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Webster's Blog

They're Just Numbers

We toss words like billion and trillion around without any thought about their significance.

I suppose inherently we know that these are words that represent numbers that none of us will ever deal with on a personal level and so, aside from being able to pronounce them and spell them, we instinctively realize that there's no use in trying to understand their magnitude or their relationship one to the other.

Which brings us to the sequester.

As it approached we were told of the disaster that awaited once it kicks in. Borders thrown open. Food inspection halted. Air traffic controllers unable to do their jobs. Programs for children, for the elderly, for the mentally and physically disadvantaged tossed aside. Education funds slashed.

And then the sequester cuts came and while most of that doom-and-gloom scenario came from behind a podium with the Presidential seal on it leading up to last Friday, when the day actually arrived the President said 'This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said.'

Some people?

Okay,  so let's get back  to billions and trillions.

The sequester cuts are $85 billion. The federal budget comes to about $3.7 trillion. Anyone know how many billion are in a trillion?

It's a thousand.

A thousand billion equals one trillion.

That means the federal budget  is equal to three thousand, seven hundred billion dollars. Can you get your head around that?

How about this? Start counting aloud from the number one and go all the way up to a thousand. Then do that two more times and then after that count again up to seven hundred. Each number you spoke represents a billion dollars.

A trillion is a lot, huh?

What this boils down to is that $85 billion out of $3.7 trillion is about 2% of the federal budget.

Still hard to get those numbers in line, right? Imagine this. If you have a dollar and someone says you have to hold back on 2%, that leaves you with 98 cents to spend.

The oldest political trick in the book is to scare people. Elderly will suffer. Children will suffer. Teachers will lose their jobs. there will be no money to pay firefighters and police.

The natural extension of the oldest political trick in the book is to scare people and try to make them believe that if all these terrible things happen it's the other side's fault.

I suppose the question is how far will one side go to pin the blame on the other?


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03/04/2013 3:01PM
They're Just Numbers
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