By: Wayne Brown
About the time that I was getting sick of hearing any news that contains references to the term “billions”, the current administration started using the term “trillions”. If we are a society that is making progress the shift between these terms in our governmental cost discussions does not register in a positive fashion. For the American public, there is a null or neutral feeling regarding these terms because either one of them is outside the scope of their comprehension. In attempting to bring them into that scope, I began to brainstorm as to what we as individuals could accomplish with that amount of money.
Let’s look at the recent emergency stimulus spending package that was rushed through the Congress providing the Obama Administration with $800 billion dollars (in round numbers) to get the economy back in action. Let’s start with understanding how much money this is and then we can examine the buying power of it in a comparative fashion.
Most of us have probably dreamed at some point in our lives of how great it would be to actually become a “millionaire”. To put the number above in perspective, a “billion dollars” is representative of becoming a “millionaire” a thousand times over. Now, multiply that number by 800. We started with the dream of one million dollars multiplied that by a factor of 1,000 then multiplied that by a factor of 800. In doing that, it is not just one of us alone who becomes a simple “millionaire”, it is now 800,000 of us who are now millionaires.
So now we have 800,000 millionaires, so what? Well, let’s bring it down to a more of a local perspective. If that money was handed out one million dollars at a time, we create 800,000 millionaires. That is the equivalent of making 41% of the total population of the City of Houston, Texas millionaires over night. The 2000 U S Census lists Houston with a population of just over 1.9 million people. Looking at it from a different angle, if we divide the money between the citizens of Little Rock, Arkansas, each man, woman, and child would get just over $421 million dollars.
If you laid a million dollars end to end, it would extend along its length for almost 95 miles or roughly the distance between Baltimore, Maryland and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Using a billion dollars end to end, it would extend along its length for by a factor of 1,000 or approximately 9500 miles. That amount of money could be used to cross the USA coast to coast over three times. Multiply that by a factor of 800 and the result is 7.6 million miles or an amount of money that would span the coast to coast width of the USA over 2500 times.
Based on the round number manufacturer’s retail selling price of a full-equipped 2010 Chevrolet Malibu of $25,000, a millionaire could purchase 40 of them at one time. A billionaire could multiply that number by a factor of 1000 and provide 40,000 of them. Using that figure, if we used the emergency stimulus spending figure of $800 billion dollars or apply a factor 800 to the billionaire’s buying power, we could now provide 32 million of these cars. That is enough vehicles to give a car to every single person in the State of Texas and still have over seven million cars left to distribute.
If we look at it in terms of home ownership, based on the median price of a home in the USA today of approximately $178,000, a millionaire could purchase five of them. In contrast, a billionaire brings a factor of 1000 to that number supplying 5,000 homes. Apply a factor of 800 to that number to turn the stimulus money into homes and we can purchase four million homes of median value. That is enough to give almost everyone in the State of Alabama a new home.
If we weigh it in terms of purchasing Boeing 757-200 commercial aircraft (the type Nancy Pelosi is supplied for her use), we find that the average millionaire could not even buy one without financing a large portion of the 65 million dollar price tag. The billionaire would be much better off and be capable of purchasing approximately 15 of the aircraft. Applying the stimulus package factor of 800, we see that we could have purchased over 12,300 of these aircraft. As of 2007, American Airlines was the largest domestic operator of this aircraft with 141 of the aircraft in the fleet. Based on our purchasing power, we could replace the American fleet over 87 times. That is enough aircraft to move just over 1.8 million people at the same time or putting it another way, we can almost move the entire population of Houston, Texas at once.
Okay, I think you are starting to get the picture. When we look at the amount of taxpayer dollars consumed in the recent emergency spending package we see that once we bring that dollar figure down to our level, it is an amount of money that can do phenomenal things. To see the purchasing power of $800 billion dollars and then realizing that we now measure our national debt in terms of “trillions” is staggering to think about. It is also sickening to see how little effect the spending of $800 billion dollars, which the taxpayers did not have, is having on stimulating the U.S. economy. In fact, I have yet to see any reasonable accounting as to how that money was spent. I think we were robbed!
Spending and borrowing of this nature cannot continue if America is to remain as a country. Based on recent calculations and considering the current levels of spending, in a small matter of years our domestic taxpayer debt will be approximated 62% of the Gross Domestic Product (or the sum dollar value of all the USA produces in one year). Or, if you want to look at it in terms of your household dollars that would mean over 6 out of every 10 dollars of income you bring home will go back out the door to pay bills that are coming in. Most folks would quickly conclude that trend is not sustainable without some extreme suffering in terms of our individual quality of life.
Our elected officials speak of a billion dollars as if it is change for a five. For an average American, one billion dollars would be an amount of money beyond their wildest dreams. In fact, in this country, if something costs less than a billion dollars for our government to carry out our elected officials say the taxpayers got a bargain.
The Founding Fathers never intended it to be this way. They never intended the Federal Government to ever be as big as it is today. They never intended it to have the powers it has today over our daily lives. They never intended for our Congress to stay in session for most of the year. They never intended for Congress to assume their primary mission was to either make new laws or spend money. All of this has come about with the on-going erosion of states rights over the years and the growth of the welfare state within America. The Federal Government has taken taxpayer money and literally bribed, no…better yet extorted cooperation from the states with offers of pork barreling and federal aid.
I currently live just down the street from a large church that was once surrounded on its east side with a beautiful greenbelt and grassy area that was just the perfect little park. The land had been donated to the church many years before and had remained untouched in its natural state. Enter the Federal Government and the EPA with all of their requirements on clean air, etc. and everything goes to hell. The government has decided that our good citizens must be lured into doing what’s right in terms of clean air so the Federal Government is offering financial grants to various cities suffering with pollution issues to build facilities such as Park n’ Rides that will reduce the traffic on the freeways. So the local city representatives approach the church with $440,000 in government grant money and offer to build the church a new parking lot on the east side in place of the greenbelt with the agreement that the city gets use of the land for 99 years and the city in turn gets to designate a section of the parking lot as a “Park n Ride”. The city reasoned that the reason only six people were using the current facility was that it was too far from the freeway.
The residents of my neighborhood fought this tooth and nail and lost. The $440,000 in taxpayer money was spent on the parking lot and the same six people who used the other park n’ ride came over to use this one. The church people continued to park in the street so they would not have to walk as far as they would if they used the east lot. The parking lot sits literally vacant 90% of the time and this represents not only a good use of taxpayer money but also an effort to cleanup the environment. They have a term for that…”bullshit!”
Our elected representatives in Washington are operating in the “null” across the board. They are numb to the value of a dollar yet drunk with the power to spend it by the billions. As a country, we are on the rails to disaster like a freight train smokin’ into the gates of hell. It is time we changed their thinking and changed their occupations in the process. It is high time we reviewed that entire process in terms of what it pays, the benefits, the retirement, etc., etc., and it is well within our rights as taxpayers to do so for this is our country, it is our money, and damn it, they work for us. They just don’t believe it.
At this point, I want to quote a Clint Eastwood character, Josey Wales, who said, “Now remember, things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean, I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live or win. That’s just the way it is.” That’s where we are as citizens and taxpayers today. If we don’t hurry up and get plumb, mad-dog mean, there won’t be much time for us to either live or win. God Bless America!
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