Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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Counting up the deficit

In 2004 the US Federal Budget was deeply in deficit, i.e., they were spending more money providing services than they were taking in taxes. In one year, the deficit was approximately $500 Billion ($5.0 x 1011).

  1. Assuming this was divided equally to every man, woman, and child in the country, what would your share of this deficit have been?
  2. Supposing the deficit were paid in $1 bills and they were laid out on the ground without overlapping. Estimate what fraction of the District of Columbia could be covered.
  3. Suppose you put these $1 bills in packages of 100 each and gave them away at the rate of 1 package every 10 seconds. If you start now, when will you be finished giving them away?
  4. Are any of these calculations relevant for a discussion which is trying to understand whether the deficit is ridiculously large or appropriate in scale? Explain your reasoning.

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Page last modified October 15, 2002: G18