Figuring Out The Really Big Numbers

   I am bothered when people use the terms millions, billions and trillions as synonyms - all meaning very large numbers. I guess it is the remnants of my former life as a high school math teacher.

     Those who urge that we "increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires" provide one current example of what I am talking about. A billion is one thousand times more than a million. Lumping millionaires and billionaires together is no different than lumping average wage earners making $45,000 a year with those making $45 million a year - to be subject to the same tax treatment. It seems an awfully large tax bracket.

      One analogy that I find useful in understanding the difference between millions, billions and trillions is this: one million seconds ago was about 11 days ago; one billion seconds ago was about 31 years ago; one trillion seconds ago was about 31,000 

   They really are very different numbers!


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