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Big Numbers Demand New Labels



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You know how new, more economical terms are invented when numbers get too large? The googol is ten to the hundredth power, and the googolplex is ten to googol power. Similarly in currency, after bouts of inflation, countries chop off some zeroes and come up with a new name. Though this is common in the banana republics to our south, Argentina is especially comical; the “peso moneda nacional” was replaced in 1970 with the “peso ley,” after dropping two zeroes. Little more than a decade later, they had to lop off four more zeroes and rename the currency the “peso argentino.” Just two years later they dropped another three zeroes and called it the “austral,” followed six years later by dropping four more zeroes and calling it the “peso convertible.”

Anyway, since we’re on the way to becoming a banana republic ourselves, we may need to learn from this. What I have in mind is not renaming the currency but rather coming up with a new unit of government waste. You can only recite the millions and billions spent by our bloated government so long before people’s eyes glaze over; numbers that are both more comprehensible and connected to a concrete things might work better.

What gave me the idea was something in a posting by Moe Lane on Romney’s trip to Jerusalem, where he wrote: “President Obama did best, with his ever-so-sudden $70 million funding of Israeli missile defense (that’s about .14 solyndras*)”. So, how about the $535 million in Solyndra loan guarantees be rechristened as equaling one “solyndra”? This way, the bridge to nowhere would have cost three-quarters of a solyndra ($398 million), the direct Defense Department costs of the Iraq war were 1,416 solyndras, annual farm subsidies are 43 solyndras, the annual budget of the Commerce Department is 15 solyndras, and so on.

The antiquarian in me also likes the “solyndra” because it sounds like the solidus, which was a Roman gold coin used for 700 years and was the origin of the French sou and the British shilling. So, following the rules of Latin, maybe the plural should be “solyndrae.”

Of course, the only problem is that the federal government flushes away our money on such a colossal scale that we’ll soon have to come up with a new unit of government waste. In that case we might try the “hud,” equal to $40 billion, which is the annual budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.



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