EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 13, 2012

Your view: Letters to the editor

Paying off debt approaches the impossible

To the editor:

Having asked numerous people the question, “How long in time is 1 trillion seconds?”, in an effort to see how many had a correct concept of that number, and finding none, I am going “public” with the question.

Meanwhile, I simply multiplied 60 seconds in a minute by 60 minutes in an hour, yielding 3,600 seconds in one hour. Then multiplying 24 hours in a day resulted in 86,400 seconds per day, and finally by 365 days in a year for a whopping 31,536,000 seconds. In words, there are thirty-one million five hundred thirty-six thousand seconds in one year. Switching to long division, I calculated by dividing 1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) seconds by 31,536,000 seconds in one year, the amazing number, and answer to my question, to be 31,709.7 years. In words, and rounding to the nearest whole number, one trillion seconds is thirty-one thousand seven hundred ten years.

Now, to the matter of my purpose: Since our national debt currently stands at over $16,000,000,000,000, how long in time is 16 trillion seconds? Again simple multiplication brings me to 507,360 years. So, paying off the national debt at $1 per second would take 507,360 years. Since that number of years is also hard to conceptualize I assumed that the debt be paid off at $10,000 per second. Now, by dividing the number of years represented by 16 trillion seconds (507,360 years by $10,000 per second) yields 50.7 years, which is a number I can understand. So by paying off our national debt at the rate of $10,000 per second it would only take 50.7 years to retire it completely. However, $10,000 per second is $600,000 per minute which computes to $36 million per hour.

At $36 million per hour, 24 hours per day, it would take 50.7 years to pay off the national debt.

Oh, there are two assumptions I made in these calculations. First, that the debt carries zero interest and that nothing more would be added to it. The first assumption is of course impossible, and the second is as unrealistic as the first; but my current level of fortitude does not allow me to exclude these assumptions for this rudimentary exercise.

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