Is trillion the new billion?

2009 February 4
by Colin

CNN.com is running a story regarding whether Americans are becoming desensitized to the notion of a trillion dollars in light of the bailout bill. There is no real argument here– the growing economy and significant inflation have brought us from an era where cars cost $1,000 to the point where one can become a millionaire simply by spinning a giant wheel on The Price is Right in a mere 50 years, signifying that precedent certainly exists for breaking through yet another ‘-illion’ barrier.

The part that caught my eye was nestled away a few paragraphs in. It is not an indictment of the premise of the column, nor the veracity of the claims made by those within. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell believes that the growing stimulus package is detrimental to the American economy.

“To put a trillion dollars in context, if you spend a million dollars every day since Jesus was born, you still wouldn’t have spent a trillion,” McConnell said.

CNN checked McConnell’s numbers with noted Temple University math professor and author John Allen Paulos.

I’m not sure if this is merely for name-dropping purposes, but the simple problem for which CNN felt obliged to use a “Temple University math professor” to solve is something that might be better suited for a 2nd grade quiz.

2008 years x 365.25 days in a year (accounting for leap years; would account for a .3% error) = 733,422 days x $1,000,000 per day = $733,422,000,000 or $733.5 billion.

Shockingly, Paulos’ result?

“A million dollars a day for 2,000 years is only three-quarters of a trillion dollars. It’s a big number no matter how you slice it,” Paulos said.

Glad it took us one university professor and three paragraphs to verify McConnell’s “claim.” And with the extra money the journalist got for putting in “overtime” on that piece, he/she just got one step closer to the elusive trillion dollar plateau.

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