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Math is hard, let’s go to the mall!

I suck at math. I’m not proud of this. I have a feeling some of the most interesting stuff of all requires math and I resent that I can’t share. (My grandmother was an algebra teacher, can you believe? Which goes to show there’s a lot we don’t understand about heredity).

So the Obama years (including, to be fair, a big chunk of the Bush years) have been tough for me. All them big numbers. I could swear there was a time when a billion dollars was a lot of money. Why, we even got exercised over hundreds of millions. A few nervous nellies thought we shouldn’t waste money by hundreds of thousands, but who’re they kidding?

So with the US debt inching up to $17 trillion, I’m completely at a loss. I need a nice simple visual aid to help me wrap my brain around that number. Luckily, I found one.

Ready? The value of the United Kingdom — the whole thing — the land, buildings, cars, currency, oil, ­patents, livestock, bank accounts, even little chikkens is £7.3 trillion. That’s about $11 trillion in dollars (by today’s exchange rate. Have to watch that. If my calculations are correct — and they’re probably not — a penny difference in the rate amounts to $73,000,000,000).

The good news is, the chunk of US national debt that is held by the public is around $12 trillion. That means if you paid off your credit cards, you guys could pool your money and buy Great Britain. With a trillion in walking around money left over. And the good news is, it comes with its own fully socialized medical system, already in place!

You have all weekend to make this happen.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 16, 2013, 10:36 pm

This visual aid is pretty good, too.

Comment from A Smith UK New Ownership’s Manager
Time: August 16, 2013, 10:53 pm

Um, yeah about that “free” health care. We are going to downsize a bit.

Administrators fired! Get out. Caregivers we aren’t going to pay you anymore. We will rent you office and surgery space. Patients the good news is no more medical taxes. The bad news, work out your care costs with the caregivers.

It will all work out in the end.

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: August 16, 2013, 11:19 pm

“The value of the UK. . . ”

That’s an oopsie. . what’s the ‘value’ of a two liter bottle of drinking water? Well, that depends on how desperately you need it and what you have to give up to get it.

“Worth” is almost as bad. What’s it ‘worth’ to ya?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 16, 2013, 11:24 pm

I don’t know. The current market value of all the assets in the UK seems like a real number to me, albeit one that would necessarily be imprecise when calculated by mortals.

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: August 16, 2013, 11:26 pm

Then there is the mega penny project. .


Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: August 16, 2013, 11:37 pm

Current market value as a real number.

Try this thought experiment. You’re a young person riding your favorite horsey, and you fall and break your arm. It hurts, but you pick yourself up and go to the house where you tell your mother, “Mom! I broke my arm!” She comes over to look at it, agrees with you, turns the gas range off so as to not burn down the house while taking you into the hospital where they fix you up just fine. You don’t care what it costs because you have insurance.

Meanwhile at the hospital another young person with a broken arm, and no insurance doesn’t care what the treatment costs either because he has ‘rights’.

While there you notice an older man comes in, complaining of chest pains. Already diagnosed as ‘needs a heart transplant’ who says, “I don’t care who you have to kill, just get me a new heart”, because he is an important man and has armed bodyguards.

So what’s the cost of your health insurance?

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 17, 2013, 12:28 am

When my little sister was 6, one of the kids in the neighbourhood broke her arm for her. She was taken to the doctor’s office, not the hospital, & cash was paid. I’m sure it was around $300.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: August 17, 2013, 1:30 am

Say you had a job where you simply counted at the rate of 10 per second. The job is a standard 40-hour week with two weeks vacation per year. The goal is to count to one trillion.

You’d have steady work for a bit over 14 thousand years.

Comment from Paula Douglas
Time: August 17, 2013, 4:08 am

Yeah, sure, we could pay off the cards and buy the UK. But then we’d own property next to France.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: August 17, 2013, 8:03 am

I have to point out a factual error. US debt (the official, bogus number, that is) is NOT inching up towards $ 17 T. In fact, it hasn’t risen for the last 87 days in a row. It has magically stayed below the debt ceiling limit for 87 days and counting, according to official US Treasury reports. Crisis solved!

And if you believe that, I have some oceanfront property in Arizona I’d like you to look at…

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 17, 2013, 11:30 am

The funny thing is, Paula, that tons of Brits are moving to France. It has a much smaller population in relation to its size, real estate is cheap and, believe it or not, the country folk are supposedly very friendly.

The ones who tried the same trick with Spain are getting a kick in the wallet, though.

Comment from Nina
Time: August 17, 2013, 1:06 pm

I know someone who moved from a largish British city technically in the southermost part of Yorkshire (but sadly not really filled with enough actual Yorkshiremen and Yorkshirewomen and Yorkshirechildren to make it a pleasant place to live) to Spain to get out of the cold. She’s one of those tolerant people who thinks anyone who disagrees with her on certain issues (you know the ones) is a hateful bigot. Please forgive me for whatever petty satisfaction I might get hearing that such an intolerant and hateful person might be suffering some minor financial kick in the wallet.

I’d rather lve in Yorkshire, because I like the cold.

Comment from Sockless Joe
Time: August 17, 2013, 2:23 pm

Well, the real US debt, which would account for the present value of future unfunded liabilities for Social Security/Medicare/etc, is many trillions more. $17T is an accounting gimmick that no private company could get away with.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: August 17, 2013, 2:37 pm

I looked into doing expat thing (although not in France or Spain ). The show-stopper turned out to be taxes. Since all my money is in the US they would tax it before it leaves the shores. Then my ‘host’ country would start taxing it after six months of residence. So I’d have to do the ‘snow bird’ thing. Since the cat hates flying (she had a bad experience- claimed she got ‘baggage-class’ treatment) she hisses every time I bring the subject up. I could get away with it once, but if I tried it every six months… Well I’d need subsidized health care.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: August 17, 2013, 2:40 pm

I was going to make an informed and intelligent comment on the national debt but noticed that I couldn’t.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: August 17, 2013, 2:53 pm

Ecuador is still looking good.

Back when Argentina’s economy was in the crapper, I looked into buying an entire Estancia with eleventy jillion acres and a supply of peasants.

The price was something like a quarter mil.

Comment from marymary
Time: August 17, 2013, 2:54 pm

Some Vegetable: I also looked into expat thing, and concluded the same thing. I’m now looking into the possibility of moving into those shadows currently occupied by “undocumented immigrants”. Seems the place to be to get all the benefits with none of the pesky responsibility of U.S. citizenship.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 17, 2013, 3:56 pm

They’re soon to make the tax laws on Americans living abroad much more onerous. I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines about Americans renouncing their citizenship.

I make peanuts and I haven’t had myself put on any bank accounts or mortgages here, so I have been able to put my fingers in my ears over this one. But sooner or later I’m going to have to look into it, because I think the new arrangements affect us both whether I have any assets or not.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 17, 2013, 7:31 pm

Can’t tax what I ain’t got.

Comment from Nina
Time: August 17, 2013, 7:54 pm

My son’s in that situation, too. Not only does he have to pay Norway’s userous taxes, soon he will have to pay ours as well.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: August 18, 2013, 3:15 am

There’s several things to consider here. The US is running a huge current account deficit (expenditures exceed revenues.) It has an enormous debt (the money it’s had to borrow to keep public spending where it is and not where it would be under a balanced budget.) But then there’s the money it’s pledged to spend in future years (the unfunded liabilities.) This is basically the Present Value of the expenditure stream on things it can’t easily dodge, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – the non-discretionary stuff. Right now that number is something like $120 trillion, which is comfortably more money than the whole world makes in a year. It will not be paid. The big welfare programmes are living corpses. There is simply no way to square the circle. The first real harbingers of the coming cataclysm arrive in three to four years, when debt interest payments start to consume more of US GDP than really important things like defence. No society on earth has ever taken on a debt burden like the US and survived. Ever. The question is whether it will be a hard or soft landing. Right now I’d bet on hard. The two major parties are basically wings of the Party of Permanent Government and are in full let-them-eat-cake mode. By the time someone willing to take serious measures is in power it will probably be too late. The world in 25 years’ time is going to be unrecognisable. Maybe we can kill every public union leader and welfare leech along the way but where the dice will land no-one can say.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: August 18, 2013, 2:56 pm

This one is a real mind-scrambler: http://www.usdebtclock.org/

Comment from Mojo
Time: August 18, 2013, 4:45 pm

We may have a deal. But we don’t want the muzzies or yobbos. Can we send them to Denmark or some such hell-hole?

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: August 18, 2013, 8:23 pm

Would this price include the 80 billion pound high speed rail project and the bird mincers of the coast?

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: August 19, 2013, 12:35 pm

Say! How about a straight up swap for Florida? Brits LOVE Florida and, well, we’re tired of it.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 19, 2013, 2:01 pm

Any of y’all ever read “The Marching Morons” by C. M. Kornbluth?

Comment from J.S.Bridges
Time: August 19, 2013, 4:37 pm

“…tons of Brits are moving to France.

The ones who tried the same trick with Spain are getting a kick in the wallet, though.”

The ones “transplanting” to the Land Of Cheese And Wine (and Cheesy Wine, as well) should prepare for a similar-though-nastier kick in future, I’d wager – trust me on this, it’s doubtless all part of a plan by the Frechies to finally get level for the outcome of that Waterloo-thingy some years back.

Plus, France appears to have an even more advanced case of Nasty-Muzzie Infestation than does Dear Ol’ Blighty.

“Yeah, sure, we could pay off the cards and buy the UK. But then we’d own property next to France.”

Worse yet, we’d have all those bluiddy Scots an’ their squirrely skirlin’ bagpipery to deal with – not to mention the Irish, a difficult lot to contend with at best…

“Say! How about a straight up swap for Florida? Brits LOVE Florida and, well, we’re tired of it.”

That has possibilities – though, we’d need to exclude at least the Lower Keys from the deal, plus Islamorada and Largo if possible. Got to draw the line somewhere, and while some Keys folk are, indeed, certifiable, they’re U.S.-style certifiable, which is a nice cushion against possible invasion by Cubanos or Haitians or even Bahamians.

Can’t really beat Key West for all-out U.S. fun-in-the-sun whacko, y’knowwhatImean?…

Comment from Steve Skubinna
Time: August 20, 2013, 3:37 am

Good thing I made a practice of buying bulk ammo whenever I found a decent price during the years prior to the Reichstag Fire – oops, sorry, I meant the Newtown Shooting.

Unfortunately, the small selection of firearms I had did not survive that freak canoeing mishap. Damn it, I should not have tried to transport the entire Sentry gun safe in one go.

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: August 20, 2013, 12:45 pm

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 19, 2013, 2:01 pm

Any of y’all ever read “The Marching Morons” by C. M. Kornbluth?
Read it? We’re living it.

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