NEW YORK – The Obama administration is the first government in human history to propose going $1 trillion in debt for any reason, let alone on the premise that borrowing and spending that amount would be a solution rather than another problem.

To answer the question of how big a problem borrowing $1 trillion will be, we decided to examine just how large 1 trillion actually is.

  • One trillion is the number “1” followed by 12 zeroes, as in: 1,000,000,000,000.

  • One trillion seconds of ordinary clock time = 31,546 years.
  • So, spending at $1 a second, it would take 31,546 years to spend $1 trillion.
  • If someone were to build city blocks that contained 10 homes valued at $100,000 per home, you would end up with 10 houses to a block, 10 blocks to a mile and a hundred blocks per square mile. It would take 10,000 square miles to reach $1 trillion in value. This would be than larger than six U.S. states: Vermont, 9,615 square miles; New Hampshire, 9,351 square miles; New Jersey, 8,722 square miles; Connecticut, 5,544 square miles; Delaware, 1,954 square miles; and Rhode Island, 1,545 square miles.
  • Craig Smith, founder and CEO of Swiss America, estimates it would take approximately four generations of Americans to pay off the interest of the U.S. Treasury bonds sold as debt to fund the $1 trillion stimulus package, factoring in a 3-percent growth rate in the economy throughout that time.

The U.S. national debt now exceeds $10 trillion and is estimated currently at $10,624,012,813,982.43 as of yesterday at 6:44:38 p.m. Eastern Time., according to the U.S. National Debt Clock at Times Square in New York City.

With the estimated population of the United States at 305,556,415, each citizen’s share of the national debt is $34,769.40.

The Bush administration added more than $4 trillion to the national debt, increasing it more than 70 percent from the time Bush took office, on Jan. 20, 2001.

Trillions are no longer enough to measure important financial statistics on a global basis.

The Bank of International Settlements now estimates that derivatives – the complex bets financial institutions and sophisticated investors make with one another on everything from commodities options to credit swaps – now top $650 trillion worldwide – that’s $0.65 quadrillion.

Last September, the digital display on the Times Square National Debt Clock was modified to eliminate the dollar sign, so the national debt in tens of trillions of dollars could be displayed.

The clock, created in 1989 by Manhattan real estate developer Seymour Durst, is now being redesigned so it can display the national debt in numbers measured in the hundreds of millions, with a dollar sign that could be eliminated should the national debt ever reach $1 quadrillion.

A quadrillion is a 1 followed by 15 zeroes, as in: 1,000,000,000,000,000.

The new clock should be ready to install early this year.

David Schwartz, author of the children’s book classic “How Much is a Million?” points out that if 1 million kids climbed onto one another’s shoulders, they would be higher than Mt. Everest.

If a billion children climbed onto one another’s shoulders, they would reach beyond the moon.

A trillion is yet 1,000 billion, meaning that if 1 trillion children climbed on one another’s shoulders, they would reach 1,000 times beyond the moon.

A quadrillion is 1,000 trillion, meaning that if one quadrillion children climbed on one another’s shoulders, they would reach 1 million times beyond the moon.


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