After the Confetti

by Dr. Benjamin Wikertothesource

The problem with big numbers—say, 16,000,000,000,000 or 200,000,000,000—is that they are so big they rise off our scale of everyday, human comparison. They cease to mean anything.

We can understand, and get upset by, gas prices rising by $.20, or our pocket being picked for $20, or our income taxes increasing by $2000.

But all those altitudinous zeroes stacked up in neat rows of three? Well, past a certain point, when millions slide into billions, and billions into trillions, it all seems the same. What's the difference?

Perhaps a little exercise in history and mathematics might awaken us.

The big numbers in the above paragraph? The first is the current U.S. National Debt (although by the time you read this, the ever-spinning debt clock will have ticked much higher).

Over 16 trillion dollars means a debt of almost $52,000 for every citizen—every man, woman, and child. Or for those who could pay the bill, almost $142,000 per tax payer.

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