09/16/2009 06:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Spending The Deficit

The Congressional Budget Office announced last week that the federal deficit for 2009 would be $1.2 trillion--as a share of the economy, the largest since World War II. And that's not even including the proposed stimulus package. Responding to that staggering sum, President-elect Barack Obama warned that without decisive action, "trillion-dollar deficits will be a reality for years to come."

But just how much is $1.2 trillion?

To put this year's deficit in perspective, we thought of a few unrealities that carry a similar price tag:

  • 300 billion gallons of milk to do the body good.
  • 4.8 billion Nintendo Wiis, more than enough to keep our kids happy and coordinated.
  • 72.6 million children's education in 2009--or every student in kindergarten through college.
  • 5,000 dollars to everyone in Japan and 500 dollars to everyone in China--enough to pay down our foreign debt to both countries.
  • 365 free movie tickets for everyone in America.
  • 5 years of free gasoline across the country.
  • 4 major companies: Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Microsoft and Wal-Mart.
  • 2 wars in Iraq; this one, and a second shot at Mission Accomplished.
  • 1 year's worth of everything produced in Canada.

Noble causes, all, but one in particular stands out: compensation for all of Bernard Madoff's defrauded investors with a 2000 percent rate of return.

The authors are Research Analysts of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.