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A Trillion Here, a Trillion There
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Guest Commentaries

2009-08-19 11:37:32

About 50 years ago, Senator Everett Dirksen (R-Illinois) uttered this famous quip: "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

Today, we're talking about a trillion here, a trillion there - a thousand-fold increase in the scale of government spending, part of which is attributable to the shrunken purchasing power of the dollar due to inflation, and part to the unrelenting expansion of government.

"Trillion" is an easy word to say. It rolls effortlessly off the tongue. This is unfortunate, because the ease with which we talk about trillions of dollars can keep us from grasping how enormous this sum is. If you had been spending a million dollars a day, 365 days per year, how far back in time would you have to go to have spent your first trillion? Since the founding of our republic in the 1780s? Further. Since Columbus stumbled upon the New World? Further still. Since the birth of Christ? Nope, not yet. More than two millennia of spending a million dollars a day wouldn't even bring you three-quarters of the way to your first trillion.


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