NPR logo Senator We Have a (Math) Problem

Senator We Have a (Math) Problem

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) has his math wrong. I just heard him on Morning Edition dramatizing the trillion dollar price tag for health-care reform.

"If you converted dollars to seconds and you said how many years will it take for a trillion seconds to pass its 317,097 years 11 months and 2 days."

He's off, by a lot. Isakson is describing what a much more expensive, 10 trillion dollar program would be.

And he forgot about leap years.

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory which maintains our atomic clocks, a year is 365.2422 days. So a year has 31,556,926.1 seconds in it. Which would mean that a trillion seconds is about 31,688 years 270 days.

Here's our podcast on the large numbers popping up in the financial crisis.

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