the way, that is $60 a minute or $3600 per hour. How long would it take to spend a trillion dollars? One trillion seconds is 31,546 years. To spend $8.8 trillion dollar at the rate of a dollar per second will take 277,605 years! That is probably longer than homo sapiens have been around on this earth. It is not a trivial amount of money.

    Let's look at $8.8 trillion from another perspective. We all know what a $100,000 house looks like. Let's say that the house is a one story house and an average city block has ten such houses. There are about a hundred such blocks per square mile. Well, a trillion dollars will build enough blocks of houses to cover 10,000 square miles (Source). That is an area of land that is bigger than the state of Maryland. An amount of $8.8 trillion would cover about 90,000 square miles. That is an area that would encompass the surface areas of West Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island (Source).

    Last edited by Wise Young; 03-06-2009 at 10:09 AM.

  2. #2
    Thats a lot of pennies. How much would it take for each and every American to pay a debt off like that?

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by jerryblt06 View Post
    Thats a lot of pennies. How much would it take for each and every American to pay a debt off like that?
    What a great question! If we assume that our population of 300 million people each paid $1 per day (i.e. $365/year), that comes up to $109 billion per year. Note that a 3% interest rate on the amount is $264 billion. Thus, at the rate of $1 per day, we would forever be falling behind and we will never pay off the debt. Lets say that everybody paid $3 per day or about $1095 per year. It would take 55 years to pay off the debt.

    If each of us paid $81 per day in the coming year (about $30,000 each), we can pay it off in one year. Thus, the bailout package is costing the equivalent of $30,000 per person in the United States. Some of the $8.8 trillion is of course from printing money but that too is a form of borrowing because that devalues the dollar. What is interesting is that everybody who has any money in the world is looking for a safe haven for their money and they are putting their money into Treasury bills. The value of the U.S. dollar is actually rising despite our printing more money.

    In any case, a trillion dollars is a lot of money, more than most of us can wrap our minds around.

    Last edited by Wise Young; 03-06-2009 at 11:36 AM.

  4. #4
    This is and my friend, who is another fellow economist, were thinking they should throw out the adjective "astronomical" when referring to unfathomable figures and replace it with the adjective "economical".
    No one ever became unsuccessful by helping others out

  5. #5
    Of course, the problem of paying back the debt is easily solved this way.

    You only need 176 of these and the debt of $8.8 trillion is history. 176 of these may be enough kindling to start a fire and cook the rats you´ll need to feed yourself and your family with.
    "So I have stayed as I am, without regret, seperated from the normal human condition." Guy Sajer

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