Politics

14 Ways to Spend $1 Trillion

The latest estimate says the government will spend $1.5 trillion more than it takes in this year. Imagine what that means in terms we can all understand.

Think last year produced a tsunami of red ink for the federal government? Well, a $1.3 trillion deficit is nothing to sneeze at. But the Congressional Budget Office has just come up with an estimate of how much we’ll add to the national debt in Fiscal 2011: $1.5 trillion. That means an extra $1.5 trillion will be piled atop a mountain of national debt that already exceeds $14 trillion. It’s tough for most of us to get our heads around such a colossal number.

But, seriously, how much is $1 trillion? To help you wrap your head around that mind-boggling number, and to try to put deficit spending into perspective, we did some mental shopping:

See our Slide Show WHAT $1 TRILLIONWOULD BUY

$1 Trillion Would Buy:41,999,160 NEW CARS

The 2011 Toyota Prius II wins Kiplinger’s Best in Class honors for cars in the $20,000-to-$25,000 price range. At a sticker price of $23,810 each, $1 trillion would let you buy a Prius for about 40% of all American families.

$1 Trillion Would Buy:5.6 TYPICAL AMERICAN HOMES

According to the latest figures from the National Association of Realtors, the national median price for existing single-family homes in the third quarter of 2010 was $177,900. There are about 80 million detached, single-family homes in the U.S., according to the NAR and the Census Bureau.

$1 Trillion Would Buy:140 BILLION HOURS OF LABOR

That’s calculated at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Still hard to get your mind around? How about this: One trillion dollars is enough to hire all 2.8 million residents of the state of Kansas -- men, women and children -- in full-time, minimum-wage jobs for the next 23 years.

$1 Trillion Would Pay:A YEAR’S SALARY FOR 18 MILLION TEACHERS

According to the National Education Association, the average elementary school teacher salary in the U.S. is about $55,300. NEA estimates that there are about 2 million elementary school teachers, so $1 trillion would cover their salaries for about 9 years.

$1 Trillion Would Pay:CONGRESS FOR THE NEXT 10,742 YEARS

The current salary for rank-and-file members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate is $174,000. That's 535 lawmakers -- not counting their staffs or the extras paid to congressional leaders..

$1 Trillion Would Buy:THE STAR POWER OF LEBRON JAMES FOR THE NEXT 50,000 YEARS

A lot of numbers are being thrown around about just how much the basketball superstar will be paid for playing for the Miami Heat. But let’s say it’s just $20 million a year. At that rate, $1 trillion would cover the tab for King James for the next 50 millennia. Heck, King Tut was born less than four millennia ago.

$1 Trillion Would Buy:1.33 TRILLION CHOCOLATE BARS

Got a hankering for something sweet? A sweet $1 trillion will buy you that many 1.55-ounce Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars at 75 cents apiece. That’s 64 million tons of chocolate, equivalent to the weight of more than 150,000 Boeing 747-400s.

$1 Trillion Would Buy:4,000 CELEBRITY DIVORCE SETTLEMENTS

It’s been widely reported that Tiger Woods paid anywhere from $100 million to $750 million to settle the divorce from his wife, Elin Nordegren. Let’s assume it cost Tiger $250 million. At that rate, a trillion dollars would cover plenty more tabloid breakups.

$1 Trillion Would Generate:$6.2 BILLION A MONTH GUARANTEED FOR LIFE

With the demise of the company pension plan -- and its wonderful promise of regular checks in retirement -- immediate-payout annuities are garnering more attention. These investments let you trade a lump sum for a guaranteed stream of income for the rest of your life. For example, a 65-year-old man with a sweet quarter of a million nest egg to invest could buy an annuity that will pay him $1,549 a month.Even at today’s record-low interest rates (the lower the interest rate, the more expensive it is to buy future income), $1 trillion earns its way -- and then some. The $6.2 billion monthly income figure is for men; because women live longer, on average, $1 trillion would buy a 65-year-old woman a little less. But having $5.8 billion a month to fall back on should help cover some bills.

$1 Trillion Would Earn:$12.9 BILLION OF INTERESTON A ONE-YEAR CD

Everyone knows that interest rates on bank accounts, money-market funds and certificates of deposit are ludicrously low. But even at just 1.29% -- the best rate we could find recently -- $1 trillion socked away in a one-year CD would still yield a handsome return.

$1 Trillion Would PAY:56.8 MILLION U.S. ARMY PRIVATES

Annual basic pay for an active-duty U.S. Army private with less than two years of experience is $17,611 a year. So $1 trillion goes a mighty long way, even by military spending standards. To put that in perspective, 56.8 million is more than 100 times the total number of active-duty soldiers in the Army today.

$1 Trillion Would Cover:19.2 MILLION AMERICAN FAMILIES

Median household income in the U.S. (half the families earn more, half earn less) was $52,029 in 2008, according to the Bureau of the Census. There are about 100 million families in the country, so $1 trillion is enough to cover the income of about one-in-five families.

$1 Trillion Would Pay:ESTATE TAXES FOR2,871 BILLIONAIRES

Congress has reinstated the federal estate tax – at least for the next couple of years – with a 35% flat rate after a $5 million exemption. Still, $1 trillion would cover the taxes due on 2,871 taxable estates of $1 billion each.

$1 Trillion Would Buy:$1 MILLION SPENDING A DAY FOR NEARLY 3,000 YEARS

Thanks to the visitor who pointed this out in a comment on an earlier version of this story. What’s $1 trillion mean to you? Let us and your fellow Kiplinger.com visitors know by commenting below.

Most Popular

Who Should Return Their Third Stimulus Check to the IRS?
Coronavirus and Your Money

Who Should Return Their Third Stimulus Check to the IRS?

Some people who receive a third stimulus check are required to send it back to the IRS. Others can return it voluntarily.
April 12, 2021
Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Tool to Get an Answer
Coronavirus and Your Money

Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Tool to Get an Answer

The IRS has an online tool that lets you track the status of your third stimulus check.
April 4, 2021
Third Stimulus Check Calculator
Coronavirus and Your Money

Third Stimulus Check Calculator

Find out how much your third stimulus check will be using this handy tool.
April 8, 2021

Recommended

37 Ways to Earn Extra Cash in 2021
business

37 Ways to Earn Extra Cash in 2021

We flag a wide variety of cool side hustles to earn bonus bucks to cover expenses expected and unexpected as we begin to emerge from the pandemic lock…
April 8, 2021
PPP Loan Basics for Small Business Owners
Coronavirus and Your Money

PPP Loan Basics for Small Business Owners

Although uncertainty and confusion have surrounded the Paycheck Protection Program since its launch, that shouldn't stop small business owners from pa…
March 30, 2021
Add a VPN to Surf the Internet Safely
Technology

Add a VPN to Surf the Internet Safely

To help you fight identity theft, consider adding a VPN.
March 20, 2021
Claim These "Above-the-Line" Deductions on Your Tax Return (Even If You Don't Itemize)
Tax Breaks

Claim These "Above-the-Line" Deductions on Your Tax Return (Even If You Don't Itemize)

If, like most people, you claim the standard deduction instead of itemized deductions on your return, there are still many other tax deductions availa…
March 5, 2021