“A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” Though this line was first written by the New York Times in 1938, many Americans will recall it was made famous by Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen in 1985 during a Senate budget meeting where he was expressing concerns about impending inflation and growing national debt. (He later stated he was misquoted but didn’t bother to correct it).

But today the politicians in Washington have apparently disregarded rising inflation and near historic national debt and now speak of a trillion here and a trillion there. Our government recently reported that consumer prices increased by 5 percent during the past 12 months, the largest such increase since 2008. Under Donald Trump nearly $2 trillion was spent to deal with the pandemic. Now Joe Biden has spent about the same amount and is asking for an additional $4 to $6 trillion more for new projects and initiatives. The debt continues to grow out of control and our government reported we paid nearly $375 billion last year just to service the debt.

Do the taxpayers who will pay for this out of control spending really understand the magnitude of a trillion dollars? (That’s a 1 and 12 zeroes). Richard Berman of Berman & Company in Washington, D.C.. explained it by equating it to time. “One million seconds passes over 12 days. One trillion seconds elapses over more than 30,000 years.”

One could only imagine how Senator Dirksen would react to the catastrophic spending that is going on now and will continue in the future.

Ronald J. Volpe


Mr. Volpe is President Emeritus at Hood College.

(27) comments


Dear Letter Writer,

Where was this letter 4 years ago?

As easily predicted, as soon as someone with a D next to their name won Presidency, Republicans would care about the debt again.

Please do something unpredictable like fight white supremacy.


there are times in the life of this country where debt spending is a must , the recent pandemic and WWii being 2 examples; but the absurd waste of trillions of our tax $$$ and additional debt being laid on the backs of future generations is CRIMINAL; paying working age people to stay home and NOT work is killing businesses that are unable to hire and facts just released indicate that only 57% of the working age group is working ....that is disgusting and Biden and his gang need a good horse whipping for this destruction they have hatched


Paying people to stay home and NOT work --- NOT REALLY accurate there gjthuro. Quit exposing the right's talking ( lying??) points. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/if-its-not-enhanced-unemployment-benefits-why-are-people-turning-down-jobs-2021-05-21 or many other articles - google it bro.


Hayduke, let's look at the information presented in the source you cite. From the article "Some people are finding it difficult to get a job, while others need to find affordable child care, home help or even transportation" Much of those problems already existed, the pandemic didn't create those problems and is probably only responsible for a small percentage increase in those problems.

"What’s more, 65% of those surveyed said unemployment benefits were not a factor in their rejecting a job." That means for 35% it was a factor.

"Instead, they cited too-low salary (36%),..." in other words with the extra unemployment benefit one gets they can afford not to temporarily accept a less than ideal job and continue to look for a better one, they can now accept no job and take more time to look.

"...concerns about COVID-19 (35%)..." So 35% are sayiong no amount of money will get them back to work because of the fear of Covid? They doesn't make sense with the wide availability of the vaccines now (and have been widely available basically since April).

"...and the need to care for family (31%)...." Again that need already existed for most and caring for someone because of Covid probably only slightly increased the percentage of people in that category.

"In fact, 76% of those offered a new position said the proposed wages were lower than their prior job." What would be interesting to know is what jobs they are looking for compared to their old jobs. Are the offers lower than previous jobs because the positions are less skilled? Because of loss of time in service? etc.

"Child care is an expense made all the more onerous during the pandemic. Indeed, 56% of parents with children under age 18 said they or their spouse or partner altered their work schedule, or stopped working to care for their children during the pandemic." News Flash, child care workers were, in my opinion, underpaid before the pandemic. The cost of and care for one's children should be thought out and planned for. The pandemic only exposed poor planning. What if it weren't the pandemic but simply a business going bankrupt and one or more parents lost their job(s) for 3 months, 6 months, etc.? What plan did the parents have in place for that unplanned but potential circumstance?

What this has exposed is maybe a shortcoming in other social programs, but not a shortcoming in unemployment. At the start I've said that I thought money would be better spent retraining workers rather than bailing out businesses that are not essential (i.e., restaurants) that have a track record of paying low wages, etc. I also think the extra unemployment money would be better spent for the same thing.

Again, my older cousin is taking advantage of the extra unemployment (making more than he did when he worked for a company that sells/installs pools in NY) and he is catching up on his to do list at home. A drop in the unemployment benefit back to the normal level would trigger his return to the job market whether he chooses to go back to his same job or look for a new and better job.

Now for the businesses that claim that extra unemployment is killing their business, if you are providing a service/product that is valued by your customers, raise the price so you can pay your employees more and if customers value what you are doing you'll survive unless global competition wins out on lower labor costs in which case you were going to lose in the long run so why not speed up the inevitable?


Good grief jethro, Biden has been POTUS for 6 months and it’s all his fault. Trump was (faux)POTUS for 4 loooooong years and nothing is his fault. How do you explain that?


Absurd waste of money on infrastructure? Really?

The OECD published the latest (2018) results of spending on infrastructure for 48 countries. The US ranked #39 of 48 with 0.52% of GDP infrastructure spending. Well, the US DID beat some countries: Iceland, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, and Portugal. Congratulations! #1 on the list is of course China, spending 5.57%. In fact, 10 countries spend at least twice as much as a percentage of GDP as the US.

But the US is always #1, right? So I guess those other 38 countries that spend more are just misguided and more fiscally sound. I'll write a letter to the Swiss right away.

You are right: the US is spending an absurd amount on infrastructure. An absurdly SMALL amount.


Killing businesses? Really?

The last time I looked corporations were making record profits. Corporate profits was the only economic indicator that accelerated under Trump.

I saw a sign at Burger King last week offering a princely $10 an hour. So if you kept every penny of what you earned and worked 40 hours a week, you'd make $1,200 in four weeks. With that kind of big money, you could almost rent an apartment in Frederick. Of course you could always live with mom and dad...except those workers generally are older adults, often with children. Hmmm.....

As always, let's take a look at the rest of the world....MacDonald's employees (unionized, of course) currently make $20.59 an hour in Denmark. If they work holidays, their pay doubles. Oh yeah, they also get 6 weeks paid vacation. And a pension. And a lot more. And yet, magically, MacDonalds in Denmark remains profitable. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/mcdonalds-workers-denmark/


I always find it interesting to look at the debt on a per capita basis. 28.5 trillion with a population of 331 million works out to just about $86,000 per man, woman, and child. You and your spouse, write a check for $172,000. Family of 4, you are now up to 344,000. In other words, your family's share of the debt is probably more than your mortgage.

And any objective review of the debt shows neither democrats or republicans are good stewards of the peoples money. They are both guilty of running up the debt.


Yes, you can look at it that way. It's the wrong way. It makes two big assumptions:

1) Your income level will remain the same.

2) You will need to pay back the debt.

Let's assume you make $100,000 a year. According to your calculations, the national debt per capita is about $86,000, or 85% of your income. But let's assume you get a raise of just 2% a year. In 20 years your income would be $149,000, and the $86,000 of debt would be just 58% of you income, 29% less. Now of course that assumes the per capita debt doesn't increase....but if it increases less than your income, it's no more in percentage terms.

Pay back the debt? Why? Who is forcing you to? No one. Granted it's probably a good idea in prosperous times for the gov. to run a surplus and thus pay down the debt--which Clinton did in the 90s. But as long as you can roll the debt over at a low interest rate, why pay it back?

And of course the other thing to remember is who owns those treasury bonds--of debt.

Social Security: 10.4%

Office of Personnel Management Retirement Fund: 3.3%

Military Retirment Fund: 3.3%

Medicare: 0.08%

In total, the US federal gov. owes 22% of the debt to itself. Another 12.5 % is owned by mutual funds. And so on. About 22% of the debt is held by foreigners.

Japan and China each own more than $1 trillion. But the next biggest investors are the UK, Ireland, Luxembourg, Brazil, Switzerland....And what if China "demanded" its money back? Just like any investor in bonds, they would have to sell their bonds...the more they sold, the lower the price would go. They would end up selling their bonds at a loss. They wouldn't do that. And of course the US wouldn't be paying China back, the purchasers of the bonds the Chinese were selling would be paying China back.

Bottom line: For now the debt is just fine. It's not an issue unless you simply don't understand it.


That really puts things in perspective. Thanks Riptide.

I believe Bill Gates once said "Do you really think I trust the Government on how best to spend my money"? Enough said.



As predictable as the seasons, Republicans try to bothsides their way back to power. Democrats tend to do really well on the economy, but are always hampered by the massive amount of debt taken on by giving tax breaks to b/millionaires.

For real, after white supremacy, debt and abortions do y'all really have a platform?


I have a friend who was sending me e-mails every month about the debt when Obama was president. Strangely, the e-mails stopped for four years under Trump.

I'll tell everyone here what I kept telling my friend: look at the weekly US 10-year bond rate. Currently it's 1.292%. The US debt keeps getting rolled over as older bonds expire. So to finance the debt we--oh, the horror--must now pay 1.292% to new bond holders. Imagine having to pay off a credit card with 1.292% interest!

And of course you should ask yourself, "Ah, but what's the REAL interest rate?" In other words, after you factor in inflation, what are you paying? In 2020, the inflation rate was 1.36%. So the REAL interest on new 10-year bonds is 1.292 - 1.36 = 0.068%. That means, in effect, that bond holders are paying the US to borrow their money. What a disaster!

Now just like a household, if you borrow money to increase your consumption--buy steak instead of hamburger, buy a $500 suit instead of a $150 suit, etc. you will eventually be in financial trouble. But if you borrow money to build new roads, railroads, airports, water mains, etc. you are investing in things that will pay off in the future. So borrow away.


I forgot the negative sign on the REAL interest: -0.068%


While I see no comments on your posts, I have to commend them. While I'm not sure you account for a flip of real inflation, the 1980 kind, your examples and math far outshined so many comments in this space. Well done.


Right on Mr. Volpe - of course the libertards want to put this back on the Republicans because that's what they do. Trump had to spend 2 trillion to combat the pandemic -

he had no choice. But Sleepy Joe is taking this all to the next level - more entitlements. I traveled this week and all I saw were Help Wanted signs everywhere - Sleepy Joe made it worse by doling out more money so that it made it more lucrative for people to stay home. Now we've got inflation like we haven't seen in years, huge debt that our children's children will be paying forever, and Sleepy Joe and his ilk want to spend even more. It's out of control.


I’m guessing if it is more lucrative for someone to stay home, they weren’t highly paid and won’t be once again when they are rehired because they haven’t acquired new skills. I won’t judge them for not volunteering to make less. It shows intelligence. It offers hope they can have an improved future.


That's all a copout. My 18 year old makes $20/hour at a liquor store. Sorry D, I'm not buying that reasoning. If your old job wasn't paying you enough, find a new one - there are a ton of them out there. Aye Carrumba!!


Are 18 year olds able to work at a liquor store? I find that surprising.


Then how come JerryR, the Country prospers under Democratic Administrations and suffers (except the top 10%) under Republican Administrations. Please explain.


Trump created the highest National Debt and the 3d highest Deficit in History….Where was the Tea Party, and outrage then?


Welp, your boy Sleepy Joe is going to triple that Fred. Think about it.



Why is it always projection with Rethuglicans?


Mr. Volpe, I don't think you've done your homework and you're ignoring several recent activities by the GOP. Where were you when the GOP gave back $1.5 trillion to the wealthy and corporations? Did you not hear our President and several respected economists state that this could be paid for if the rich and corporations paid their fair share? Perhaps you need a bit more reading material. I suggest the New York Times. Perhaps you need other news outlets. May I suggest PBS.


What is needed, but the Republicans refuse to support this, is better IRS enforcement of tax laws.


how absurd


jethro; are you saying you do not support adequate policing of laws?


Exactly, Mr. Volpe 👍👍👍

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