Much of my education and professional life has been spent working with numbers, calculations, and spreadsheets. As we all know, the daily news and political debates regularly refer to our $16 trillion national debt and a 2012 budget deficit that exceeds $1 trillion. Even with all my experience, I have difficulty fully grasping the concept of “trillion”. Given the central importance of national fiscal policy in November’s election, I decided that helping my fellow citizens develop a clearer image of “trillion” would be an extremely positive step.
One trillion is represented by a “1”, followed by twelve zeros: 1,000,000,000,000. It is also a “million million”.
In terms of everyday “clock time”, one trillion seconds equals 31,546 years!
Consider “trillion” relative to the only meaningful measure of distance between objects in the universe – “a light year”. Since a “light year” is the distance light travels in an earth year, and light travels at 186,000 miles per second, then the “light year” would be 5,865,696,000,000 miles (not quite 6 trillion miles!). http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/k-12/Numbers/Math/Mathematical_Thinking/how_big_is_a_trillion.htm
If you had spent $1 million each day since Jesus of Nazareth was born, you would still have spent less than $1 trillion!
If today, you started spending $1,000/second, it would take you 28 and one half years to spend $1 trillion.
If you assume the median price of U.S. homes is $180,000, you would need to purchase 5,552,471 homes to own $1 trillion in real estate. http://jaysteele360.com/how-big-is-one-trillion
Looking at a “trillion” from an international perspective, if a U.S. consumer spent $1 per second, it would take 12 days to spend $1 million. If a British citizen spent $1 per second, it would take her/him 32 years to earn the equivalent of 1 billion pounds. And if a German earned $1 per second, it would take 32,000 years to earn the equivalent of 1 trillion Euro (which is foolish, of course, because there will not be any Euros in 34012 AD!). http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/969455-madnumismatist/1108721-exactly-how-big-is-one-trillion-dollars-pounds-euro
Finally, and perhaps most helpful, according to U.S. Representative Randy Forbes and PolitiFact.com (that fact checked his data), if our current national debt was split equally among all U.S. residents, we would each owe $48,700! That figure equates to $126,585 for each “average” U.S. household.
Personally, our family is already stretched as we service our family mortgage, student loans, credit card and utility bills. We don’t have the resources to service this additional federal burden, not to mention the mountain of debt that House Speaker Madigan, and Senate President John Cullerton, and Gov. Quinn (with a huge prior boost from convicted ex-governor Blagojevich) have created for all who live in Illinois!
So there you have as “up close and personal” look at a “trillion” as I can offer you. I hope it helps!