What's a trillion? Big but how big? ~ Brand Mix

Monday, January 19, 2009

What's a trillion? Big but how big?

Although everyone gets that a trillion is a big number, most people don't have any idea how big.

In a recent speech about health care at the Commonwealth Club, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, felt that it was important that his audience got a better grasp on a trillion. He was setting the stage for his health care proposal by talking about the "big three" health care problems: Coverage, Cost and Quality: Too many not covered, too expensive and not good enough quality.

His data point on cost was that we spend $2.2 trillion on health care every year. To hammer home that $2.2 trillion really is a very, very big number, he translated dollars into seconds:

Q: How long ago (do you think) was 1 million seconds? A: Last week
Q: How long ago was 1 billion seconds? A: Round about when Nixon resigned the White House
Q: How long ago was 1 trillion seconds? A: 30,000 BC

Helps put our national debt into perspective as well.

Note on Dr. Emmanuel:
Dr. Emmanuel
is the Chair of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health (and brother of Rahm Emmanuel, Barack Obama's Chief of Staff). He is a proponent of of a complete restructuring of health care, eliminating its provision through employers and replacing it with a voucher system paid for via a value added sales tax. Audio of the whole speech is here. Interesting if you're interested in health care.

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