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# How many trillions is too much?

February 14, 2012, 01:00:41 PM EDT

The White House has released a new \$3.8 trillion budget for 2013. The United States currently owes a staggering \$15.3 trillion. If the president says it is not time for austerity, how do we know?

The word "trillions" has become part of the post-credit-crunch vocabulary for bankers and politicians alike, but as the word becomes more common in everyday use, its sheer vastness gets lost.

How do we get our heads around this number?

If you spend a \$1 per second of each and every day, it will take you 32,000 days -- 87 years, a long lifetime -- to spend \$1 trillion. For the 2013 federal budget, multiply by 3.8. For the federal debt, multiply by 15.7.

Put it a different way, the federal government will have to spend \$120,497 every second of 2013 in order to reach that \$3.8 billion figure.

Every U.S. citizen -- children and adults alike -- would each have to pay \$3,123 to pay off a single \$1 trillion of the federal debt right now. Multiply by 15.7 for a total liability of \$49,031 apiece.

For just the taxpayers, we owe \$8,649 apiece on every \$1 trillion in federal debt, or \$135,802 on the entire load.

Simply paying a minimal 3% interest rate ( UST , quote ) on \$1 trillion in debt costs the country \$30 billion a year.

At the beginning of every year my wife and I sit down draw up a budget for the year and we never say let's spend more than we make. Our government does.

If the outflows and inflows stack up like that, it does not really matter how big or small the actual numbers are.

Total U.S. tax revenue income for the year is \$2.4 trillion -- a staggering enough number in itself -- but the U.S. government wants to spend 58% more than that next year.

To be fair, President Obama has yet to get a budget proposal passed in the three years he has been in office, which may be part of the problem here.

Since we have been operating without a budget, the government has been forced to spend more or less as it goes, without an overriding direction or plan.

And the meter is running. By the time the November elections come, the national debt will have increased by \$500 billion -- only half a trillion dollars, \$1,500 per American citizen.

At even a minimal interest rate of 2%,  the interest on the current federal debt comes to \$3.8 trillion a year.

They could print more dollars ( UDN , quote ), but that only inflates their way out of debt and makes things worse for everyone else.

It has to end somewhere. There are "only" 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, or about 12 for every \$1 the government owes.

Time for change yet?

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

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