Sunday, January 27, 2008


$10.00 - This will buy you a quart of milk, a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs and maybe a chocolate candy bar.

$100.00 - This is the amount that your kid expects for his birthday. It can be given in cash or spent on some video game, which will guarantee him sitting quietly for several hours a day, at least for a week or two. If the birthday is for a daughter instead of a son, try buying a Hannah Montana ticket. This amount might get her to the nosebleed section. If there is change left from your purchase, buy aspirin.

$1,000.00 - This is your income tax rebate on a good year, providing you have a job. You can use it to fix that leaking pipe in the basement, the one with purple and green sediment running down its side and the distinct odor of putrefaction that drifts up into the kitchen on a hot day.

$50,000 - Wow! This is a legacy. Uncle Wilmer passed on. Your share will be a couple of hundred bucks to add to your memory of the dour old fellow.

$500,000 - This may seem like a lot of money to you, but it is just pocket change for Bill Gates. He probably spends this much on munchies. With this much money, you wouldn't even have to consider the Dollar Menu at the Fast Food. You could order a Combo meal without guilt.

$1,000,000 - Now we are getting into real money. This is what some houses were worth last year. Today, they sell for peanuts at an auction.

$100,000,000 - Mind-boggling. This is the amount that you have tried to win with a lottery ticket. Sometimes the pay-off is even more. Remember the dreams you had, imagining yourself a winner, how much you would give the kids, the world tour for you and your wife, a few charitable donations, and maybe even a legacy for the dog, in case he was left alone and bereft at your demise.

$100,000,000,000 - Can you imagine this much money? Donald Trump can. He makes deals and, chances are, the deals you have made have gone south in a hurry, as mine have. You just haven't raked up enough money to have those fancy third weddings at Mira Lago or to manage a television show where you can fire young aspirants. Like me, you're just trying to pay off the mortgage, afford gas in your car, bring in the plastics filled with groceries, and survive until the next check comes in. Let's face it. No one is ever going to call me The Herma!

$500,000,000,000 - I'm getting lost here, but I know that some people might be able to navigate these zeros. Mitt Romney might be able to do it. He has promised all of us in Michigan that he can bring back prosperity, give us jobs and peace of mind, because he is a business wizard, he says, and his bankbook proves it. The trouble is, along with all this Republican prosperity, Mitt looks forward to years of war...not as many years as John McCain approves..... which is war throughout eternity...but a long one nevertheless. It's going to be a tough call, prosperity for Michigan and money for the war. Even Mitt may have a problem with those zeros.

$100,000,000,000,000 - Where am I? Lost in a sea of zeros. Boggled down with the intricacies of big money. The United States has always been a rich country, a super rich country, but I think our zeros are disappearing fast. Our economy is linked to that of Europe, and even Europe is watching us very closely, lest we drag them down into the depths of poverty right along with us. I hate to think of some happy Italian having to give up going to the opera because of me, but it may happen.

$100,000,000,000,000.00 - Are we there yet? I've been riding along here for a long time and I don't see a single recognizable piece of scenery. Have I reached the trillions? If you spread out a trillion in one dollar bills and piled it upward, would it reach Mars? Or should we just wrap that pile of bucks around the globe, around and around, until people finally realized the meaning of waste. My mother could have taught us all a few lessons in frugality. Nothing was wasted. Take a dress, for instance, a pretty dress made out of a floral flour sack. First, my sister would wear it, delicate girl that she was. Then I would be squeezed into it, stuffed like a sausage into its skin. Then that dress would become a rag with which to mop the kitchen floor, after the buttons were removed and put into the button box. Frugality was my mother's maiden name.

$9,199,360,607, 935.45 - Hey, there it is! I've got it! No zeros, just good old American bucks. This, my friend, is the National Debt up to January 8, 2008. It's higher now, because it goes upward at every day that passes. This is money that you owe and I owe. To think I thought my last auto loan was ridiculously high. This bill will have to be divided between every American citizen.

The thing is, most of it has been borrowed from China. We borrow from China so that we can buy all those products the Chinese are manufacturing and sending over to us by the boatloads.

Don't feel bad about it. Just think, you may not ever be able to see the Great Wall of China, but your job will. We have to be positive about these things, even when we are wading through the zeros and trying to make sense of it all.