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Here's what one second of national debt looks like

January 4, 2011 |  5:36 am

Clint Eastwood thinks oversized national debts are unforgivable

If you're like most people not involved with drug trafficking, you don't often actually see U.S. money with more than one or two zeroes on it, as in $50 or $100.

Thus, Monday's news that the national debt was approaching the legal limit of $14.294 trillion creates a Clint Eastwood-style political showdown in the soggy streets of Washington.

On one side is Obama and his Democratic gang, who'd like the limit raised so their government can keep operating. On the other end of Main Street is the newly enlarged posse of Republicans, who are feeling their enhanced leverage and want spending-cut commitments before going along with the usually pro forma limit-raising.

The national debt flew past $14 trillion last Friday. That's a galactic sum that's difficult for any average American to imagine or even grasp. But let's try:

Fourteen trillion is 14-thousand billions. A billion is a thousand millions. A million is a thousand thousands.

A trillion has so many zeroes it won't fit in your checkbook -- 12 zeros, to be exact.

Last June 1 doesn't really seem all that long ago. The Gulf oil disaster was barely half-spilled. President Obama and Pancho Biden  were still promising....

...amazing job growth by summer's end. The Senate was confirming Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. CIA Director Leon Panetta still wasn't sure where Osama bin Laden was. Al and Tipper, and Tiger and Elin, were still married to each other.

Here's why we mention June 1. On that day the national debt was "only" $13 trillion. It's 214 days from June 1 through last Friday, Dec. 31. That's 5,136 hours or 308,160 minutes or 18,489,600 seconds.

In those seven short months the national debt increased by $1,000,000,000,000.

That works out to be a growth in national debt of $54,084 borrowed during every single one of those 18,489,600 seconds.

Scroll down to see approximately what that brief second looks like in real money:

THIS MUCH

a Ten Thousand dollar bill

PLUS THIS MUCH

a Ten Thousand dollar bill

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a Ten Thousand dollar bill

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a Ten Thousand dollar bill

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a Ten Thousand dollar bill

PLUS THIS MUCH

One Thousand Dollar Bill

PLUS THIS MUCH

One Thousand Dollar Bill

 PLUS THIS MUCH

One Thousand Dollar Bill

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One Thousand Dollar Bill

PLUS THIS MUCH

Fifty Dollar Bill

PLUS THIS MUCH

Twenty Dollar Bill

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Ten Dollar Bill

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One Dollar Bill

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One Dollar Bill

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One Dollar Bill

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One Dollar Bill

IN BORROWED MONEY EVERY SECOND SINCE JUNE 1

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: An Unforgiven cowboy

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