“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.