EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 13, 2012

Your view: Letters to the editor

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — 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.

To those who have muddled and struggled all the way through this boring drill in arithmetic I suggest that “we the people” have long ago been pushed over the financial cliff and are in free-fall, soon to reach terminal velocity. To hope that our leaders can, will or even want to address this disaster is folly, for power is nourished by power and only sacrifice can quench the thirst for freedom. Where will we find leaders with such courage?

Domenick J. Sciacca


Andover should rethink its spending

To the editor:

Is anyone reading the newspaper about Andover’s future “needs” — perhaps, better described as “wants.” There is an article outlining some of the town manager’s new requests in the recent Andover Townsman that particularly caught my eye.

One “need” was a simple $3.5 million to repave the Doherty School area. Really? Is there not to be some already planned construction in that same area? Maybe repaving could wait and be part of that plan!

The second “need” listed was $600,000 for planning something listed as “school facility space.”

Not quite sure what more space needs to be planned, but that amount certainly pays for a lot of planning — a whole lot of planning! Is it something we missed before; something new? At $200 for each hour, that buys 3,000 hours — 75 work weeks. That’s a big plan! How did we miss that?

Those two items alone total $4.1 million. There is yet another described as other school capital projects. What? Where? When?

The school budget should be all in one place not scattered all over the town budget.

Those three alone would pay the $5 million, matching the first increment of “over the budget costs” already suggested to us for the new Bancroft School and to appear on the agenda for a Special Town Meeting in February.

A sub-headline in an article was “uncertain how the town will pay for projects.” That is certainly a truth! Is it not about time we all start to think about how much debt we plan to leave to our next generations? Debt from the town level, the state level and the national level is now huge! We cannot borrow our way out of debt.

It seems that the president, our governor and now Andover all seem to think we can. When is enough, enough? Folks have to think about it!

When I hear something about leaving debt to be decided by the voters, I hear code for another “override” vote. There is already a special meeting scheduled for Feb. 11, 2013! Proposition 2 1/2 was put in place to protect the taxpayer from excess spending, but make something an emotional issue, load a town meeting with “pro” voters and bingo, you have new debt exempt from the protection of Proposition 2 1/2.

What happened to the concept of saving, paying for what you need, creating a budget and sticking to it? Too old fashioned? Oh well, see you at the polls in February.

Calvin G. Perry