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How Much is $1 Trillion?


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A few years ago, it was far more common to discuss budgets and costs of programs in the billions of dollars -- a staggering sum of money. However, after years of government growth it has become increasingly necessary to discuss Washington spending in terms of "trillions" rather than "billions" of dollars.

As the use of the "t-word" becomes more common, it is important to put this number in perspective. A trillion is 1,000 billion which is 1,000 million. To help us imagine how much a trillion is, I have come up with a few examples.

Imagine you have $1 trillion, roughly the amount of the federal deficit for each of the last five years. With this amount of money you could purchase about 22 Runza combos with frings and a drink for every man, woman, and child on Earth -- including tax.

If you were in the mood for pizza, you could buy more than 55 billion Val's Original Specials from Valentino's for $1 trillion. This many pizzas lined up would span more than 14,000 miles -- roughly the distance from Grand Island to Beijing, China -- and back.

The University of Nebraska Memorial Stadium has famously sold out every football game since 1962. When the stadium is expanded to accommodate 93,000 fans, $1 trillion would be enough money to buy every seat in Memorial Stadium at every game for nearly 400 years - even if the Huskers played every single day.

You could also show your Husker spirit with official gear from the university bookstore. With $1 trillion you could buy 8.2 billion Husker jerseys, polo shirts, and hats -- more than enough to dress the entire population of the Earth in red and white.

One trillion dollars could also do a lot of good. It could pay for nearly 20 million students to attend Wayne State College for four years. This price includes tuition, room and board, and a meal plan. It could also meet the current payroll of the Nebraska National Guard, including the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, and the State Military Department for more than 6,000 years.

These are extreme and in some cases absurd examples of how to spend $1 trillion; however, this is the point. In the same way it is impossible to imagine 152 billion Runzas, or selling out 139,000 football games -- although I'm sure the Cornhuskers could do it -- a trillion is such a large number it is difficult to fully comprehend. One trillion dollars is a lot of money, but it is only a small fraction of the nearly $17 trillion national debt.

This understanding is critical not only for lawmakers but also for all Americans as we work to address our nation's fiscal challenges. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to implement real reforms to reduce our deficit and debt, encourage economic growth, and put our country on a more sustainable and prosperous path.

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