U.S. national debt is $15,800,000,000,000. Our lingo shouldn’t obscure how dangerous that is.
Pop quiz: What’s bigger—$15.8 trillion, or $15,772,177,351,447?
Of course, rounding off, they’re about the same. But don’t we all think that the first number seems so much smaller and more manageable than the second?
The first number incorporates a tidy unit of measurement called a “trillion.” We can get our heads around the word “trillion,” and so we think we understand what we’re looking at. In this case, it is the size of our national debt.
The thing is, it should be really hard to ever get our heads around a “trillion.” Very few of us have ever seen a trillion of anything with our own eyes. Maybe a trillion grains of sand, but not a trillion trees or a trillion stars.
When you look at the nighttime sky, think about this: We used to know of a few million stars. Then we moved up to billions of stars. Now we’re up to billions of galaxies. But we haven’t gotten to trillions of many things uniquely identifiable yet.