Hide: How high is the budget?

Rodney Hide  makes the point in  in the NZ Herald that it’s very difficult to visualise how much money is involved, for example in the budget. It’s just a bunch of billions with eye glazing lines of zeroes.

One billion dollars is impossible to get your head around. It’s a number of dollars that we never concern ourselves with day-to-day.

I worked out back then that only stories involving hundreds or thousands of dollars were reported. They were the stories that we could easily grasp. The stories involving millions or billions of dollars didn’t rate a mention. They don’t fire the public imagination.

He worked out a system for trying to explain how much a bunch of billions is.

“Imagine a $100 bill,” I began. “Now imagine a wad of them from the bank wrapped up tight. There’s a hundred of them. That’s $10,000.

“A hundred wads and you have a metre. That’s a million dollars.

“So how high is a billion dollars? It’s a kilometre!”

And now to the current budget:

Government spending this year is $100 bills stacked 95km high. That’s a lot of money.

The deficit is a stack of $100 bills packed tight and stacked 10km high.

Welfare spending is 22km.

Still hard to visualise? This might help.

Next time you’re flying in a jet imagine the current budget deficit is a stack of $100 notes stacked up to cruising height, the spend on Super is just under that, and the spend on welfare is overhead.

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