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Making sense of the billions and trillions

Most folks have a hard time understanding large dollar citations in news articles. Here’s some help with the math.

Most state budgets cite "millions of dollars." Dividing one million dollars by Oregon’s 3.9 million residents is about 25 cents per person (or $250 per Oregonian per billion “state" dollars).

At the federal level, dividing one billion dollars by the estimated total U.S. population of 311 million is $3.17 per man, woman and child. So a billion dollars is about $3 per person. A trillion dollars is a thousand billion dollars. So, a trillion dollars is about $3,000 per man, woman and child in the United States.

So, when you hear, "$6 billion spent on this presidential election cycle..." it translates to about $18 per person. Or if you see, "$2 trillion for unfunded wars," that is $6,000 per man, woman and child. (Wars are really expensive.)

As for an election with, "$6 billion spent for no change," the more important issue is who provided the money? The real story of the costs of this election cycle is that tens of millions of $50 and $100 dollar "blue" campaign donations (and several big donations as well) prevailed over the hundreds (or thousands?) of truly big “red dollar" contributions of many millions each.

There is great irony in the current howls of protest that “liberal media bias prevailed" and the big influence of “liberal money” from George Soros and the “Hollywood elite.” In truth, the "big money" lost.  "The People" prevailed over "Citizens United" — yet more irony in the language of the "culture wars."

And what about the claim that “taxing the very wealthy is taxing the job creators?”

Don’t believe it. Real “job creators,” large and small, will continue to have many tax advantages. Few of today’s very wealthy are “job creators” or even “employers.” 

Think I am wrong?  Give every "job creator" a straight-up million dollar deduction for every five documented new jobs. Debate over? 

Many of today’s new “very wealthy” are financial managers (read fund managers, brokers, analysts). Many are wealthy from family or their own investments.

Tax capital gains like ordinary income. Nominally tax all financial transactions, call it a fee for having a stable financial infrastructure that allows the transaction. It should not be free to move billions of dollars a day in the markets when you and I pay two bucks at the ATM.

Restore the bipartisan “progressive” top marginal tax rates of 1940 to 1970 for personal income, corporate income and capital gains.  Closing House Speaker Boehner's unspecified "loopholes" instead of restoring top rates for today's wealthy, will likely include home mortgage interest deductions and charitable deductions. That will not help the recovery.

What about Social Security?  It can be fully funded indefinitely simply by having the “maximum annual” contribution eliminated. Why should the FICA contributions of someone who earns a million a year end in January or February while the rest of us will pay until November or December?

Don B. Hennig lives in Gales Creek




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