Perhaps the problem with our discussions of the debt is the suffix “illion.” Because most of us aren’t millionaires, the concepts of a million dollars, a billion dollars, and a trillion dollars all blur together to mean “a whole lot.”
I’m not the first to make this observation. Saul Alinsky, mentor to the mentors of President Obama, wrote in Rules for Radicals: “The moment one gets into the area of $25 million and above, let alone a billion, the listener is completely out of touch, no longer really interested, because the figures have gone above his experience and almost are meaningless. Millions of Americans do not know how many million dollars make up a billion.” Of course, it’s not like this sort of thinking influences the decisions of the president, right?
I thought of that when I saw this:
President Obama’s budget director Jack Lew in a Sunday opinion piece outlined some off the “tough choices” Obama is willing to make to cut spending in his 2012 budget request due out on Feb. 14. In total, the $775 million in detailed cuts fall far short of demands by congressional Republicans and will do little toward tackling the deficit, which is estimated to be $1.5 trillion this year by the Congressional Budget Office. The cuts are in addition to a five-year spending freeze which the administration says will save $400 billion over the next decade.
(HT: Ace of Spades.)
Removing the “illion”s, we can illustrate it as thus:
The projected deficit for this year: $1,500,000,000,000.00
Total federal public debt: $14,099,823,671,305.06
Cuts proposed in Obama’s 2012 budget: $775,000,000.00
Obama’s budget freeze, over 10 years: $400,000,000,000.00
One-year cut proposed by GOP: $100,000,000,000.00 (disputed)
One-year cut proposed by Rand Paul: $500,000,000,000.00
One of these numbers is much bigger than all the others, and one is much smaller . . .