Dick Tracy: US spending stretches the mind’s limits | TheUnion.com

Dick Tracy: US spending stretches the mind’s limits

Dick Tracy
Columnist

Dick Tracy

It sounds like bragging, but I have an incredible imagination.

It got me in trouble in second grade when a teacher noted on my report card: "He daydreams."

It wasn't a compliment.

And I mentally escaped the challenges of high school algebra class by imagining the ability to become invisible and visit the girl's shower room.

To pay off the current debt of $21 trillion every single American would have to kick in over $64,000.

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Maybe that imagination is why I'm hooked on science fiction/ fantasy. But when it comes to visualizing the vastness of the universe, I run aground.

We're told the universe is endless. And that "There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all of our beaches." And other stargazers maintain that the universe is expanding.

OK, smarties, how can something endless get bigger? And what would it expand into? Is there a void outside the known universe?

That sounds like material for a good "Star Trek" episode, doesn't it?

A childhood ambition was to be an astronomer and spend my days and nights gazing at stars.

"You'll have to take a lot of math classes in order to do that," my sixth grade teacher warned. So much for that imagined career.

Let's bring the subject of unimaginable things closer to home: The National Debt. Our debt. Check out http://www.usdebtclock.org. To pay off the current debt of $21 trillion every single American would have to kick in over $64,000.

Keeping that in mind, the latest spending bill that Congress and the president approved (all 2,232 pages) is for 1.3 trillion dollars. Do some long division (number of pages into $1.3 trillion) and it comes out to $586 million per page!

Million, billion and trillion sound so much alike that few people realize that a trillion (a numeral followed by 12 zeros) is actually a million million! Again, the imagination flounders.

To get a visual idea of a trillion, one internet reference asks you to imagine packs of a hundred $1,000 bills (They had a portrait of Alexander Hamilton on the face and an American eagle on the reverse, but were discontinued in 1969 because nobody used them) and place them — standing on edge — along a roadway. A trillion would line the road for 70 miles from Grass Valley to Davis. And (I'm guessing) the extra billions might extend to the Carquinez Strait's bridge.

At least I can visualize that. But just paying the yearly interest on that amount exceeds funding for the U.S. Defense Department.

And here's the rub: That $1.3 trillion spending bill is only supposed to carry us through September!

Can you imagine that?

Dick Tracy, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.