How Much is a Billion?

                   Not to scale. . .

                  Not to scale. . .

I've been thinking a lot lately about income inequality, the state of our country, our world, and how much everything is run by money and the people who have it. The release of the Paradise Papers recently, uncovered a vast network of underground banking, shell corporations and other machinations used to hide money. Tools of corporations and the ultra wealthy. The .001%. Not many of us were surprised. Of course corporations and the powerful do whatever they can to hold onto their wealth. Some of it legal, some of it not. Money laundering of ill gotten gains, hiding earnings from governments, skirting taxes, etc, etc. Its an enormous industry. We're living in a plutocracy. Democracy is gone. If it ever existed. We are now living in a society where the wealthy powerful elite make the decisions. We merely exist to feed the machine. To fluff their bank accounts.

I think a big problem in this dynamic, is that it is extremely hard for the human brain to conceive of very large numbers. This has ramifications around time, science and evolution, and money. So what does A Billion mean? A Billion dollars. $1,000,000,000 A 1 followed by 9 zeros. A thousand million. According to Forbes, there are over 2000 billionaires on the planet today. Many, many of them, multi, multi billionaires. 

So, how much is a billion? I tried to think about in ways that everyday people would understand. I have relatives in South Dakota that are farmers. Corn primarily. Trump Country. So as an exercise, lets think that one dollar equaled one kernel of corn. Corn is measured in bushels. One bushel of dry corn weighs 56lbs and contains about 9000 kernels of corn.

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Lets put that corn on a truck. How much corn will fit on a grain truck? There are some variables, but generally, a truck can haul about 500 bushels of corn. or 28,000 lbs or 4,500,000 individual kernels. Thats four million, five hundred thousand kernels of corn on one truck.

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So, how many trucks would it take to haul one billion kernels of corn? Rough math here, but it would take approximately 222 trucks. Full of corn. Thats a lot of fucking corn.

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One. Billion. Kernels of corn. One. Billion. Dollars. The number is almost inconceivable.  I'm 42 years old. If I were given a billion dollars tomorrow, and lets say I'll live to be 90, I'd have to spend $57,000 every single day in order to run out of money. Every day. For 48 years. I could put someone through college every day. And thats just one billion. Most billionaires are multi billionaires. Accumulating wealth at this level isn't about having enough money. Theres never enough. Its become a game. Who has the most? How can I keep it all? Its become a sickness. And meanwhile, our overlords in Washington want to increase taxes on the middle class, give breaks to the wealthy, remove the ability of teachers to deduct what they pay for school supplies from their taxes. Supplies they buy for their students out of their own pockets because schools are so woefully underfunded. Greed at this level is a sickness. If billionaires are not giving back to society in a huge dramatic fashion, we must force them to pay their fair share back into the system that allowed them to become so, so "successful".

This is unsustainable. Enough is enough. This is killing our nation and destroying our planet. This is malignant greed. 

Women's March. Oakland. 2017

Women's March. Oakland. 2017