Print enough, we can wear money

I just heard on the radio that the Federal Reserve has decided to start buying $40,000,000,000 a month in mortgage-backed securities in yet another quixotic attempt to “stimulate” the economy. Our national debt has recently passed $16,000,000,000,000. I wondered how much paper it would take to print 16,000,000,000,000 one-dollar bills. So I tried to do the math.

There are a lot of zeros involved, but here’s what I got. A dollar measures about 1.5 cm by 6.5 cm. If we were to line them up end-to-end they would circle the earth 62,000 times. If they were to rain down on Washington D.C. like manna from heaven they could completely cover all of it with a uniform layer about $900 thick.

Alternatively, the official U.S Presidential dollar coin is 2 mm thick. A stack of 16,000,000,000,000 of them would extend about 21 percent of the distance from the Earth to the Sun. It would take about 1.8 minutes for sunlight to travel from one end of it to the other. Or we could have 88 stacks extending from Washington D.C. to the moon. Each lunar stack would cost $182,000,000,000, and the Fed is now going to “buy” us another stack every 4.5 months. Oh, goody!

The upside is that each new stack will “progressively” cost less as the real value of the dollar will continue to decline. There are an estimated 7 billion people in the world and about 6.7 billion of them are foreigners. If they would each quickly give us only $2,388 we would be debt free … for a while. Would that be asking too much? Math is our friend. Keynesian economics not so much.

Gordon Ness