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The U.S. government has carried debt since 1790, according to the Treasury Department, but the national debt didn't top $1 trillion until 1982.
When it hit $16 trillion for the first time on Sept. 4, 2012, Sen. Rob Portman called it "a dangerous milestone" and "troubling evidence that our nation is headed in the wrong direction."
In an attempt to put $16 trillion in terms everyday people can get their arms around, he also released a list of items showing how that much money stacks up -- such as "$16 trillion in $1 bills would cover the entire state of Ohio nearly 1.5 times."
Sixteen trillion is a lot of kapusta -- but is it enough to carpet the countryside and turn Ohio green? Just for fun, PolitiFact Ohio decided to survey the landscape
We got data from Portman staff's and checked the math. Here’s how it works out.
- A dollar bill has 16.0254 square inches. (It measures 2.61 inches by 6.14 inches.)
- Sixteen trillion dollar bills multiply to an area of 256,406,400,000,000 square inches. That translates to 1,780,600,000,000 square feet (after you divide by 12 squared, or 144).
- The area in square footage equals 63,870 square miles (after you divide by 5,280 squared, or 27,878,400).
That would cover Ohio's total area of 44,825 square miles 1.42 times -- or nearly 1.5 times.
We ran the numbers again, using the land area of 40,860 square miles that the federal Census Bureau gives Ohio. Sixteen trillion singles would cover that area almost exactly 1.5 times.
On the Truth-O-Meter, Portman's statement rates True.
Sen. Portman, "Statement on U.S. National Debt Topping $16 Trillion for the First Time in History," Sept. 4, 2012
Sen. Portman, "$16 Trillion Debt by the Numbers," Sept. 6, 2012
Email with Portman press secretary Caitlin Dunn, Sept. 6, 2012
U.S. Treasury Dept., Public Debt Reports
ABC News, "6 Important Historical Moments in Our Nation's Debt," Sept. 6, 2012
Ohio Historical Society, Ohio Geography, accessed Sept. 6, 2012
U.S. Census Bureau, "Ohio QuickFacts," accessed Sept. 6, 2012
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