How Much is That Again?

In: Finance Innovative Politics US Economy

28 Jul 2011 presents literal visualizations of how many Benjamins the US debt really amounts to.

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6 Responses to How Much is That Again?


Post Growth

July 28th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Isn’t it time we explored a world where we don’t need perpetual growth? It’s become UNeconomic for those of us who benefit, UNfair for those of us who don’t see the benefits and UNsustainable for the planet and ultimately for us all.


Post Growth

July 28th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

…this is a truly helpful infographic, most people will struggle to comprehend the number of zeros involved! Thanks for posting, and to wtfnoway for creating.



July 28th, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Love the last frame where they say they cut the footprint of the stack in half to “better reflect the footprint of the building” . . . nothing at all to do with the -height- of the resulting stack . . . I wonder if anyone’s doing the reverse-engineered version of this for the bills paid off by policies of the CLinton administration?



July 29th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

This visualization is worthless unless you want to scare people with odd comparisons. Ronald Reagan pulled a very similar trick to scare people about the amount of debt (ironically, he went on, like George W. Bush, to create rampant deficits after his – Democrat – predecessor had actually shrunk them). Sanjoy Mahajan has an excellent blog post on this over at Freakonomics:



July 31st, 2011 at 12:46 pm

the bit at the end of the graphic that shows unfunded liabilities to be $114 trillion is ridiculous. I’ve never heard that number from any analytic or serious source.

Whenever I’ve heard it reported in sourced numbers it was more like $20-30 trillion, at most, in unfunded liabilities.

As far as I can tell the $114 trillion number comes from looking at the medicare costs for the next 10 generations or something just as absurd.

If you really want to know how scared you should be about the deficit, look at our bond yields. At 3% we are average for most rich countries. The only thing that can hurt that rate is if the GOP makes us stop paying people back by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.


Max L

July 31st, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I wonder if we wouldn’t be better off if we dropped the term “Trillion” from the language. Trillion is so big, people seem to have trouble wrapping their head around the fact that it is a THOUSAND billion. We could do exactly like the UK with having no word for “billion.”

We should call a trillion “a thousand billion”. That way, when the clowns are patting themselves on the back for cutting 15 billion here and there, it would be easier to see understand how small a dent they are making. With a deficit of 1,200 billion, cutting 15 billion is a drop in the ocean, after all.

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