Okay, Lets go for an easier representation of this scale. The author states that 100 Million dollars fits on a standard pallet. If we take a standard us pallet, we find that within a standard container we can fit 9 pallets.
There fore One Trillion Dollars will fit into
1 000 000 000 000 /
(9 * 100 000 000)
= 1111.111... containers.
Lets round up to 1112 for the sake of transportation convenience.
If we take a large container ship like the COSCO Guangzhou we can see that it will cary 9450 TEU containers.
As you can see one of these large ships can carry
9450/1112 = 8.499
container loads of trillion dollars.
From this we can see that I expected a large container ship to carry much less, so my conclusions is kind of out the window. Damn that is a big ship.
That's exactly what I was thinking upon reading the article. When talking about billions of dollars of deficits or stimuli, it's not cash or even gold equivalent we're talking about. It's virtual, based on a gentleman's agreement between banks. Most of the money is created by banks, when people like you and me come to them for a loan or a mortgage.
So the conclusion of the article is false:
"the next time you hear someone toss around the phrase "trillion dollars"... [1.5 acres of double-stacked pallets of $100 dollar bills] is what they're talking about."
So, in perspective, USA gross national product (annual) is $14 trillion, so 14 of those (acres or football fields of pallets would have been a better reference).
USA annual defense spending is $1.35 trillion (more than every other country on earth combined). This does not include the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (hidden in "emergency spending", basically debt sold to China) or the huge medical expenditures to keep tens of thousands of wounded soldiers alive for years after.
I find the most useful way to visualise a trillion dollars (when we're talking about US Government spending (which is generally the only time we hear about trillions of dollars) is to just visualise $3,257 in the hands of each of the 307 million people in the United States.
I'm not as concerned about what a trillion dollars looks like as I am with what a hundred million looks like. Once I get the pallet-sized stack, then trying to do something about the warehouse-sized stack is probably a lot more realistic.
Pedantic-police: The $1-million little pile there has 10 bundles of $10,000 - that's not 1 million. (or are my eyes deceiving me?) Don't have the patience to figure out if that error is propagated to the rest...
Not even close. A packet is 100 bills; a packet of $100 bills is ten thousand dollars. Just a rough count of the front face of what you see in that picture will tell you that there is either more than a million there, or that the centre of the main block is hollow. Think of it this way (in a very lossy fashion): a crisp, new bill is not too very different in thickness from a premium sheet of inkjet paper. A US bill of current issue is 2.61" by 6.14", so four of them can be printed on a letter-size page with a lot of trimming waste (42% waste -- but it's the best packing you can get on letter). A ream of paper is 500 sheets, so with a whole lot of waste, a pile of paper about the size of a ream of ordinary office paper is $200,000 dollars. Paper is ordinarily sold in boxes of ten reams, and if you are familiar with the standard size box of office paper, well, you are familiar with something that is 42% bigger than is needed to hold two million dollars in $100 bills.
No, I agree. Stacked vertically would have a much more dramatic visual effect, which is what I assume the author is going for. I remember when I was younger I saw a diagram of different types of computer storage stacked into piles. I think it might have been the number of floppies in a CD, then a DVD, but I can't really recall... anyway, it was impressive.