‘A trillion here, a trillion there’: Just how much is that?

By Art Moore

(Image courtesy Pixabay)

The late Republican senator Everett Dirksen had a colorful way of describing the lavish spending habits of federal lawmakers.

“A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money,” the Illinois senator is believed to have said, according to legend.

Everett Dirksen (Wikipedia)

Now, with the record $2.2 trillion emergency-relief package set to pass – and perhaps another $4 trillion to come – it may be time to re-interpret the painfully poignant quip for a new generation.

But just how much is a trillion?

How can you wrap your head around such a staggering figure?

One of the best ways is to translate the number into time.

A million seconds is 13 days. But a billion seconds is 31 years.

A trillion seconds? It’s 31,688 years.

Meanwhile, the current national debt is $23.3 trillion.

It means that just one bill will amount to a whopping 8.6% of the country’s already breathtaking debt.

A trillion here, a trillion there …

[Note: While many claimed to have heard Dirksen make the iconic remark, archivists have found no evidence. But it’s clear he would have endorsed the meaning. The Dirksen Congressional Center says it got a call from a man who once sat by Dirksen on a flight and asked him about the quote. “Oh, I never said that,” the senator replied, according to the man. “A newspaper fella misquoted me once, and I thought it sounded so good that I never bothered to deny it.”]

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