About 60 years ago, Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) uttered the famous quip, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”
Has politics in Washington changed much in the six decades since? Yes and no. No, the same cavalier attitude about spending other people’s money rages on unchecked. Yes, the scale has changed drastically. Today the refrain is, a trillion here, a trillion there.
“Trillion” is a simple word. It rolls effortlessly off the tongue. But the word’s simplicity belies the immensity that it signifies. If you stacked one-hundred-dollar bills flat on top of each other, a million dollars would be about 40 inches tall, a billion would be more than twice the height of the Empire State Building, and a trillion would rise over 631 miles. If those were one-dollar bills instead of hundreds, the pile (again, stacked flat on top of each other) would, if laid on its side, circle the Earth at the equator more than 2.5 times. In terms of time, if a you had been spending a million dollars a day, every day since the birth of Christ, you still wouldn’t have spent even three-quarters of one trillion dollars.
The first time the entire GDP of the country exceeded $1 trillion, John Kennedy was president. The first time the national debt reached that sum, Ronald Reagan was president. Today, the national debt has soared to over $26 trillion. This summer, Uncle Sam set a record by spending over $1 trillion in a single month.
Today, under the pressure of democratic politics in which government is viewed as a Santa Claus with infinitely deep pockets, the two parties (the party of Big Government—the Republicans—and the party of Bigger Government—the Democratic socialists—never propose freezing, much less (gasp!) shrinking federal spending. The only debate is about how many additional trillions of dollars of debt to add.
Among its other deleterious effects, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the pace at which our government is adding to the national debt. Having already authorized at least $2.9 trillion in emergency spending—close to half of which the government hasn’t even disbursed yet,