Amoebas To Lady Gaga
PG got an email recently with an economic theme. It started out “$1,000,000,000 How many zeros in a billion? This is too true to be funny. The next time you hear a politician use the Word ‘billion’ in a casual manner, think about whether you want the ‘politicians’ spending YOUR tax money.
A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but we can try. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive. A billion hours ago our ancestors were Living in the Stone Age. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, At the rate our government is spending it. “
PG knows how to use a calculator. We will use minutes as the unit of measure here, and if you are second conscious, multiply these figures by 60. There are 24 hours in a day, or 1440 minutes. There are 525,600 minutes in a year, or 527,040 in a leap year. In a century, there are 52,596,000 minutes. (A billion minutes is 1901 years. The quote about Jesus is a bit off.)
PG first crunched these numbers a while back, when doing a post about global warming. (It should be noted that, while PG does not “believe in” global warming, he is concerned about the damaging effects of the promiscuous use of fossil fuels.) Here is what he came up with: The atmosphere on planet earth is a marvel, quite possibly unique in the universe. It supports a wide range of life forms, from amoebas to Lady Gaga. This blanket of gas evolved over a period of billions of years. Man has changed it more in the last two hundred years than nature did in four billion before that.
Those numbers don’t mean too much like that, so lets put them into another form. Comparing 200 years to four billion years just takes a calculator. That is like comparing one minute to 38 years. What G-d created ( or nature evolved, or however you explain it), what took 38 years to create, industrial man has nearly ruined in one minute.
In the interest of showing how we got our numbers, here is the breakdown. Divide 4 billion by 200 and you get 20 million. Divide 20 million by 1440 ( the number of minutes in a day) gives us 13888 days. Dividing 13888 days by 365 gives us 38 years. Even if the earth is less than four billion years old, the fact remains that industrial man has almost destroyed, in practically no time, what took a long time to create.
Those of a certain age remember Everett Dirksen. A Republican Senator from Illinois, he was blessed with an operatic voice, and cursed with a face that could stop a clock. He is credited (or blamed) for the quote ” A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” The Dirksen Congressional Center can neither confirm nor deny if he really said that. The discussion of this reputed quote does turn up a couple of passages, from the Congressional Record, that are germane to today’s conversation.
“As I think of this bill, and the fact that the more progress we make the deeper we go into the hole, I am reminded of a group of men who were working on a street. They had dug quite a number of holes. When they got through, they failed to puddle or tamp the earth when it was returned to the hole, and they had a nice little mound, which was quite a traffic hazard.
“Not knowing what to do with it, they sat down on the curb and had a conference. After a while, one of the fellows snapped his fingers and said, ‘I have it. I know how we will get rid of that overriding earth and remove the hazard. We will just dig the hole deeper.’”
[Congressional Record, June 16, 1965, p. 13884].
“One time in the House of Representatives [a colleague] told me a story about a proposition that a teacher put to a boy. He said, ‘Johnny, a cat fell in a well 100 feet deep. Suppose that cat climbed up 1 foot and then fell back 2 feet. How long would it take the cat to get out of the well?’
“Johnny worked assiduously with his slate and slate pencil for quite a while, and then when the teacher came down and said, ‘How are you getting along?’ Johnny said, ‘Teacher, if you give me another slate and a couple of slate pencils, I am pretty sure that in the next 30 minutes I can land that cat in hell.’
“If some people get any cheer out of a $328 billion debt ceiling, I do not find much to cheer about concerning it.” [Congressional Record, June 16, 1965, p. 13884].
Senator Dirksen went to the fundraising dinner in the sky September 7, 1969. Twelve years later, the Reagan revolution was getting started. Taxes were cut, and spending increased. In a couple of years, the national debt went over a trillion dollars. (The annual budget deficit is now over a trillion dollars.) For those new to the game, a trillion is a billion, multiplied by a thousand. For all the numbers above, multiply by a thousand, to get a trillion.
In 1965, Senator Dirksen was losing sleep, over raising the national debt to $328 billion. One of the first jobs of the new congress is to raise the debt ceiling. The national debt is over $14 trillion dollars tonight.
In 1965, the national debt was $328 billion, and we were losing 100 men every week in Vietnam. One of the more expensive things the government does is fight wars. Currently we are officially killing people in two countries, and several more that no one knows about(nudge wink).
On September 11, 2001, The United States was attacked. Revenge was the order of the day. There are now indications that this was one of the goals of Al Queda. The Soviet Union imploded, in large part, because of the strain of fighting a war in Afghanistan. Now, the United States is waist deep in the same big muddy.
Afghanistan has a gross national product of $27billion. The Congressional Research Service estimates the cost of American operations in Afghanistan for 2011 to be $119 billion. This is over four times the gross national product of Afghanistan. Pretty soon, you are talking about real money.
Pictures for this entertainment are from The Library of Congress.