When I was a kid, a "million" was an extraordinary number, as mind-defying in its way as "ten thousand" once was to the Chinese who used it as a synonym for "incalculable." In the early 1970's, I can remember the newspaper I worked for stopping the presses in order to get a story on page one that the New York stock exchange had traded 16 million shares. Today, analysts consider it "light" if the number of stocks traded is under a billion and companies are bought and sold in the billions of dollars.
And this morning, in a news story, I read this:
"American households lost $14 trillion of their net worth in the recent recession," said survey participant Albert Niemi, dean of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. "The loss in wealth, plus tight credit, will depress consumer spending for the next several years."
A trillion -- that's 1,000,000,000,000. In a country of 307 million, not all of whom are taxpayers, $14 trillion works out to about $90,000 per taxpayer... many of whom never had $90,000 to lose in the first place. Those most clearly responsible for creating the debacle that is politely referred to as a "recession" are the Republicans.
Mid-term elections are next Tuesday. People are so dissatisfied and fearful about the lack of employment and congressional foolishness that it is expected voters will stand up and vote heavily ... for Republicans.
Greed crosses party lines, of course, but the relative foolishness of such a vote stuns my mind ... much as the number 10,000 might once have stunned the Chinese. It's like a collective masochism ... yes, let's improve things by reinstating those most responsible for making them worse in the first place... and wave the flag while we're at it.
Clearly this is my own expectation at work -- being unable to credit the endlessness of greed, my own included. However big the number, there is always one more number that can be added: One trillion becomes one trillion and one ... and two and three.
A little bit of greed becomes a little more and a little more and a little more. And I, like a lot of others, will bust a gut trying to get others to believe that eating shit is the right thing to do, the patriotic thing, the thing that will make me look refined even when I am plug-ugly. It is important that my needs, my greeds, be met and that others praise me for them.
Vote for me!