Comprehending an Incomprehensible Economy

The late great astronomer Carl Sagan was once famously lampooned by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show for saying "billions and billions" on the hit PBS show Cosmos in a unique voice when describing astronomical distances.

Well, we are beyond astronomy now, beyond billions and billions and into the unreal realm of trillions.

The Federal Reserve recently announced that it was injecting another $1 trillion into the financial system. China owns U.S. Treasuries to the tune of 1.4 trillion rapidly weakening dollars.  On April 2, Congress approved President Barack Obama's $3.6 trillion budget. New estimates from Congressional Budget Office project U.S. federal budget deficits of $9.3 trillion over the next decade if (shock) Obama gives away his trillions in new spending.

These are sums of unimaginable magnitude. And yet they are thrown about as if everyone has the slightest conception of what they mean.

A trillion is a thousand billions. It is a million millions. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to put this number in perspective, pointing out that you could spend a million dollars a day from the birth of Jesus until today and still not have spent a trillion dollars.

Or to put it another way: A stack of thousand dollar bills totaling $1 trillion would soar 68 miles into the sky. If the C.B.O. is correct in its projection of Obama deficits, it means we'll be shoveling the equivalent of a 611 mile-high stack of thousand dollar bills out the door (a sum, it is considered impolite to mention, we do not have).

Much ink has been spilled of late about how the governing elite have failed our country in bringing on this great crisis.  Patrick J. Bucahan, for one, in a recent column indicted "this generation of political and financial elites," which has "proven itself unfit to govern a great nation."  No doubt there is plenty of blame to go around --  honest mistakes and outright graft and imbecility from the best and brightest of Washington and Wall Street.