Hey, what's a $59 trillion debt among friends?
THE COUNTRY has reached an exciting new milestone, one that makes the term "milestone" seem charmingly, one could even say, insultingly, inappropriate. The milestone is this: The United States is now officially $59 trillion in debt. See? The term "milestone" doesn't quite capture the vast grandeur of that figure. This level of debt is more like a "trillion-milestone" or even a "hundred-light-year-stone." You shouldn't measure this level of debt by "milestones" any more than you should measure the distance to Pluto in centimeters.
But, hey, we got used to measuring our debt in "billions," how bad will it be to get used to "trillions?" Say it a few times: "$59 trillion, $59 trillion, $59 trillion." No problem. At least it's not $59 quattuordecillion. Now THAT'S a big number. A quattuordecillion is 1,000 sextillions. A sextillion is not nearly as much fun as it sounds. A sextillion is 1,000 trillion. These are actual numbers apparently invented by the League of Mathematicians Who Have to Imagine Numbers with Lots of Zeros.
The denominations go thousand, million, billion, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion all the way up to the curiously named novemdecillion and beyond. These numbers are so large that even Warren Buffett -- a mere billionaire -- can't imagine them. When America gets $59 novemdecillion in debt, we will have to engage a serious financial counselor. One novemdecillion could eat a billion quattuordecillions for breakfast. And let's not even talk about a vigintillion, a number so incredibly large that it creates its own gravity.
IRONICALLY, a country that goes even half a vigintillion in debt, is actually in pretty good shape. A sexdecillion accountants working for duodecillion years couldn't begin to calculate the compound daily interest due on a half-vigintillion- dollar debt without their heads imploding.
So, despite all the worrying and whining about how America is going to get out of $59 trillion in debt, we actually should be considering ways to get even further in the red. I mean, if we could get even a few septillions in debt, we'd be home free. We would basically have a mortgage on the entire Earth and possibly a few other planets. Who's going to foreclose on the Earth? And who would buy it when it was auctioned off on the courthouse steps? Halliburton?
Now, while we work on expanding the country's debt to the critical mass needed to make ever getting out of debt a complete impossibility (according to financial quantum theory, there is such thing as a "partial impossibility") we need to put on a show of trying to pay off some of that $59 trillion we owe. I suggest a national bake sale. If all 50 states cooked 14 tredecillion chocolate chip cookies and sold them to China for 45 cents each, we could knock the national debt down to $49.99 trillion. Then, when the Chinese are munching on cookies and not paying attention, we borrow another few trillion bucks and buy everyone in America a new car. Now, that would be a milestone.
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