November 29, 2012


Big government math:

Two lucky individuals won $587.5 million last night by matching all six numbers in the Powerball lottery.  This represents the second-largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history.

To put this amount in perspective, and to shed light on the United States’ spending problem, the math below shows that the federal government’s pace of deficit spending would consume this amount in just four hours.

In fiscal year 2012, the debt of the U.S. government increased by $1,275,901,078,828.74, according to the Treasury Department. That equals about $3.5 billion per day, or $2,430,555.00 per minute.

Based on these numbers, the federal government would blow through the lottery winnings in just 4.0 hours.

Even the largest jackpot in history would only buy the government an extra half-hour of deficit spending.

The largest lottery ever won in the U.S. was $656 million on March 30, 2012.  Even with these winnings, the federal government could fund itself for just 4.5 hours.

It’s a lot like trying to come to grips with the process of evolution:  our minds cannot conceive of the actual duration involved, just as we cannot conceive of just vast is the trillions of dollars in debt we are as a country.

Ironically, if you don’t believe in evolution, you’re a knuckle-dragging Christer.  But if you don’t believe the enormity of the debt is cause for concern, you’re a Nobel Prize winner in economics!

Posted by Jeff G. @ 10:49am

Comments (37)

  1. But if you don’t believe the enormity of the debt is cause for concern, you’re a Nobel Prize winner in economics!

    Strictly speaking this may be a necessary condition for winning a Nobel Prize but it isn’t a sufficient condition. However, the contrapositive: If you believe the enormity of the debt is a cause for concern you cannot win a Nobel Prize in economics” would seem to be a surefire winner.

  2. Ack, missed the html close tag after the closing the parens. Sorry.

  3. English. It is Greek to me.

  4. Well, the good news is the feds will confiscate enough of that money to run the government for 2 hours, so there’s that.

  5. I think that’s just enough to finance the deficit for two hours, not actually run the government for two hours.

  6. Math is hard. Let’s go shopping!

  7. I’m in, Squid. Let’s see if we can find a solar panel manufacturer to buy!

  8. We should call scientific notation “legislative notation”.

  9. Another irony is that the former members of the Confederacy form the largest block of states most interested in preserving the founders vision of the Union, while the principal members of the Union (New York, Illinois, and California) are the states most interested in throwing off liberty and embracing the tyranny of permanent servitude.

  10. Actually, it was only $384 million. Split by two people, that’s $192 Million per.
    Not sure the exact taxes; but I think roughly 40%. So, really it’s only a paltry $115 million for each winner.

    The odds, by the way, of winning the jackpot are 1 in 175 million, or (if such things were only based on chance) roughly twice as good as the odds of becoming President.

    Of course, if you become President, you can — apparently — spend a literally infinite amount of money. It makes $115 mil look like chump change.

  11. How many Solyndras would this lottery payout fund? probably not even one since the winners have to pay taxes on this, right?

  12. OCBill,
    I’ve recently had a change of heart, an epiphany of sorts, about the Civil War. I’m not so sure that the “Union” wasn’t interested only in tyranny even back then.

    Should things collapse, and some northerners move south/west and try to secede (or do some similarly crazy thing); I’m guessing that they, too, might begin to see the “Union”, the Civil War, and Abe Lincoln in a new, less flattering, light.

  13. “May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.” – Malcom Reynolds

  14. All: Respectfully, let’s ease up on the union collapsing talk.

    It’s not going to happen.

    Slow growth? Very probably

    Higher tax/Higher spend? Bet on it.

    National pride swallowing, a la getting the hell out of Afghanistan via massive troop drawdowns (read:defeat)? Possibly within the year, maybe sooner.

    All bad, very much so, but not a societal collapse.

    Frankly, I’m surprised. An economic contraction looming–but by no means certain–and people are conceding a social framework one standard deviation north of “The Walking Dead.”

    We made this bed, so we all get to lie in it, one way or another.

  15. Sorry Roddy, but we aren’t buying it. The society is already in a post-Constitutional phase. The rule of law is used indiscriminately. The center will not hold. And I suspect without some major course correction, you’ll see it implode sooner rather than later.

  16. All: Respectfully, let’s ease up on the union collapsing talk.

    It’s not going to happen.

    It may or may not happen, but no one can say for certain that it won’t.

    How much do we need to ease up to satisfy you? Make your arguments, but please don’t dictate the terms of discussion.

    All of the things you mentioned are very likely going to happen, at a minimum. However, our society is very fragile and is full of people who cannot and will not take care of themselves, and never have. No one knows what they will do, but we can guess, and it won’t be pretty.

  17. Cranky: I concede to speaking in the authoratative voice and I retract that.

    I won’t concede that it’s wrong and wrong-headed. But i’m no better or worse than anyone here, so wrong-headed is something that I’ve been, more than a thousand times.

  18. I’ve been hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

  19. The other day I was hoping for the breast and got the wurst. Limped for a week. Now I prepare.

  20. I’m hoping for a long, slow slide and sort of preparing for the zombie apocalypse. I still haven’t moved out of the city, though.

  21. You could get a long slow slide of wurst. It’s happened to me.

  22. Roddy – there is little worse than going to a person who has consistently argued against an idea and telling them, “well, we did this together, so we have to suffer the consequences.”

    Losing a vote one time or 100 times does not make you morally responsible for the outcome. It’s imposed on you.

    Life isn’t fair, but lying about why it’s not fair makes it worse.

  23. Also I know someone is going to say I’m rejecting the principles of representative government. There’s a difference between voting whether or not some kids will get school vouchers and whether or not to run the ship into the rocks. Everything has limits.

    But in either case, blaming the person who voted against the idea for the bad consequences of the idea just reeks.

  24. Merovign,

    I see some wisdom in what you say. I definitely don’t want to heap any ashes on anyone’s head here–a lot of solid people, bright and decent. Injury is not my intent.

    My point is that many on the right–myself, to varying degrees, included–supported our own foolish candidates and backed their own appalling prescriptions and ideas, implicitly or explicitly, without ever stopping and pondering where the end of the line was.

    I count myself among that number because, in the end, there is no such thing as a qualified vote for a war or a candidate that supports a war, or a candidate that supports suspending meaningful financial reform or regulation. There’s only yes or no. You remember how many blogs on the right had eloquent and serious defenses of Bush’s foreign policy or his management of the economy?

    When JHoward, Jeff et al write “That how we get there matters” (I think JG coined the phrase viz. PW first though) I agree. But how we GOT here matters as well. You simply cannot get Obama as POTUS unless you have Bush and all that he brought to bear on the electorate. The natural candidacy prescriptive for GWB–a southern country club republican and not a conservative–is Al Gore and John Kerry, rich preppies from Yale/Harvard. But as we reaped Bush’s whirlwind, we got Obama.

    This year, faced with another four years of Obama, the GOP (absurdly) reached for Romney, a Wall Street hack technocrat who was in many ways, merely a more verbal GW Bush. Many of you have been eloquent and forceful in sussing out the rot in the GOP. What has been missing, I respectfully submit, is the recognition that what Carter was to Democrats, Bush was to the GOP.

    We voted for and defended him and the key intellectual forces that he championed, so-called “compassionate conservatism”, hawks and social conservatives, will take some time to sort themselves out, before–I hope–re-assuming their more productive roles as appendages to a GOP committed primarily to a rationally smaller government, much lower taxes, strong defense and an intelligent fiscal policy.

    But that might be in the past and I could be wrong.

    I still can’t get to a divided collapse into…what? But again, many of you apparently can.

  25. Roddy Boyd,
    As I was the only commenter who mentioned the word “collapse” prior to your comment; I feel that I should respond, though I’m not sure how. So this is just off the top of my head.

    I wrote “should things collapse”. In other words “IF things collapse,” or, “IN THE EVENT THAT things collapse”. I did not say that they would. Nor did I say why they would, if, in fact, they did.

    Personally, like you, I don’t believe that the “Union” will collapse. However, I think we differ as to what “things” (to use my very descriptive term) might collapse, or why.

    I believe that the “Union” will NOT collapse. That is, I believe that to be the most likely future. At the same time, I believe that the potential for collapse is greater than at any time since the Civil War. I also believe that the “Union” NOT collapsing — repeat, NOT collapsing — is the worst possible future.

    I find your idea that “society” = “economy” to be, frankly, bizarre. As is your contention that some form of economic collapse is “by no means certain”. This may be strictly true in purely metaphysical sense, because I cannot actually see the future. However, if I see a boulder rolling down a hill towards a cliff (regardless of how the rock got a-rollin’), and there is nothing to stop it, and no sign that anything will miraculously appear to stop it; then I STILL know what’s going to happen, even though I STILL cannot actually “see” the future.

    This is what’s known as cause-and-effect. (or inertia, momentum, gravity, inevitability, etc.).
    I find it strange that, despite your centering on the economy (measured how?) as the end-all and be-all of “society”, you make no mention of the National Debt. (please see the post on the debt regarding Krugman’s statement)

    There are other things besides the economy that have the potential to cause “things” to collapse — with or without help from a faltering economy.

    Lastly, in response to your respectful request to “ease up” on the “things collapsing” talk.

    I respectfully refuse.

  26. It takes along time for empires to collapse. There is a great deal of wealth to burn through first and a not insignificant number of shepherds. It will take quite some time, much longer than many here imagine.

  27. It’s a lot like trying to come to grips with the process of evolution

    There is no theory of evolution, there is only a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.

  28. There is a great deal of wealth to burn through first and a not insignificant number of shepherds.

    Not any more there isn’t.

  29. BTW: Mero, Roddy – you’re both regulars. Howzabout you kick your shoes off and set a spell. By which I mean, “head over to and put a face (or whatever) to your name”.

    As it stands, I’ve been trained by slipperyslope et al to skip over all comments coming from the “no icon” people. You’re in with a bad crowd!

  30. Yuri,

    Things aren’t going to collapse for social reasons.

    Gay marriage, rubbers in the HS nurse’s office, abortion, shitty congresses, crime and another SEC college football champion aren’t remotely going to cause a possible dissolution of the Union. None of these are good for us, and they might be leading indicators of cultural rot, but they aren’t the reasons this caboose goes off the tracks.

    So there’s the economy. It’s not great, and there’s way too much Keynes in it for my tastes, but it’s not in collapse and nowhere near it. As to a default, if we got near it, then we default. Ok. Sucks for us, they’d have to cut defense and a dozen other programs to the bone, but again, no societal collapse. There’s a really easy and obvious remedy for default and that’s negotiating with creditors, who usually take 80 cents on the dollar or extended payback periods over, say, nothing.

    A national black eye, to be sure, but those have been coming fast and hard these days. We’re pulling out of Afghanistan where we have spent a fortune, lost thousands dead and wounded and within months a Taliban oriented government will be in force (or something damned close to it.) That’s a black eye. A debt default would be more ugly, screw up capital markets and currencies hither and yon (seeing the liklihood of it happening now?) but nothing that couldn’t be handled

    A societal collapse comes from a concentric series of political and economic calamities that have no apparent remedy–not a remedy that one side or another finds unpalatable or abhorent–but quite literally, no remedy.

    We have plenty of remedies, just no national willpower to take the medicine nor the leadership to discuss it.

  31. We have plenty of remedies, just no national willpower to take the medicine nor the leadership to discuss it.

    no national willpower to take the medicine nor the leadership to discuss it.

    I’d say you’ve identified at least one “calamit(y) .. that has no apparent remedy.”

  32. The sun never sets on the British Empire.

  33. “A debt default would be more ugly, … but nothing that couldn’t be handled”

    If you say so.

    I’m not fully conceding the point; but, I can’t effectively argue against it, either. So, I’ll concede the point for the time being, while reserving the right to argue it later.

    I brought up the debt only to bring up the potential for default, which some people (I think) see as having worse consequences than you think it will. Nevertheless, it was an ancillary point. We still haven’t gotten to what I think might (not “will”) increase the potential for “collapse”.

    First, “collapse”. I used the word too loosely (both because I expected little argument, and because I was speaking hypothetically).

    Many people talk of “collapse” these days and, frankly, I don’t really know what it means, nor what people who use the term intend it to mean. Economically, I really don’t know what it means, other than “really bad things” (unspecified).

    I also cannot imagine what “social” “collapse” could possibly mean, given the way you’ve defined “social”. You are right that those things you mentioned (gay marriage, abortion, etc) are not things that lead to “social” “collapse”, almost no matter how you define “social”. Unless, of course, you define “social” as “cultural” or “moral”, which are more subjective than I care to discuss right this moment.

    But, and here’s the point (I know you were wondering when I’d get to it), you mentioned something else: ….. “dissolution of the Union”.

    That’s about what I meant by my off-handed use of the word “collapse”.

    So, if the economy won’t “collapse”, and there will be no “social” “collapse” (using your definition of “social”), AND, if the the “collapse” of one or both wouldn’t necessarily lead to the “dissolution of the Union”; then, what would? What could? What possible reason would there, could there, be for the “Union” to dissolve?

    At this point, I’d like to (for now) concede your points on “collapse”, and focus on “dissolution of the Union”, and my question above. You know, pretend I could actually make points clearly and use the right words for what I mean: i.e. “collapse” = “dissolution of the Union.”

    After all that excessive wordiness to isolate the point, I still haven’t made any point. That is, I haven’t made a good argument for what might cause the “dissolution of the Union.”

    And, I’m not going to.

    Unfair (and possibly stupid) as it may be, I’m simply going to leave you with the question(s) I posed above.

    If the economy won’t “collapse”, and there will be no “social” “collapse” (using your definition of “social”), AND, if the the “collapse” of one or both wouldn’t necessarily lead to the “dissolution of the Union”; then, what would?

    Ponder it, …. or don’t. It’s still a free country. ;)

  34. Let me throw out the obvious, yurt. We have two recent historical examples to use. What caused the “collapse” of the British colonial system in the American colonies? What caused the “almost-collapse” of the Union in 1861-1865?
    At the risk of over-simplification, each came about when a group of peoples became sufficiently dissatisfied with actions and governance that were not in their perceived best interest.
    No one event makes that happen, but add up all of roddy’s examples above and then keep an eye out for some straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.

  35. Yuri: Points acknowledged.
    RI Red: Just so.

  36. I maintain that the money is running out. How many states are functionally bankrupt already (though they pretend otherwise)? How many other states are going to be willing to force their citizens to pony up the dough to keep the prodigal states in the manner to which they are accustomed?

    I still think the day is coming when the EBT cards suddenly show a zero balance. I sure as shit don’t want my kid working in a supermarket that week. And I’m also sure as shit that my neighbors won’t be commuting into a city where food riots and national guard barricades abound.

    Cities on fire are nothing pleasant to contemplate, especially when one lives in the middle of one. But then, I’m not the one stoking class warfare with rhetoric about one-percenters and Occupy Whatever and “fair share” and fatcats. Not that blame for what’s to come will ever fall on those who’ve laid the groundwork…