I READ THAT the Republican Voting for Dollars high command vigorously led by the Karl Roves will spend $1 billion to defeat President Obama in November. I can't honestly tell you how many zeroes follow the $1. I spend more of my time rounding off the entries in my checkbook to the nearest dollar. But don't be surprised if some mathematician at MIT turns up on Fox News to give us a mental image of $1 billion by reporting that if you laid $1 billion end to end, they would stretch all the way to the U.S.Chamber of Commerce, various oil companies and, of course, the Koch Brothers before arriving with a new guy in the Oval Office.
The trouble with billions and trillions is that even the modern financiers who toss around such figures have never really seen them. Nobody ever has. In that sense, they are abstractions that filter through the wealthiest levels of society as imagined over the morning coffee. The mysterious figures are never precise because it is easy enough to round off the dangling millions to make a billion come out even.
Who can appear as a news show panelist freely talking about $1,297, 082,093.36? Nobody. Not even Donald Trump. So if one of Mitt Romney's surrogates mentions a billion here and a billion there, ask him to be more precise. That will change the subject.
But come to think of it, if you drop the R from Mitt's last name, the remaining letters are an anagram of money. Now I think we're getting somewhere.