Are you concerned a proposed farm bill would spend $195 billion on farm subsidies over the next decade? How about $80.35 billion spent on food stamps last year? Would you be more or less concerned if it were $1.95 billion and $8 billion?

Would you have any idea what these numbers mean?

Expressing budget figures as flat numbers is nearly meaningless to the majority of the American public. Once numbers get so large, orders of magnitude become no longer comprehensible.

Much more information is provided if spending figures are stated as a share of the budget over an intended period of time rather than dollar amounts. And it's very simple to do.

We'll even do it for you:



I would like to see this expressed as

* Confidential to the New York Times: 1 million = 1,000,000 (six zeroes); 1 billion = 1,000,000,000 (nine zeroes); 1 trillion = 1,000,000,000,000 (12 zeroes).

Source: Congressional Budget Office, The Budget and Economic Outlook, Fiscal Years 2017 to 2027; Census Bureau; and basic arithmetic.