## 20 January 2011

### Budget Scale

Over the next few weeks in my graduate seminar we'll be discussing the mathematics of government budgeting, with a focus on the US budget deficit.

A first task will be to understand the magnitudes of large numbers.  This website has some very useful graphics.  Here is what one million dollars looks like in \$100 bills:

Here is what one billion dollars looks like:
And here is one trillion dollars (the dude in the red shirt can be seen standing next to the corner in the lower left!):
The US federal budget deficit in 2010 is estimated to be \$1.6 trillion in a budget of about \$4 trillion (source, XLS).

Tyler said...

I had seen this visualization before and it's a good one. I think it helps to start here and refer back to it when you get lost in the sea of numbers.

NPR's Planet Money did a story on this that helped me get a grasp on these numbers. Here's a link to it. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103442438

Basically they figured out how long it would take to count up to these bug numbers where one second is one dollar.
Counting to a million would take about 11.7 days.
Counting to a billion takes 33 years.
"One trillion seconds ago is... More than 32,000 years. [32,000 years ago] Neanderthals were going extinct. People were making their very first cave drawings with blade-based tools, give or take a couple thousand years."

What I like about this idea is that I can wrap my head around the 11 days and even 33 years, but then they add on the extra zeros and you can really feel the magnitude. I think this comes from assigning a unit of measure that we have a better reference point for than dollars.

Also a website by the name of "Information is Beautiful" did a great visualization/animation of some real world big numbers. They called it Debtris. Here's the link. http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2010/debtris/

I look forward to seeing anything else that may come out of this class and if I get accepted to the CU Boulder Sociology program for next year maybe I could get the chance to take something similar.

nofrakkingconsensus said...

Awesome!

Fred said...

ant then add in the Obamacare deficit and you have another \$trillion plus in unfunded spending.

No wonder ordinary folks aren't paying attention to global warming any more.

The adults in American need to take away the credit card from the kiddies in Congress and the Administration.

The world is watching.

DeWitt said...

Medicare: Unfunded liability before Obamacare, \$75E12

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

Watch out. If you click on the big stack of cash, you get directed to a website that will try to get you to authorize their charging your cell telephone \$9.99 per month.

JCH said...

Money is not real. It's a convenience. Beats bartering, but not by much. Stop obsessing about it. My Grandmother used to pay a nickel for a loaf of bread. I pay \$5 at my favorite bakery. Can you imagine the stack of nickels it takes to make \$5. My Grandmother would have been horrified. What a scary stack of nickels that would be. Scaring people with stacks of money is Grandmother abuse.

John M said...

Those drawings look funny to me. Not funny as "hah-hah", funny as "???".

Since we're simply adding up volumes of individual items, the pile in the second drawing should be a thousand times the volume of the pile in the first picture. Ain't no way.

So what's the problem?

According to Wiki, the dimensions of a dollar bill are 156mm x 66.3mm x 0.11mm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_one-dollar_bill

Assuming the \$100 bill is of the same dimensions, a single stack of 10,000 \$100 bills (\$1 million) should be 1.1 meters high. There's no way that piddling little stack in the first drawing can be cut, folded, or mutilated to be consistent with a stack 1.1 meters high (unless that guy has a hormonal problem).

On the positive side, 10,000,000 \$100 bills (a billion bucks) should occupy a volume of 11.4 cubic meters. And indeed those 10 pallets in the second picture could be about 1.1 cubic meter each.

Just to be a bit more of pain, that third figure looks like it has more than 10,000 pallets, as it should to be 1000 times as much as what's shown in the second. The front side is clearly a double stacked row of 50, for 100 on a side. It's much more difficult to count the rows that project back, but it looks to me like that bunch of pallets could run at least 100 rows deep (200 pallets on a side). At 100 x 200 (rembember, they're double stacked), that's 20,000 pallets, not 10,000.