Two Randolph-Macon College physics professors released their annual Federal Budget
Cruncher analysis, which helps the general public put the deficit in prospective.
This year, Drs. George Spagna and William Franz compared the recent bailout figures
to our national deficit projections. You will be amazed at the analysis they were
able to provide.
William Franz, Ph.D.
George Spagna, Ph.D.
President Obama sent Congress his fiscal year 2010 budget proposal on February 26,
2009 with projected outlays of $3.55 trillion. There was a time when numbers like
the federal budget seemed beyond comprehension and were described as “astronomical.”
As scientists, we have grown resentful of such comparisons, recognizing that “governmental”
has gone way beyond astronomical in both its magnitude and capacity for comprehension.
Nonetheless, as scientists who daily must explain large, seemingly beyond understandable
numbers to a new generation of students, we offer our 6th annual description of
the federal budget in terms more readily manageable to the general population.
Your ability to manage numbers that trail that many zeroes may be challenged, so
we offer the following ideas in order to try to “bail you out.” After all, this
budget is intending to bail just about everyone else out.
• So, what could we bail out for 3.55 trillion? How about the Chesapeake Bay? With
3.55 trillion 5-gallon buckets, we could almost bail out the entire 18 trillion
gallons of water in the bay. The newly completed aircraft carrier, the George H.W.
Bush, has a displacement of 97,000 tons. Our 3.55 trillion 5-gallon buckets could
bail out the GHWB over 784,000 times!
• Put another way, recently resigned Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was released
on $4500 bail following his corruption arrest. That was for trying to sell one senate
seat. Recognizing that there are two senators in each state, every citizen of the
United States could sell both senate seats in their states and make bail at $9000
with about $2500 leftover for incidental expenses. That is because the new federal
budget comes to just under $11,600 for every American. In fact, even with record
populations in our nation’s prisons and jails at just over 2.2 million last year,
the federal budget could make bail of $1.6 million for each incarcerated individual.
• Like your bailout a little differently? If a bale of hay costs about $114, then
every American could be ‘baled out’ with hay to the tune of 101 bales per person.
Or, just buy the John Deere hay balers yourself. Three trillion dollars would buy
you roughly 120 million of them at $30,000 a piece. There’s a way to put Americans
to work and get some baling done at the same time!
• While we’re making hay with these calculations, baling it does not come all that
cheap. Baling wire costs $64.95 per 146 inches for 13 gauge wire; that means that
we could buy over 5900 miles of baling wire for $3.55 trillion. This length of wire
would stretch across the United States border with Canada, including Alaska (5500
miles) with 400 miles left over – enough to fence in a 100 mile square.
• A college education comes in handy when trying to understand numbers this big
and what better place to get that education in this year of the bailout than Baylor
University itself. A year’s tuition, room, board and vehicle registration at Baylor
costs about $36,750. For a measly $3.55 trillion, we could send just under 97 million
students to Baylor. That is greater than the entire population of Germany (about
82 million). Put slightly differently, the federal budget is equal to about 7900
Baylors. (Our own Randolph-Macon College is more affordable. You could send us nearly
99 million students – more than the combined populations of the four most populous
states, i.e. California, Texas, New York, and Florida.)
• Yes, this budget is large. It amounts to spending at the rate of almost $113,000
per second. It is $259 per year for every year since the Big Bang (about 13.7 billion
years). It would exceed 79 times the 2008 record profits (over $45 billion) of Exxon-Mobil.
It would buy 573 aircraft carriers the cost of the Bush. It is 6664 times the gross
receipts ($533 million) of “The Dark Knight.” And, at the rate of $54.95 quoted
by the International Star Registry, we could name every star in the Milky Way galaxy
with 2.3 years’ worth of the federal budget. Yes, that’s astronomical!
• This might be enough to make you want to skip town. For a mere $17,280, the Grand
Hyatt Bali Resort in Indonesia will put you and a friend in the Grand Executive
King Room for a 30-day stay. At that rate, you could stay for just under 17 million
years. The recession might be over by then.
• All of this leaving you a little, shall we say, uptight? Not to worry. Amazon.com
will sell you a month’s supply of Bael Fruit herbal capsules (60 tablets) for $11.65.
For $3.55 trillion, you and every other of the 306 million Americans could stay
“regular” for the next 82 years.
To set up an interview, please contact Anne Marie Lauranzon
at 804-752-7317, firstname.lastname@example.org.