How Much Is A Billion Dollars?

I finished reading a book this weekend that had an interesting and understandable explanation of million, billion and trillion. I had just put the book on the shelf with the others I had read when my computer signaled that a new e-mail had arrived. It was from a good friend in Wisconsin who happened to have sent me several bottles of Spotted Cow Beer a few days ago. To me, Spotted Cow is one of the best beers in the country.

The e-mail, coincidently, had an interesting explanation of million, billion and trillion which was similar to the one in the book.

I’d like to share both renditions with you simply because we have become so used to using these terms that I think we fail to realize just how great the differences really are.

From the book first:

A million in seconds is a little over eleven and a half days.
A billion in seconds by comparison is 31 years.
A trillion in seconds is 31 thousand years.

My Wisconsin friend’s e-mail put it another way:

How many zeros in a billion?

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 one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of its releases.

A. A billion seconds ago it was 1959. (This didn’t feel right when I compared it to the numbers I had just finished reading. A million seconds ago would take you back to 1977. There are 86,400 seconds per day.)

B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

C. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

D. A billion days ago no one walked on the earth on two feet.

E. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

FYI: The average American lives for less than 2.5 billion seconds.

The e-mail continues with some more interesting things to think about:

While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let’s take a look at New Orleans. It’s amazing what you can learn with some simple division.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D) asked Congress for 250 BILLION DOLLARS (how many years in seconds would that be?) to rebuild New Orleans. Interesting number, but what does it mean?

A. Well, if you are one of the 484,674 residents of New Orleans (every man, woman, and child) you each get $516,528.

B. Or, if you have one of the 188, 251 homes in New Orleans, your home gets $1,329,787.

C. Or, if you are a family of four, your family gets $2,066,012.

If this isn’t thought provoking enough – this is Monday after all – the e-mail went on to list some, not all of the taxes, we have to pay. Reading through the following list makes me think of the sacred rules that have been cast by the wayside, rules like “taxation without representation” and no double taxation are a couple that come to mind. The list that was responsible for the Boston Tea Party was much shorter than this one, as was the list that inspired the Declaration of Independence and Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride.

Accounts Receivable Tax
Alcohol Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Drivers License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Tax
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service charge taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax (Truckers)
Sales Taxes
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Tobacco Tax
Utility Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

And there are more not included in the list.


Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.

We had absolutely no national debt.
We had the largest middle class in the world.
And, mom stayed home to raise the kids.

What happened?

No, this doesn’t solve any problems but it does make you think. You have to ask yourself, what is important to us as a country? What do we want from our government? What price are we willing to pay?

The price tag is measured not only in dollars but also personal freedoms and individual rights.

Greg Sitek

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