What does a $1.2 trillion budget deficit look like?
It would buy 4.8 billion Wiis. As a standard mortgage, it would cost $6.7 billion a month.
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But, most kids would probably rather have a computer game, such as a Wii, instead of all that milk. And they could all have one – the deficit could buy 4.8 billion Wiis or 6 billion “Guitar Hero” games – enough for nearly everyone on the planet.Skip to next paragraph
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Of course, not all parents will think that’s such a great idea. “Why not encourage your kids to truly exercise or learn to play a real guitar?” asked Joyce Greenberg, mother of a Wii-less 13-year-old girl, in New York City.
Perhaps on a less controversial note, the money could pay for gasoline expenses for all Americans for the next five years. “It would not only pay for a lot of gasoline, but it would also insure a lot of people without access to medical coverage,” says Geoff Sundstrom, a spokesman for AAA in Heathrow, Fla.
Some $2.4 trillion was spent on healthcare services in 2008, estimates the National Coalition on Health Care. But it also estimates that nearly 46 million Americans are uninsured.
“Various think tanks have estimated it could cost $100 billion to $120 billion to address the issue of the uninsured,” says Joel Miller, senior vice president at the coalition, which lobbies for healthcare issues.
But Mr. Miller says this number is likely to grow as the unemployment rate rises. For every one percentage point rise in unemployment, some 1.1 million people lose their healthcare coverage, he estimates. “So we are talking billions to cover entire families,” he says.
Even financial people dealing with large numbers for a living acknowledge the $1.2 trillion is hard to comprehend. Budget expert Stanley Collender recounts a recent dinner with George Soros, ranked last year by Forbes as the 99th richest person on the planet. “He told me a trillion is not a number he uses very much,” says Mr. Collender, a partner at Qorvis Communications in Washington.
It’s a number America needs to get used to, Collender says, because the budget deficit in the next fiscal year, 2010, is also likely to be more than $1 trillion. “It is virtually inevitable,” he says. “We will still be spending a lot of the stimulus package, spending money in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economy will not have picked up much,” he explains.