Perspective and Reality

Here is an exercise in perspective to help illustrate a reality.  I do not recall who it was that said this originally. I think it was a congressman or senator and I will admit to simply being too lazy to take the time required to look it up. In any case it was once said (I’m paraphrasing, not a direct quote) ” A billion here, a billion there…pretty soon you’re talking about some real money!” This encapsulates the cavalier attitude taken in Washington about our federal spending. For the past four years the federal treasury has enjoyed record levels  of revenue and yet somehow in spite of this the annual budget has continued to run a deficit to the tune of roughly one trillion dollars. This not only suggests, it affirms that there is not a revenue problem: there is a spending problem.

When discussing dollar figures for any department or program the numbers just spill out. We hear them, but plainly do not appreciate the enormity of it all. Here is a little math exercise to help get a handle on it.

If one were to begin to verbally count from one to one billion the average amount of time within that span of numbers to actually speak aloud each number in succession would come out to about 5 seconds for each. That is our starting point.

5,000,000,000 seconds divided by 60 (seconds per minute) = 83,333,333.33 minutes

83,333,333.33 minutes divided by 60 again (minutes per hour) = 1,388,889 hours

1,388,889 hours divided by 24 (hours per day) = 57,870.37 days

57,870.37 days divided by 365.25 (days per year) = 158.44 years

158.44 years translates to roughly 158 years, 5 months and one week, give or take a couple of days. That is how long it would take to manually count from one to one billion.

It takes 1000 billion to make 1 trillion. Not even taking into account the added time in voicing the additional set of digits in each number this would translate to 158,440 years to manually count to one trillion. The United States is fast approaching 20 trillion dollars in accumulated debt.

158.44 years x 1000 = 158,440 years

158,440 years x 20 = 3,168,800 years.

3,168,800 years is by all the best measure that science can provide us longer than the time that humans have been walking the planet. It is at least not as far back as the extinction of the dinosaurs, but still in human terms that is a pretty long time. Agreed?

You are welcome to get your calculators and check the math for yourselves, but by my reckoning that is how long it would take to manually count to 20 trillion. Adding the time required for the additional 20,000 sets of three digits to be uttered would actually stretch that span a bit longer. Im sorry, thats wading a bit too far into the weeds to make the further calculation. It suffices to say that we are talking about one hell of a long time.

In the highly unlikely event that deficit spending were to end this year and we were to begin to apply 500 billion dollars to the debt annually it would take 40 years to retire the debt. That assumes 0 interest and no recurrence of deficit spending in that time. The other part to this equation that needs to be realized is that it would entail a reduction of 1.5 trillion dollars in annual spending. It would also assume revenues remaining static at their current levels. Sadly none of these scenarios are realistic.

The revenues could increase with expanded economic activity, but to make up that difference on expanded revenues alone and with no spending cuts would require a level of growth that is both unprecedented and unrealistic. Any way of going about it the spending cuts would have to occur. It is inescapable. Now here is where it gets even worse. Even without adding any further debt there remains 200 trillion dollars in pending liabilities to federal entitlement programs. Granted this is stretched over a span of some years, but it is a ticking debt which under current structures only continues to expand.

There is a saying in the world of banking.  If you owe the bank $10,000 and you don’t have it? Well then you have a problem. If you owe the bank $10,000,000 and you don’t have it? Well then the bank has a problem. What I have just illustrated is the same formula, only on a considerably grander scale. The bank has a BIG problem. If anyone breathing believes that 20 trillion dollars of debt is going to be repaid they are deluding themselves. It is not, will not ever happen. There will be a default on that debt. Not a matter of if, only when.

All of the repercussions entailed by this can not be foreseen. It will be catastrophic, to be sure, but to what degree and for how long is anyone’s guess. Ultimately it may be a good thing when that reset button is hit, for the long term, but it begs the question what comes after? Again no one can say with absolute certainty, but there are some things happening now that are disturbing indicators. Around the world there are moves by governments and financial institutions to eliminate currency and digitize all money. When one stops to seriously ponder this it must be seen that we are already well on the way there. The only other option for the United States is an action which has already been well underway. They have had a innocuous sounding term to describe this: quantitative easing. What this translates to is simply printing more money. They are attempting to quietly, while no one is really paying close attention, monetize the debt. Aside from the more obvious consequences for this is that to completely monetize that level of debt would create a hyperinflation approaching the speed of light. That may be a bit of hyperbole, I haven’t run the actual math on this, but it is a frightful prospect nonetheless. The degree of collapse is unfathomable, incomparable to anything ever seen before.

The world won’t end, but the way of life we’ve been accustomed to will be forever changed. It may be that somewhere on the other side of this nightmare life actually gets better, but one can not wait for our institutions to make that happen. That will be up to us.

Sorry to piss in your cornflakes.



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