Saturday, March 12, 2005

Big bucks

Last night I saw a news report on the federal government's latest budget, which is said to be 2.6 trillion dollars. This got me wondering how I could visualize such a large sum. I decided that by breaking it down into smaller pieces I could make more sense of it. Here are my seat-of-the-pants calculations.

The government spends $2.6 trillion in a year.
There are 52 weeks in a year.
Therefore the government spends $50 billion per week.
There are seven days in a week.
Therefore the government spends $7.14 billion per day.
There are 24 hours in a day.
Therefore the government spends $297 million per hour.
There are sixty minutes in an hour.
Therefore the government spends $4.9 million per minute.
There are sixty seconds in a minute.
Therefore the government spends $82,600 per second.

I should add that the federal budget does not include so-called "off-budget items," which are also very costly. And it does not count state, county, and municipal government spending.

I'm not saying that this amount of spending is necessarily excessive. The United States is a military, industrial, and scientific colossus, with a population of 300,000,000, and it is fighting a global war on terrorism while engaging in massive programs that involve economic subsidies, medical research, and the maintenance of infrastructure, to name just a few.

But when we hear members of Congress insist that government programs are being starved and shrunken, remember this:

The federal government currently spends $82,600 every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of the year.


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