I was riding up Sixth Avenue and saw that billboard with the National Debt in bright lights spiraling $10,000 deeper into hock with every passing second. It’s an astonishing thing, really, to see the numbers whirring fast enough to add $10,000 a second. The right-most digit . . . the one-dollar bills . . . must be racing around at 10,000 increments a second, if they actually do it right. (Maybe they round to the nearest $1,000, so it grows $1,000 every tenth of a second. Still makes for a heck of billboard.)

I’m not sure how many trillions of dollars ago it was erected; but this thing has been lighting up the avenue and making people feel bad for a long, long time now, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for years.

And the point is: It stopped.

It’s conceivable the sign was just broken the day I passed, but I don’t think so. The lights were as bright as ever, so the power was on.

No, it had stopped. <Partisan hat ON> The Clinton/Gore budget of 1993 . . . the budget that received not a single Republican vote but that was designed to appease the bond market and get interest rates falling so employment could start rising so the deficit could start falling instead of rising . . . that budget worked. And the Democrats want to maintain the same fiscal responsibility to keep the economy growing responsibly. No gargantuan tax cuts right now, thank you; that’s what you do when you need to give the economy a boost, not what you do when the economy is booming and unemployment is low. <Partisan hat OFF>

The point is: The National Debt Clock had stopped.

And somebody, someplace, is scratching his head wondering if it’s worth trying to run the thing backwards, or better to just replace it with something else.

With minor readjustment it could be a world population clock — 6 billion any minute now, up from 2.5 billion when I was born, and growing by a new Mexico every year. (Not a New Mexico, mind you — a new Mexico.)

Or if it can be rigged to run backwards, it could be a Remaining Acres of Rain Forest clock. Or a Remaining Population of Atlantic Salmon clock.

Or maybe it should just be turned into a billboard for Honest Tea.

Tomorrow: Why Consider Mutual Fund Cost at All When It’s Already Figured into Performance?!


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