How much is a trillion?

In case you had forgotten, via James Hamilton:

A trillion dollars used to be a sum that never naturally came up in
normal conversation. Now all of a sudden, it's the standard unit we
seem to be using to talk about our economic problems and what we're
trying to do about them. Fortunately, I think I finally got a handle on
what $1 trillion really means.

A trillion dollars is about the total amount collected in income
taxes by the U.S. federal government in fiscal year 2006– $1.04
trillion, if you're curious to use the exact number.
That gives me a simple rule of thumb for personalizing these numbers.
If I want to know what an additional trillion dollars in government
borrowing or spending will mean for me, I just imagine what it would be
like to pay twice as much in federal income taxes for one year.

So, for example, with the President's proposed budget
calling for deficits of $1.75 trillion for 2009 and an additional $1.17
trillion for 2010, after 3 years of paying twice as much as I paid in
2006, I'd have about paid off my share of the bill for the first two
years of the proposal.

Read the whole thing.


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