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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Brother, can you spare a dime (or 100,000,000,000,000 of them.)

I’ve not been a very good blogger lately but I suppose works does come first. Sorry.

When I was a kid, I watched The Beverly Hillbillies. As you may recall, Jed went out hunting and struck oil. Jed and family were able to move into an opulent Beverly Hills mansion because they were millionaires. This is one of my childhood understandings of the world: millionaires were rich beyond my wildest dreams.

Now I’m all grown up and my wife and I make a nice living and maintain a nice lifestyle but nothing like the Clampets. We live in a pretty normal house, we have modest cars etc - the American dream. But, as odd as it seems to me, we will make as much money in our lives as Jed Clampet made from his oil well. A millionaire? Sure, I’d take a million if you offered it to me but I wouldn’t even quit my job for that kind of money. I’d just feel like I had a comfortable retirement nest egg.

About ten years ago, Dr. Evil came into the future and tried to hold the Earth ransom for a million dollars and the governments of the world laughed at him. Billionaires were the new millionaires. A billion dollars. I could live the Clampet life with that kind of money.

Then we went to war in Iraq. If you recall, the initiate budget request was in the neighborhood of $80 billion. That seemed like a flabbergasting amount of money. Did that sort of money even exist? Maybe that’s the point that we started losing track of how big these dollar amounts were getting. I don’t mean that to be a political statement about the war. It’s just that we argued about this staggering amount of money and then just kept coming back for more money time and time again: $54.4 billion, $70.6 billion, $21.5 billion, $58 billion, $40 billion, $60 billion, $70 billion, $100 billion. These are the actual estimates I’m finding online for the appropriations between 2003 and 2007.

Now, just a few years after we’ve come to terms with a billion being a lot of money its beginning to seem like little more than a down payment - hello trillions.
In an attempt to understand a trillion, I offer this website I found on Twitter.

That’s some Texas T.