A new report out by the Democratic congressional joint economic committee says that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could end up costing America 3.5 trillion dollars, not 2.4 trillion dollars as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says.
You know what my reaction to that is? So what?
It has to do with the psychology of numbers. People regard their burdens in terms of relative, not absolute, scales. When the country is in debt 2.4 trillion dollars, what’s another 1.1 trillion dollars to add on?
Peregrin Wood tries to put these trillions of dollars into perspective by breaking them down into gumballs. That helps, but there’s only so far that the mind can stretch. What’s the difference in a line of gumballs stretching to the sun and back eight times and a line of gumballs stretching to the sun and back twelve times?
Who in their right mind would not be bothered by the loss of 2.4 trillion dollars, but then when 3.5 trillion dollars is lost, freak out? No one. If 3.5 trillion dollars is bad, then 2.4 trillion dollars is bad too. If 2.4 trillion dollars of burden won’t bother you, 20 trillion won’t either.
This game the congressional Democrats are playing, of saying, “No no, it’s 3.5 not 2.4″ shows a profound deficit of understanding of effective communication.