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7.29.2010

Counting to a Trillion

I've been thinking about the US National Debt for awhile. It seems that the number "trillion" is thrown around so much, it's either so large it's inconceivable to most Americans or we're just so used to the Tiger Woods', ARod's and LeBron's that millions are petty cash and billions are the new million. That would make trillion the new billion. Except that's preposterous. Have you ever tried to count to a million? How about a billion? I don't think you'd live long enough to count to a trillion. But seriously.

Look at this.
We have 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour: 3,600 seconds an hour.
24 hours a day: 86,400 seconds a day.
365 and 1/3 days a year: 31,564,512 seconds a year.
Let's say the average person lives to be 80. It's a nice round number that I'd like all my loved ones to surpass, but nonetheless: 2,525,160,960 seconds in a lifetime.

WE ONLY LIVE 2 BILLION SECONDS! To put that in perspective. If you wanted to count to a TRILLION, you'd have to count 396 numbers a second, for EVERY second of your life, to reach 1 trillion. I mean, I can count "1234567" before the next second ticks. That's it. I could maybe get to 10 each second. But 396?! Per second? For the rest of my life? Now that's just counting to a trillion.

As of 10:37 and 8 seconds Central Standard Time, the US National Debt stood at: $13,253,598,236,404. That's 13 TRILLION! So that means that based on my elementary math skills, it's roughly 13.2 times 396 to figure out how many numbers you'd have to count per second to make it all the way to 13 trillion. That would be 5,248 digits. You would have to count 5200 digits a second (thats, 12345678910,11,12,13,14...5,248 in your head) EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF YOUR LIFE to reach the number 13.253598236404 trillion.

Or to look at it differently, if you were to get paid for every second you lived, some poor schmuck (I guess China at this point) would have to write you a check for $5,248 EVERY SECOND in order to total 13 TRILLION DOLLARS by the time you died. I'm lucky to make 5 grand in 2 months! But EVERY SECOND?

Or what if you only get paid for how many seconds you actually work in a lifetime.
Average day we work: 8 hrs or 28,800 secs.
Work week: 40 hrs or 144,000 secs.
Work year: 50 weeks (leaving out 2 weeks vacation, unpaid) or 7,200,000 secs.
Avg working lifetime: Age 25-65 or 40 years or 288,000,000 secs.
Total earnings per "working" second: $46,019
That's enough to cover a family of four for a year. 40 g's a second is about the only way to become the world's first trillionaire.

Need more perspective? Alex Rodriguez signed a $275 million contract in 2007. For 10 years. That's $27.5 million a year. If a game is roughly 4 hours in duration, and a season is 162 games a year (not including injuries or the postseason), then that is 38,880 seconds of playing time (or "working" time) over the course of one season. That means ARod is paid around $707 per second he is playing (I know his contract is not structured based on seconds played but on other criteria, most of which, if not all of, are guaranteed). To reach the total of the US National Debt, he'd have to get paid 65 TIMES what he is making currently! If we're making $40,000 a year, we're paid approximately $.00625 per second. That's less than half a penny per second! ARod is making 113,120 times as much as us per second, and yet his salary is 65 times less than the rate of the national debt. Just for fun: we'd need to get paid 7,363,040 TIMES what we are currently making per "working" second of our lives.

I don't know if I'll ever take the time to count to a million. Certainly not a billion. And the fact that it's physically impossible for me to count to a trillion is incredibly sobering. Our national debt is gargantuan, and it isn't going anywhere but up. I don't know the way to solve it--tax cuts or higher taxes, spending cuts, freezes or increases. But I can tell you this: the debt has gone up $106,063,860 in the few minutes I've been writing this. That's 1/3 of ARod's contract in just a few minutes. Or in terms of life-seconds, it will take 3.35 years for you to live another 106,000,000 seconds.

If counting sheep doesn't work for our insomniacs, try imagining them as dollars in the national debt. That oughta knock you out. Nothing like counting to a trillion.

Or 13.

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