Federal government's numbers can be a stretch for younger minds

Settle down, kids. Settle down. Summer vacation is over and we're all back in school. I have an announcement before you all go off to your classes.


Recent happenings in Congress have necessitated a few changes in our curriculum. We're going to concentrate more on the news. First, does anyone here know what "trillion" means?

Yes, Brad? No, I'm pretty sure it's not a new video game, although anything is possible these days. Now concentrate. What does "trillion" mean?

You have no idea? Brad, if I recall correctly, you had no ideas last year, either.

Mary, can you enlighten the class? Oh, you want me to use it in a sentence? Certainly: "The national debt exceeds $14 trillion."

"Exceeds"? Oh, Charles, you know what that means. It's another way of saying the United States owes more than $14 trillion.

Seth, why don't you give us the answer? If the nation owes $14 trillion, then that means --

No, no, no, Seth! A "trillion dollars" is not a kind of foreign currency, like euros and pesos. It's good old American money, or in this case, the lack thereof.

I'll give you all a hint. A trillion is a very large number. Who knows what it is?

Oh, my! Ted, I can assure you a trillion is not the same as $60,000, even though that is a large number, too. Yes, I'm aware you can buy a BMW for that, but with a trillion dollars, you could get the top of the line.

What's your question, Mary? Is a trillion more than a million? Why, yes, it is. I would have hoped you kids had figured that out by now.

Class, I might as well tell you. A trillion is a thousand, thousand million. Or a thousand billion. It's 1 with 12 zeroes after it.

It is, too! Stop laughing. Take out your notebooks and write it down so you can see what a trillion looks like. Then put a dollar sign in front of it. Then multiply it by 14 or thereabouts and see what you owe.

And get used to it. It's all yours to deal with soon.

What's that, Felicia? Will you be tested on this? Oh, yes; every day.



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