Is Trillion the New Billion?

Reg-Markets Center Related Publication 09-01

5 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2009 Last revised: 14 Jan 2009

See all articles by Robert W. Hahn

Robert W. Hahn

Technology Policy Institute; University of Oxford, Smith School

Peter Passell

Milken Institute

Date Written: January 5, 2009


Not so long ago, $1 billion seemed worth worrying about - as Everett Dirksen, the late senator from Illinois, was supposed to have said, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." Today, another trillion-dollar commitment by the Federal Reserve makes headlines for only a day or two, and a projected federal budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion is widely viewed with equanimity. Are we courting disaster in this indifference to inconceivably large sums? Or have the extraordinary challenges faced by the economy today fundamentally altered the arithmetic of government finance? The answer is yes - and yes.

Suggested Citation

Hahn, Robert W. and Passell, Peter, Is Trillion the New Billion? (January 5, 2009). Reg-Markets Center Related Publication 09-01, Available at SSRN: or

Robert W. Hahn (Contact Author)

Technology Policy Institute ( email )

1401 Eye St. NW
Suite 505
Washington, DC 20005
United States

University of Oxford, Smith School ( email )

United Kingdom

Peter Passell

Milken Institute ( email )

1250 Fourth Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
United States

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