There is an array of reasons why Mitt Romney’s effort to pin a $16 trillion tail on Barack Obama failed, and the incumbent was rather easily elected to a second term as this nation’s 44th president.
Certainly there were willing buyers of what Obama was selling — that this nation’s problems, primarily the bad economy and the runaway federal debt, were President George W. Bush’s fault, and that he could make things right with just four more years in the White House.
There is little mystery about what constitutes a bad economy, which is easily explained with pink slips, bills that can’t be paid and houses that carry more debt than value — financial hardships that people in every direction continue to endure.
But the voters simply don’t comprehend a $16 trillion federal debt, nor its threat to their lives now and their children and grandchildren’s in the future. There are two reasons for this rather willful ignorance.
Most people don’t even know what the federal debt is, so a short lesson: The federal debt is money borrowed by the United States through securities, some privately held, and some publicly, including by other nations, such as Japan and China. It is the way the government pays its bills when revenues are insufficient. And the government pays its debt by printing more dollars, which makes the ones in your wallet less valuable, adding to the cost of pretty much everything, be it food, gasoline, a pair of shoes or a movie ticket.
But the larger problem — figuratively and literally — is that people don’t have any concept of how many dollars a trillion is, much less 17 trillion of them.
Want to know how long a trillion seconds is? It’s 31,688 years, 269 days, one hour, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds. Because we anticipate that you won’t believe that, here’s the link: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_years_is_1_trillion_seconds
For a bit more perspective, consider this: A million seconds is a mere 12 days.
So, class, what we now know is there is a big difference between a million and a trillion — and that this country is hopelessly drowning in debt.
Our elected leaders, no matter their political persuasion, have shown no interest in getting the federal debt — and the enormous interest that is attached — under control, launching wars that now seem ill-advised, and stacking up entitlements that build constituencies but aren’t paid for.
It will be a brave generation that confronts this looming disaster, one that potentially could change almost everything about this country. In the interim, we can continue continue to whistle and try to forget today’s math lesson.