The Second Revolution
Issue #123 • May/June, 2010
Does anyone know how much money a trillion dollars is? It’s a handy thing to know because our country will be about $12.5 trillion in debt by the time you read this. The country’s debt is defined as our accumulated annual deficits, and the annual deficit is the shortfall each year between what our Government spends compared to how much money it has. The annual deficit in 2009 was $1.4 trillion. This year it is projected as high as $2.1 trillion, depending on what Congress ultimately spends.
There are several ways to try to get a mental grip on just how much money a trillion is. Reader Harvey Smith of Visalia, California, suggests we think of it in seconds: One million seconds would take you back 11.5 days, one billion seconds would take you back 31.7 years, and one trillion seconds would take you back 31,546 years. So 12.5 trillion seconds would take you back just under 400,000 years, which is an easy number for me to remember because I have written several articles about Antarctica ice cores, which conveniently date back through four ice ages to 400,000 years ago.
Here’s another way to look at it: According to the Treasury Department, a new $1 bill is .0043 inches thick. That means a stack of a hundred $1 bills would be .43 inches high (less than a ½ inch). Put a thousand $1 bills together and it would make a stack about 4-1/3 inches high. A million $1 bills stacked would be just over 358 feet high, which is just two feet shy of the length of a football field including both end zones. Stack a billion $1 bills and you reach a height of nearly 68 miles. Stack a trillion $1 bills and the height climbs to 68,000 miles, which is about one-third of the distance between the earth and moon. Stack 12.5 trillion $1 bills and it would stretch 3-2/3 times the distance between the earth and the moon.
Are you starting to get an idea of how huge the debt is? There’s another way to look at it: Divide the population of the United States, which is about 300 million, into a trillion and you get $3,333 per person. Since the debt is $12.5 trillion, that means every man, woman, and child in the United States owes ($3,333 x 12.5) $41,666. But of course we older folks will be long gone by the time we have to pay any of that debt off, so it really means that the younger generation, say Americans under age 30, which total about 129 million people, will have to pay back ($12.5 trillion ÷ 129 million) about $97,000 each to get the country out of debt.
But $12.5 trillion in debt may be only the tip of the iceberg for the younger generations. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nonpartison body that puts a price tag on bills coming out of Congress, says the President and Congress are on a track to grow the debt beyond $20 trillion by as soon as the year 2020.
Are all these numbers becoming meaningless yet? Here’s yet another way to look at it: The debt, as a percentage of America’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the combined worth of everything in America, has risen from 50 to 70 percent in the last two years, which is the fastest it’s grown since World War II. The CBO also says that if President Obama’s proposed budget for 2011 is enacted into law, it will grow the debt another $9.8 trillion by the year 2020, pushing the debt well over $20 trillion. The White House Budget Office disputes that figure, saying it will grow the debt by only another $8.5 trillion. At any rate, $20 trillion is equal to 90% of America’s GDP.
I’m 66 years old. I won’t have to pay back any of this money that my generation has helped spend and is still spending. In fact, I’ve already started collecting an extra $18,000 a year from Social Security, a system my generation will exhaust before we die off. I am a member of one of the generations that has stolen the future of the younger generations. It’s like we have pulled off an enormous bank heist and the younger generation doesn’t even realize it’s their money we’ve stolen.
This issue of Backwoods Home Magazine contains two articles that I think are related to this great robbery of America’s younger generation: One is The Appleseed Project on page 8, and the other is The Tea Party Movement on page 74. Both movements are heavily peopled by young patriotic adults longing for smaller and more responsible government. They are part of what I believe to be a burgeoning revolution among young people in America.
While The Appleseed Project seeks to make riflemen out of Americans in the tradition of the country’s War of Independence that started in 1776, the Tea Party Movement is composed of patriots who seek to take back the Government at the ballot box. It is given credit for the remarkable turnabout in Massachusetts which elected fiscal conservative Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate to replace the late big spender, Ted Kennedy.
These movements give me hope for America. The several generations whose futures we have stolen are starting to wake up and get involved in trying to salvage their future. They seem to understand that it all revolves around freedom, smaller government, and fiscal responsibility. They are using modern tools like the Internet to organize and raise money. They understand all the numbers above.
They are acting in their own behalf because it has become evident to them that the older generations will not.The big question that will be answered in the next few years is: How will it all play out? Will there be revolution in the streets, pitting the young against the old? Or will it be confined to the political arena? One thing I feel pretty confident in predicting: America’s Second Revolution is coming, and the young will bring it.