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A trillion dollars: easy to say, hard to imagine

Tuesday - 2/14/2012, 3:21am  ET

WASHINGTON (AP) - Remember when a billion used to be a lot? Now we talk trillions.

That's a thousand times more.

The numbers bandied about in Washington these days _ yearly deficits in the $1 trillion range, a $3.8 trillion federal budget, a national debt piled up to $15 trillion _ are so big they're hard to grasp.

Here's one way to think of it: a trillion is a million millions.

If you paid out $1 per second, settling a $1 million debt would take less than 12 days. To pay off $1 billion would take 32 years. Paying off $1 trillion at a dollar per second? Nearly 32,000 years.

A trillion is a 1 followed by 12 zeros, like this: 1,000,000,000,000.

A trillion square miles would cover the surface of 5,000 planet Earths.

A trillion people would be 10 times more than have ever lived (based on the Population Reference Bureau's very rough estimate of 108 billion humans ever).

A trillion dollars is enough to give $3,195 to every man, woman and child in the United States.

But for a typical U.S. household, making $50,000 per year, to earn enough to pay off a $1 trillion debt would take 20 million years.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)