How Much is a Billion Dollars?

To the Editor:

How much is one billion dollars? On the other hand, even a bigger question, how much is one trillion dollars? We hear on the news every day our government is spending a billion dollars here and a billion dollars there. Most of us have grown numb to hearing those large amounts so much that very few of us even stop and think how much money that really is.

Back in December 2007 when George Bush was president, someone sent me an e-mail complaining how much our politicians were proposing spending in New Orleans after the hurricane. The amount was $250 billion. The person writing the e-mail was extremely upset with the Bush administration thinking about spending that kind of money. The person that sent the e-mail back in December 2007 stated the following five pieces of information.

A. A billion seconds ago it was 1959. B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive. C. A billion hours ago, our ancestors lived in caves. D. A billion days ago, no one walked on earth on two feet. E. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes ago (at the rate the Bush administration was spending it.)

A year later, the Bush administration voted to spend $750 billion to bail out the banks. Sense then the Obama administration has proposed to spend four times that amount. I can only assume the original person that was upset about the $250 billion and sent me that first e-mail has had a stroke or massive heart attack and died over today’s government spending.

For a little more perspective about the number one billion, the current number of stars in the Milky Way is estimated to range from 100 to 400 billion. A tightly packed stack of new $100 dollar bills totaling a billion dollars would be 4,000 feet high or about three Sears Tower buildings stacked one on top of each other. A stack of new $100 bills totaling one trillion dollars would be 789 miles tall or about equal to the distance from New York City to Chicago, Dallas to Atlanta, and Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas or the distance from Washington, DC to Jacksonville, Florida.

One trillion dollars is truly a huge amount of money. To pay off a trillion dollars of debt at a dollar a second would take about 32,000 years. This years Federal Budget just reached the 4 trillion dollar mark. That amount of money made up of tightly stacked new $100 bills would stack 3,156 miles high, about equal to the distance from Anchorage, Alaska to Honolulu, Hawaii or from Boston, Mass. to Ireland, England, or Spain. Almost unbelievable isn’t it?

In many ways, our new young President is awesome. He made history by being the first Black President of the United States of America and weekly he is making history with all of his new changes. He is bright, handsome, articulate and possibly the smoothest politician in history. You might say he is to politics what Denzel Washington is to Hollywood and many Americans love him. We want him to be success leading this wonderful country of ours on to greatness. However, he has surrounded himself with Democrats and Republicans, who want to remain in his favor, remain in power and ride his coattails into history. As a “family first” thinking American this massive government spending is unsustainable and will break our country, the numbers are just too large.

For any young people reading this, at the present rate of government spending (about $53,900 a second or $4.657 billion a day) each and every one of you will have to pay the government a minimum of $100 more a week for the rest of your life just in new taxes (or what ever they will call it) just to make a dent in what they are planning to spend. That does not count the future increased cost of electricity, water, gas, heating oil, gasoline, and food that is attached to this environmental (cap and trade) program.

It is estimated that the average family of four will pay an additional $20,000 per year for these items by 2035 due to cap and trade. This is without any personal extra benefit over what you have right now. That does not include the cost of the medical insurance you will be forced to buy whether you want to or not and the new taxes that will go along with this so-called free medical coverage for everyone.

I urge all of you young people to study politics and pay attention to what is going on. Learn the names of your Senator and Congressman, and follow how they vote. Write them, call them, text them, twitter them, email them or see them in person and let them know how you think they should vote on any issue. Always be very respectful but let them know if they vote against you on the issues, you will vote against them in their next election.

If they do not vote in whatever way you think is in your best interest vote them out of office. It does not matter, if you vote for a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent vote for someone who shares your same views and values. If you are ever going to retire, you are going to have to stay on top of things (unfortunately, that includes politics). You will have to budget your own money, save for your retirement and your government should be doing the same for you.

For those of us that are already retired we must do the same. We can no longer just vote straight Democrat or straight Republican. Things are changing so fast we must become much sharper. We must stay on top of the issues. We must pay attention to how the people we put into office vote on the issues, especially when it comes to how much of our money they are spending. Many of our politicians are voting to spend hundreds of millions of dollars without even knowing what is in the bill. That would be like buying a million dollar house without ever seeing it and having the real estate person say, “It is a real good buy just trust me and sign here.”

Unless you are born wealthy, it takes most people a lifetime to accumulate one million dollars or more. When our politicians spend one billion dollars (1,000 million dollars), they are spending the equivalent to one thousand lifetimes of wealth accumulation. When they say they are going to spend a trillion dollars that is equal to a million lifetimes of wealth accumulation. That means that many of our young people that have the potential of accumulating a million dollars in their lifetime will not be able to do so because of this wild spending in Washington by both parties.

When you look at it that way it becomes somewhat overwhelming doesn’t it? This wild spending (no matter what they call it) affects us all like a big tax increase. At some point, this out of control spending will affect our very freedom and democracy. Let your politicians hear from you today about the issues.

Carl Wheeler

Wheeler is the Author and Publisher of

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