First and foremost, let’s consider a trillion. When you write it out as a word it’s just a word which sounds comfortably like a million or even a billion. When you write it out with zeroes it looks large, but it simply registers as “a really big number”. When you try to isolate in in a metaphor to show how many it is, it defaults to “ridiculously huge”.
Here’s an article from 2008 that was run on NPR. It was used back when their default stance was that it was a terribly large amount of money, and uses a very effective comparison: a million seconds is about 11 1/2 days. A billion seconds is about 32 years. A trillion is about 32,000 years.
The Biden recovery spending proposal is almost two trillion dollars… and that’s not even the budget for the year, it’s simply recovery money.
At that, it’s going to anger a lot of people. Many who heard Biden promise $2000 checks will discover he’s proposing only $1400 per person and be upset that he folded the Trump giveaway of $600 into his $2000, instead of making it additive.
This spending is guaranteed to pass quickly through Congress. The House and Senate alike are populated with Democrats who will rubber-stamp most justifiable Biden spending proposals and Republicans who will be mixed between fighting Biden because there’s a (D) by his name or continuing the spending spree they pushed to authorize under Trump… it’s hard to argue against spending money on public health when you’ve been pushing exorbitant amounts of cash toward a nonfunctional wall, billions on farm bailouts due to destructive trade wars, an unnecessary reorganization of the military to create an entirely new branch as a vanity project, and other frivolous wastes. It’s also hard to argue against giving trillions to the citizenry after you’ve watched the President arrange trillions of dollars to Wall Street firms in an effort to keep the stock markets buoyed.
Biden isn’t going to stop throwing money at Wall Street, though; that occurred because of a series of policies initiated under Obama which were increased under Trump; not only has Biden watched his previous boss reap great benefit from the myth of a spontaneously growing economy but he is sharp enough to recognize that turning off the cash spigot to Wall Street would tank the markets and justify in the minds of the economically ignorant (to include a majority of Americans) Trump’s constant boasts about a roaring economy which would falter under Biden. Until such time as Wall Street can grow on its own, Biden is politically trapped into handing them more trillions.
This is also independent of the federal budget, which clocked in at just under 5 trillion last year, almost a trillion less than the projected yearly income from taxes, fees and other valuation.
We didn’t have the cash to spend like this under Bush, whose national overhauls tended to be on the national security side. We didn’t have it to spend under Obama. We certainly didn’t have the cash to spend under Trump. And we’re not going to have it to spend under Biden.
But we’re going to. Unlike some progressive-pushed policies which will likely pass in some reduced measure, like student debt forgiveness or a national health service, this spending proposal is aided by a combination of need and perceived equality. Many families are suffering and many companies are going under because of a lack of funding, and some cash will be a literal lifesaver to them. In order to stave off complaints about some people and not others being aided, enough cash is being set aside to throw at least a bit of money at everyone’s problem.
My blame for this lies at the feet of those who minimized the problem for political gain and those among the citizenry who refused to take basic precautions once effective precautions were identified. The first group were almost universally Republican leaders, the second could easily be found among people of all political and social groups. We needed to be willing to accept uncomfortable restrictions for the duration until an effective vaccine was found. That took under a year, but we were, as a nation, unwilling to limit ourselves for more than a month.
We knew that would have a price, and that price is going to be hundreds of thousands of dead and trillions of dollars in dissipated national wealth.