"To put a trillion dollars in context, if you spend a million dollars every day since Jesus was born, you still wouldn't have spent a trillion," McConnell said.
CNN checked McConnell's numbers with noted Temple University math professor and author John Allen Paulos.
"A million dollars a day for 2,000 years is only three-quarters of a trillion dollars. It's a big number no matter how you slice it," Paulos said.
Here's another way to look at it.
"A million seconds is about 11½ days. A billion seconds is about 32 years, and a trillion seconds is 32,000 years," Paulos said. "People tend to lump them together, perhaps because they rhyme, but if you think of it in terms of a jail sentence, do you want to go to jail for 11½ days or 32 years or maybe 32,000 years? So, they're vastly different, and people generally don't really have a real visceral grasp of the differences among them."
I read Paulos' book Innumeracy about 20 years ago, and it's as important today as it was then--for just this reason.
Update, 2/8/09: Here's an interesting picture showing the relative costs of some famous projects compared to the current porkulus package.