A friend recently gave me a sense of how much a trillion is with an illustration you can also find on various Internet sites. A million seconds, he said, is 12 days, while a billion seconds is 31 years. A trillion seconds? That’s 31,688 years.
In other words, a trillion is a whole lot. That’s something you might keep in mind when reading that the U.S. deficit for 2009 is now projected at $1.4 trillion, which is a cool trillion more than the deficit in 2008 and the most government spending as a percentage of gross domestic product — 10 percent — since World War II.
It would be nice if this were just some amusing detail about a budgetary mishap in Washington, D.C., but the truth is something else. Our current spate of runaway spending could have a devastating impact on the lives of virtually all of us.
And the seeming solution of President Barack Obama: spend more.
His latest proposal along these lines is to give 50 million Social Security recipients a cost-of-living increase when there has been no increase in the cost of living. Just send each one a check for $250.
The total expenditure would come to something like $13 billion, but look, this has to be done because older Americans could be taking it on the chin under Democratic health care legislation and there is political peril there.
A provision in a measure approved by the Senate Finance Committee would lop off some $400 billion in private-company Medicare reimbursements during the next decade. The fabrication from the Democrats and Obama has been that you can do this without affecting benefits or premiums, an assertion you might accept if you were of the persuasion that you can have your cake and eat it, too.
One major insurance provider debunked the hogwash in letters to customers, causing some federal bureaucrats to issue a gag order telling the company to quit it.
But there was a fuss, the bureaucrats retreated, the public is learning the facts and a number of observers are predicting the Democrats will back away from the proposal.
There are many things wrong with our health care system, and there are prudent means to begin to address Medicare’s trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities. Ah, but prudence sounds conservative, and there will be none of that.
A guide to the likely inefficacy of a break-the-bank health care plan that now appears almost sure of enactment is the inefficacy of Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package.
With solutions like this, Americans are going to have trillions of reasons to worry, and even one trillion, as I said before, is quite a bit.
Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former Washington opinion writer and editor of two dailies. He can be reached at Speaktojay@aol.com.