Sunday, April 20, 2008

How Much is Three Trillion?

I've never been much good at math. I agree with Amy: math is intimidating in its black and white, right and wrong nature. The other thing I've always found intimidating in math are these nebulous concepts like negative numbers. I'm much more of a concrete girl. You either have three apples or you have no apples. You can't have negative-three apples. Solving for x, trains leaving stations, quadratic's all enough to give me heart palpitations.

My shortcoming in comprehending nebulous concepts also makes large numbers nearly impossible to wrap my head around. (Which is why I loved Amy's equating words with slices of bread.) Even though I'm a bit fuzzy on how far it is from the Earth to the Moon, I'm able to at least grasp that it's far, far, far away. So when I hear the Americans throw away 18 billion disposable diapers a year, that means nothing to me. But, if I hear that "Laid end-to-end, the 18 billion disposable diapers thrown away in the U.S. each year could reach back and forth to the moon 7 times", that's something I can begin to visualise and appreciate.

Two genius economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, have been making the rounds on NPR recently, talking about their book The Three Trillion Dollar War. They contend that due to hidden costs, such as replacement of military equipment and post-war treatment of veterans, the real cost of the Iraq War is nowhere near the currently reported costs of 50 billion. (How much is it really? I'll give you a hint, the answer's in the title of their book.)

Three trillion. When I hear that, I think that's a three with several piles of zeros after it, right? But what does that really mean? What else could that money have bought?

The Three Trillion Dollar Shopping Spree let me answer that question. It's an interesting site, since anyone can enter an item for 'sale,' so some of the prices are a bit suspect. (Like I'm sure Scotland is worth way more than $30,000.) Also, for some things it would be difficult to determine an accurate price (world peace, for example). But the principle behind the site is sound and it really made me appreciate exactly how much three trillion is.

Let me tell you, it takes a LONG time to spend three trillion. When I saw all of the zeros after some items, it seemed like I could just buy one of those and I'd be done. Then I'd find out that I'd have to buy 27 of those items, or something equally ludicrous.

I was a girl on a mission, determined to spend every cent of my three trillion dollars. I'm embarrassed to say how long it took me although I'm pleased to report that I was nearly 100% successful. At the end of my spree, I only had 75 cents left over.

In case you're curious, my ginormous shopping cart included the following:
  • No Kill Animal Shelters World Wide
  • Provide Permanent Homes for Unwanted Horses
  • research to save all animal species
  • A Permanent Vacation
  • Secret Island Fortress
  • A Brand New House for my family & other relatives
  • Food and Vet care for low-income pet owners
  • Gift of Sheep
  • Free, Fair, and Unbiased Media
  • A copy of the book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict
  • Horse farm in New Zealand
  • Health Care for Two People
  • 1 Eee Pc for EVERY person on earth
  • OC3 Internet Connection
  • Two of AnnTaylor's entire line (I think I had a double-click mistake here)
  • Two Salaries to Pay a Peacekeeper
  • Shelby Cobra That Runs on Hydrogen
  • College Education for All Family Members
  • Complete buyout to end house foreclosures.
  • Your own world Tour
  • A Pony
  • Baby Elephant
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Old Truck with a Nice, Happy Dog
  • Custom Roller Coaster
  • Three Student Loan Pay Offs
  • A Maid for everyday for 100 years
  • Paris apartment
  • The US Capitol
  • Make a Hollywood Movie
  • Desalination Plants
  • Google
  • National Security
  • Everglades Restoration
  • Go On Vacation to Space!
  • The World’s Most Expensive Fiddle
  • Buy the Beatles' Back Catalog
  • Every Song in the iTunes Library
  • Private Concert with Bono
  • Fusion Reactor
  • 30 HP NorTrac Bulldozer and Backhoe
  • 100 New Libraries
  • 60 acres and a mule
  • New York City Penthouse
  • Italian Vineyard
  • One of Oprah's mansions
  • Dodger Stadium
  • Achieve Universal Literacy
  • Personal Helper Monkey
  • Energy Independent Home
  • 1 nice home for family and friends in CA
  • cure for alzhiemers
  • Hire a Firefighter
  • Chuck Norris as Personal Bodyguard
  • MD, PhD education at prestigious university
  • Hubble Space Telescope
  • My Pet Goat Presidential Library
  • Get your favorite author to write a book for you
  • a chicken in every pot
  • Root Beer Factory
  • 200000 Cows for Gift of a Heifer
  • Lifetime Supply of Groceries
  • The Virgin Mary Sandwich
  • Danby 0.5 Keg Beer Keg Cooler Stainless Steel Reversible Door Auto Cycle Beer Keg -
  • DKC645BLS
  • Home Made Brew For a Year
  • Water Distiller & Power Generator
  • Career Help for Outsourced IT Pros
  • Ultimate Panorama Camera System
  • Giant Robotic Slave
  • Samsung - 70" 1080p Flat-Panel LCD HDTV
  • Customizable High-End Computer
  • Grant to Brave New Films
  • Produce Jericho seasons 3-8
  • Private Tropical Island
  • Own an Original Jackson Pollock
  • A Scottish castle
  • Dinosaur Fossil Coffee Table
  • Luxury Cruise Around the World
  • Funding for Retirement
  • Bell 430
  • Rubber Duckies for Every Bathtub in Texas
  • 3.6 MW G.E Wind Turbine
  • Caribbean Mountain Cottages
  • Lamborghini Miura
  • M400 Skycar
  • Tesla Roadster
  • 100,000 US Constitution, Pocket-Sized Edition
  • 1958 Fender Stratocaster
  • 1000 Trees in a Rainforest Reforestation Project
  • Skeeball Lighting 10ft
  • Ferrari 599 GTB
  • 36 in. All Gas 5 Sealed Burners, Double Oven Gas Range - DEFSGG36D
  • Build & Fill a New Library
  • SolarGro Cascade Greenhouse 20' x 40'
  • Super Chexx Bubble Hockey Table
  • STOTT PILATES: Professional Reformer
  • Bowflex Series 7 Treadmill
  • Sea Eagle 380x Kayak with Pro Package
  • Bushnell Sportview 15-45x50 Spotting Scope
  • Potato Gnocchi (Emilia) 500g
  • Hoof Pick With Brush Assorted Colors (You know, for the pony)


At 20 April 2008 at 22:15, Blogger ped crossing said...

Can I borrow your private island for a week?

If you are going to have the pony, you should have someone to take care of it. They are a lot of work.

That is a lot of stuff.

At 20 April 2008 at 23:01, Blogger Babaloo said...

Love how you slipped in the gnocchi at the end.
And how much of this did you buy as a present for me? Is the Ferrari for me? Or the pony?
I have to go and check out both the book and this site. Three Trillion. Heavens!

At 21 April 2008 at 02:55, Blogger Bren said...

Your list cracked me up! And my little monkeys will appreciate the rubber duckie for their bathtub.

At 21 April 2008 at 08:26, Blogger -Ann said...

PC - Sure. Do you want the tropical private island or the island fortress? I used to volunteer at an equestrian centre, so I'd love to take care of a pony, hard work and all.

Babaloo - To be honest, I was only thinking of me and Peter and occassionally our extended families. But I see that I have a few too many cars, so sure, go ahead and take the Ferrari. But no dice on the pony - I've wanted one since I was 4 or 5.

Bren - Good, that means I can look forward to more funny monkey bath stories. :)

At 21 April 2008 at 13:27, Anonymous Noelle said...

Wow, that list just kept going! Scary. All I know about 3 trillion is that it is way too much.

At 22 April 2008 at 15:16, Blogger The Rotten Correspondent said...

Good god. That's a lot of stuff. If you're giving islands away, sign me up.

I'm catching up.Sorry. I have some really good vegan recipes if you'd like. (A dear friend goes back and forth and I've collected recipes for her). Can you get tofu? Would you eat it if you could?

And good luck with your fitness plans. I had one of those calipers tests done - on a smaller scale - and it was sobering. I can't remember the numbers. Do you think I've blocked them?

At 23 April 2008 at 06:24, Blogger -Ann said...

Noelle - I know. I'd get to the point where I'd think I must be nearly done, then another item would go into my cart successfully.

RC - Hey, good to hear from you again. I'd love any vegan recipes, but I think we can probably skip the tofu. I've seen it in one of the stores here, but its texture sort of weirds me out and I think Peter would probably rebel against it. I wish I could block out my numbers!

At 25 April 2008 at 04:08, Blogger Bitter Sweet Metaphor Irene said...

That's way too many things, Ann. It boggles my mind and I had to give up reading half way through the list.Did you already see the one that compares the Pentagon expenditures with a pile of cookies and how high it is compared to other programs that receive tax money. Another things that boggles the mind.

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