KE Cellars

Spending a trillion dollars used to take time.

A trillion minutes back in time

Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on Newstalk 600 KTBB, Friday Feb. 27, 2009.

I hate talking numbers. If you’re not careful, talking numbers in a forum such as this can become a crashing bore. But the times dictate a conversation on numbers and I’m going to do my best to keep everyone engaged.

Let’s talk money. We’re going to play a little time and money game. Imagine that you are spending money at the rate of one dollar a minute. But instead of moving forward in time with each dollar spent, you will move backward in time.

Let’s start with a million dollars. When you have spent a million dollars at the rate of one dollar a minute, going a minute back in time with each dollar spent, when you run out of money you will find yourself in the middle of April 4, 2007. Sometime during the day on April 4, 2007, Senator Barack Obama will announce that he has raised $25 million dollars to kick off his presidential bid in earnest. It’s a pleasant enough day here in Tyler. The high is 68 degrees, the low is 54 and there will be a total of 68 hundredths of an inch of rainfall.

The point is, a million dollars, a lot of money no doubt, is still a number that doesn’t overtax the imagination. We were all around on April 4, 2007 and if we think hard enough, we can probably remember where we were and what we were doing.

But let’s up the ante. Let’s spend a billion dollars. Doing it the same way, when we run out of money we will find ourselves somewhere around October or November in the year 108 A.D. I wasn’t around (although when I was in the third grade, I would have sworn my teacher, Mrs. Pittman, was). The colosseum in Rome, that iconic stadium that set the pattern for all sports stadiums to follow, is about the same age as Reunion Arena in Dallas is today. According to biblical scholars, the ink is just now drying on the Gospel According to John. The most powerful nation on earth is Rome and its leader is the emperor Trajan.

What this tells us is that even though it’s a huge amount of money, a billion dollars spent at the rate of one dollar a minute will not take you  so far back in time that you can’t know what’s happening.

But now, let’s blow through a trillion dollars. When we go back in time one minute for each dollar spent for a trillion minutes, when we are out of money, we will have no idea what the date is. There is no such thing as a calendar. About the closest we can come to marking the time is to say that we are very late in the Galasian Stage of the Pliocene Epoch in earth’s history. A dollar a minute spent going back in time a trillion minutes takes you back 1,901,285 years. The ice that we know today is starting to form at the poles. The land bridge between South America and North America is not yet complete. There are some primates. But humans that we can recognize won’t arrive for another 1.3 million years (the good news being that neither will the U.S. Congress).

1.9 million years to spend a trillion dollars at the rate of a dollar a minute is a pretty amazing number. But not nearly as amazing as the fact that the Congress has spent more than that much money in non-budget expenditures since Christmas. But instead of going back in time, our congressmen and senators have reached deeply forward in time and have conjured tomorrow’s money from the labor of children yet unborn to fund today’s feverish programs — without having even read the authorizing legislation. What has happened was at one time — and should always be — unimaginable. Yet it is all too real.

So here’s my challenge. Instead of e-mailing the latest goofy urban crap that floats around the internet to your friends around the country – particularly those that live in the districts of Democrat congressmen – send them the link to this post and tell them to read it, forward it and then to get on the phone to their congressman’s office and start raising hell.

The reason our leadership is behaving so irresponsibly is because we’re letting them. It’s time to remind them who is in charge and whose money it is.


  1. brian eggerman says:

    Sobering numbers indeed. I assume you first did these computations back in the early 80’s when Ronald Reagan ran up his first trillion dollar deficit. Or his second. Or his third. Or his fourth. No? Then surely you looked into this trillion minute theory sometime during the first eight years of this century when George W. Bush doubled Reagan’s deficit.
    Sorry, but these loud squealing noises conservatives are suddenly making about fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction lose a lot of their credibility in the face of the ear splitting silence you maintained while your champions racked up 90% of our current deficit.
    On the bright side, it is refreshing to hear a conservative pundit admit that the Earth was not created out of whole cloth 6000 years ago. Common ground at last!

  2. Fergus Henderson says:

    Obama is no different from Bush. Spend spend spend with little to show for it. Sadly, most Republicans give Bush a pass. True fiscal conservatives, however, know better.

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