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“All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.” — Ronald Reagan

Yes, those were the words spoken by a man who was Governor of California and President of the United States, a man revered by millions of People With Small Brains. I stumbled upon that example of Reagan’s snotty idiocy while hunting for cogent things people have said about waste, and though Reagan was rarely cogent—and the world might be a better place had he, in his youth, sat for a few hours at a desk under which was stored a year’s waste from a nuclear power plant—his remark struck me as an apt preamble to the problem I want to discuss with you.

“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.” — Henry David Thoreau

Not so long ago, when Americans in relatively large numbers (one per cent of the population?) still actively protested the dastardly wars sponsored by the imperial supranational overlords—before voluntary servitude to cell phones won the day entirely—I attended a big peace march and rally in San Francisco at which the brilliant historian and political scientist Michael Parenti spoke.

Early in his remarks, Parenti enumerated the good that could be accomplished if money spent to build the latest species of fighter jets for the American arsenal was spent instead on education, healthcare, and helping those living in poverty. And I noticed that the moment Parenti intoned the words billions of dollars, the crowd lost all interest in what he was saying and he might as well have been speaking to five people instead of the fifty thousand gathered to protest the wasteful stupidity of war.

Since then—my Parenti epiphany—I have confirmed on numerous occasions that while many people can hang with discussions involving one or two million dollars, any sum larger than that has little or no meaning to most of us. Why? Because money is real and important in our lives, and real money to most people is much less than a million dollars.

When we enter the realm of billions—a billion is a thousand million—we might as well speak of neon gorganzalids. Huh? Neon whats? The imperial overlords are well aware that we cease to pay attention when talk turns to hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, and not paying attention is what they want us to be doing while they rob us blind, year in and year out.

“Why waste time learning, when ignorance is instantaneous?”— Bill Watterson

In 2008, when the worldwide Goldman Sachs-created toxic derivative hedge fund Ponzi scheme bubble burst all over the world, the imperial overlords ordered their operatives at the Federal Reserve to spend an initial trillion dollars to prop up the collapsed financial regime (while doing nothing for the unwashed masses) and thereafter ordered the Federal Reserve to spend a hundred billion a month to re-inflate the bogus stock hedge fund derivatives bubble. You’re getting drowsy aren’t you?

That’s my point. Government-condoned financial thievery of epic proportions goes on every day in America, thefts totaling at least ten trillion dollars in the last seven years, and we the people have no concept of what those thefts mean in relation to our collective and individual lives. You and I could sure use seventy dollars or seven hundred dollars or seven thousand dollars—wouldn’t that be nice?—but millions and billions and trillions…snore.

Add to the stolen ten trillion another trillion a year spent on the military and…Huh? Sorry. Dozed off.

“After a certain point, money is meaningless. It ceases to be the goal. The game is what counts.”— Aristotle Onassis

On the other hand, sports, sex, food, violence, death, and the breasts and penises of famous celebrities and fashion models, these are things we are hardwired to be interested in. Penelope Cruz in an itsy bitsy bikini. Tom Cruise wearing skimpy underwear. See? You woke up. The overlords know this and have structured modern mass media to inhabit your television computer tablet phone as a never-ending stream of lurid high-definition images and videos of sports, sex, food, violence, death, breasts, and penises, or the bulges therefrom.

The media moguls keep the titillating deluge raining down on us day and night so you and I will pay no attention to the men behind the curtains (referencing The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland version) robbing us of billions and trillions of…your eyes are closing.

“Free will is an illusion. People always choose the perceived path of greatest pleasure.”— Scott Adams

The perceived path of greatest pleasure. Hence, Las Vegas. Hence the election of Ronald Reagan and so many others of his kind to positions of great power over us. Hence the dominance of amoral bankers and hedge fund criminals who do grasp the terrible significance of redirecting trillions of dollars representing the collective wealth of the earth into the coffers of a relatively tiny number of Incredibly Greedy People.

What if those trillions had been wisely used for the good of everyone? Hard to imagine. Indeed, our minds boggle when we begin to imagine what our world might become should those stolen trillions ever be spent on reversing the current trends. Yes, our little hardwired breast and penis and food and sex and sports-loving little minds boggle when we try to envision a future in which all the clichés about freedom and equality and sharing the wealth come true. And that’s just how the overlords want our minds to be. Boggled. 

Todd Walton’s web site is


  1. LouisBedrock January 22, 2015


    I enjoyed his article very much.
    Reagan was an idiot.

    Regarding our difficulty in dealing with large numbers, I reflected on this myself when our gutless president bailed out the Wall Street gangsters. This is what I wrote:

    “When columnists and commentators discuss the national debt in trillions of dollars, I suffer something like vertigo, but deeper and more intense.

    A trillion is one followed by twelve zeros. It is a thousand billion.
    A million million. It is ten to the twelfth power.

    Light, which travels at 186,282 miles per second, covers 5.878 trillion miles in a year. Thus, light takes 2.04 months to reach a trillion miles.

    The closest star to our solar system is Proxima Centauri. It is 4.3 light years or 25.275 trillion miles away.

    When Apollo 11 lifted men to the surface of the moon in 1969, I was exhilarated. I was 24 years old and confident that in my lifetime men would tread on the surface of Mars and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Perhaps science and technology might even bridge the unimaginable chasm between the Earth and Proxima Centauri.

    However, it is our criminal rentier class that has reached interstellar numbers. Not by bridging the chasm, but by creating one. Estimates of outstanding national debt range from 12.7 to 63.8 trillion dollars.

    63.8 trillion. 63.8 trillion miles would be more than enough to get to Proxima Centauri and back. At the speed of light, that’s a mere 10.8 years.”

    lsb / 19 Apr 2010

    • Louis S. Bedrock January 22, 2015

      My editing skills are diminishing with age.
      Line 1 should read “I enjoyed this article very much.”
      Last sentence should end with “…a mere 8.6 years.”

      Rick Weddle’s interesting comment provides more terrestrial understanding of large numbers.

      I don’t yearn for equality or “to each according to his need”. Doctors, scientists,
      writers for the AVA, and atheists should earn more than everyone else. But the grotesque disparities between what the Waltons, the Gates, the Broads, and other criminals from the rentier class have and what the rest of us have–teachers, writers, clerks in Walmarts or Walgreens, is obscene.

      Bring back the guillotine!

  2. Rick Weddle January 22, 2015

    During the heat of the ‘cold’ war, when Californians (NOT their ‘leaders’) came up with the Nuclear Freeze Initiative, there was circulated a one-page list of what one might actually buy with one (1) trillion dollars. I don’t have a copy of it, but it went something like:
    A 3 br, 2 ba home for every person in the U.S.
    Two cars for every person in the U.S., and fuel to run ’em from now on
    Enough groceries for 5 years for each person in the U.S.

    and on and on, for a full page, not devoting a new line to each item.
    The point which struck me most solidly was the clear indication that it would have been (still is?) way cheaper to buy off each of our designated ‘enemies’ with cash, than to invest in ill-advised and mutually lethal armaments.
    It’s just that cheaper wasn’t/isn’t that appealing to the armaments guys…not when they’re so long accustomed to the cash registers ringing up the trillions.
    So…what do you suppose became of the ‘Peace Dividend’ we were led to expect way back then?

    A few years back, here on the Big Island, I had to overhear a phone conversation between a person who has way more money than anybody needs, and his wife in New York. He was whining about being broke, having two 40 foot trailers of antique and Asian furniture unloading in the front yard. The ‘house’ was big as a Walmart. He was exclaiming that he’d spent so much, he just couldn’t find another nickel. He was quiet a second, then said, ‘…um…yeah?…oh! Oh, yeah! Great, Hon! Yes, that’s really good. Thank you so much!’ He hung up and turned to me like I’d be interested, and giggled, ‘God, I completely forgot my other checking account! I’ve got another $500,000 sitting there I’d overlooked!’
    …enough for lunch, anyway…

  3. Todd Walton January 22, 2015

    Speaking of trillions, another reader wrote to me, “According to David Schwartz, author of How Much is a Million, a million seconds is about 11 1/2 days ago; a billion seconds is 32 years ago; a trillion seconds is 32,000 years ago!”

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