How Much Is A Trillion?
I’d like to expand a little bit on one of Rube’s earlier posts. We’ve heard the T word bandied about a lot these past few years as though a billion or trillion dollars were chump change. A friend sent me an email a awhile back that puts a bit more perspective on just how much a trillion dollars really is. I think people have become numb to that fact.
According to this email, a standard ten thousand dollar packet of money consisting of a hundred one hundred-dollar bills is half an inch thick. This packet can easily be carried in a man’s shirt pocket or a lady’s purse. A million dollars—one hundred of these ten thousand dollar packets—is still a small enough bundle to fit into a suitcase or grocery bag that can be carried rather easily. It’s when we advance beyond this point that things begin to change very rapidly, almost exponentially. For emphasis, I’m going to be a bit dramatic in my description of just what a trillion dollars is, because I think most people don’t realize the magnitude of that huge sum of money.
So let’s start out with the ten thousand dollar packet of one hundred dollar bills pictured at the top of this post. Remember, we can carry that in our shirt pocket or a woman’s purse. Then we multiply that ten thousand dollars by one hundred, and we get a million dollars pictured to the right and below the ten thousand dollars that we can still carry in a suitcase. From here on, it gets a little mind boggling, so stay with me. If we multiply the million dollars by one hundred, we come up with one hundred million dollars. This is the amount of money on a standard U. S. Treasury pallet pictured below and left of the million dollars. It takes ten of those pallets to make up a billion dollars, which is ten times a hundred million, or a thousand million dollars.
Now, let’s move on up to a trillion dollars which is a thousand million dollars (a billion dollars) times one thousand billion dollars. This amount of money would require ten thousand pallets to hold it all. A standard pallet is three and half feet by three and half feet. So a trillion dollars, in one hundred dollar bills, would require a space three hundred sixty feet long by one hundred eighty-seven feet wide, double stacked.
To put this into a little better perspective, a standard college football field, including the end zone is three hundred sixty feet long by one hundred sixty feet wide. So try to picture in your mind a bunch of pallets stacked two high covering an entire football field. If single stacked, these pallets would cover two football fields. Kinda blows your mind, doesn’t it? So this means if single stacked, it would take 35 college football fields to store our national debt if it were printed in one hundred dollar bills.
Rube mentioned in his earlier commentary that if a man gave his wife one thousand dollars a day to run the house on, it would take her a little more than 2,739 years to spend a billion dollars. Just to illustrate the exponentiallity of this, if she were to try to spend a trillion dollars at the same rate of a thousand dollars a day, it would take her, according to my calculations, 2,739,726 years.
My…how times have changed. Thinking about this caused me to reflect back to the days of my youth when I was in high school during the 1950s. In those days we couldn’t even fathom a trillion of anything. Trillion and zillion were kids’ expressions used to exaggerate a vast number of–whatever. Life was simpler back then. Millionaires were few, and attaining the status of millionaire was a real achievement. Now days, movie stars and sports players get ten times that and more for just one year’s salary. Something seems to be a little out of balance here. If things keep going the way they are, a thousand dollar bill won’t have any more value than something to paper the walls with.
Money had a lot more value back in those days. I remember the top prize for a famous radio quiz program was sixty-four dollars. Then name of the show was the “Sixty-four Dollar Question? Fred Allen was the host of the show. Sixty four dollars was considered a lot of money in those days.
Our national budget hovered between forty and sixty billion dollars a year during the years from 1950 to 1955. My ten digit pocket calculator ran out of space, so I couldn’t figure how far fifty billion would go toward paying the interest on today’s national debt, but I’d wager not far.
A couple of things I remember about my high school days of the 1950s are the twenty-five cent milkshakes, and the thirty-cent malts. Hamburgers were two bits (25 cents). After attending a movie, which cost twenty-cents per person, kids under twelve less, we could buy our girlfriends a burger and milk shake at the local hamburger joint for fifty cents. There was a restaurant in town, the Idaho Café. It kept late hours, maybe all night, my memory is a bit foggy about that.
After a bunch of us had been out cattin’ on a Friday or Saturday night, we would stop at the Idaho Cafe for a late night snack. One of my favorite meals was a Tenderloin Steak dinner. It offered a nice sized-portion of tenderloin beef, shoestring potatoes, as we called them in those days, a choice of soup or salad, desert and coffee. The final price was two bucks; no extra charges or sales tax added on. A single cup of coffee was a nickel. Pie and coffee, two bits.
This establishment served good chili also. Again, memory says a bowl of chili was either fifteen cents, or maybe a quarter. The head chef—Stan Peterson—made the best darn cinnamon rolls that ever graced a human palate. “Stan’s rolls” were known for miles around. Overland truckers used to make it a point to stop in Soda Springs just for one of Stan’s rolls and a cup of coffee. I used to go there almost every day for an after school snack consisting of one of these rolls and coffee.
Regular gasoline hovered between twenty-eight and thirty two cents per gallon (only a few cents more than the state tax on today’s gas). Premium grade was Eythl. I never bought much of the premium stuff, so I don’t really remember how much higher the price for it was. I suspect a couple of cents. I remember gasoline looked good enough to drink. The regular was orange and looked like orange Kool-Aid. Eythl was red and looked like cherry Kool-Aid. Those days are long gone, I’m afraid. But they were good days for those of us who had the good fortune to live ’em.
Now, I’d like to talk a little bit about a new novel I have coming out soon. It’s titled LouIsa—Iron Dove Of The Frontier. She truly was an Iron Dove. She was tough as nails on the outside facing many challenges in her short life, but was also a genteel woman of quiet strength. If you follow this blog you will be able to read short snippet excerpts between now and its release.