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Flies, Poop and Incomprehensible Numbers
A Tidy Little Story on Magnitude of the US Debt Disaster
Christopher LaBorde

There are things so large in this universe that the average mind does not have the capacity to understand. Stars in the universe 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 , gallons of water in the oceans 3,500,000,000,000,000,000 and now the official US debt 33,000,000,000,000. In one of my prior articles, I mentioned that even an exceptional mind that has not been trained in exponential growth has almost no chance of possessing a feel for it. In the same vein, a person that has spent a lifetime in numbers with a maximum of 6 to 7 zeros in it will have real difficulties comprehending numbers with 12 zeros in them. For my own learning I decided that I needed to try to ground myself in these massive numbers, and then had some fun wrapping them into a colorful little summary. 

Comparing big numbers to help me wrap my head around the size of this debt…

Dollar Bills on a football field:

How tall would 33 trillion in $1 dollars bills stacked in the shape of a US football field be?
A: Roughly a 231,000 ft tall solid building structure 
OR 85 times taller than the tallest building in the world where 90% of the floors would be too high for human oxygen needs

Leaves on Trees

How many leaves are on all of the trees in Louisiana?
A*: 130 trillion leaves on Louisiana trees 

Ants and Flies in the United States

How many red fire ants and flies are there in the U.S.?
A: 29 trillion

U.S. Manure production for a Year:

How many pounds of agricultural manure was produced in the US last year?
A: 2.8 trillion pounds of manure 
(Enough for each man woman and child to have 75,000 pounds each)

5 Gallon Buckets of water from Lake Erie:

Our smallest of Great Lakes by volume, Lake Erie, has how many buckets of water in it?
A: 25.4 trillion buckets of water


The enormity of this debt is staggering; if we built a skyscraper with it, most of the floors would lack oxygen. All the leaves of all the trees in Louisiana probably couldn't fake enough dollar bills to cover it, and if we collected the poop of every animal in the U.S. we could only offer a tablespoon to dollar trade. Selling every ant and fly in the country at a 1-dollar-per-critter rate might get us there, but the stench of irresponsibility that got us here would require draining the entirety of Lake Erie to even begin to start to clean the situation.


The only way out of a debt this size is a default, as there is no way that 167,000 tax payers can pay off $197,000 in additional taxes on an average income of $33,200 a year in a reasonable period of time. The fast version would be with a “debt Jubilee” event. The slow version would be with printing so many dollars that even though the debt is massive, the debt itself would become worth nothing because the dollar would become worth so little. Next time you think about the magnitude of this US debt number, I hope some of these numbers help give you a feel for the sheer size of this problem.

Christopher LaBorde
The Keyboard Chimp





Christopher LaBorde, his wife and their two children live part time in the Middle East and part time in Louisiana. As a curious engineer and novice researcher that studies a multitude of topics, Christopher always welcomes feedback at [email protected] and . All of Christopher’s writing is made possible by The Silver Trading Company , please allow them to help you with any of your precious metals needs domestically or abroad.

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