Andrew Tisch has an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that suggests using numbers rather than the more innocuous sounding "trillion" when speaking about the federal debt: "let's ban the word 'trillion.' It's a unit of measurement neither understood nor appreciated. If we must use the number, we should give it its proper due. Write it out with all its zeros—all 12 of them. So $15.8 trillion would be $15,800,000,000,000."
Mr. Tisch doesn't mention it, but there's a John F. Kennedy anecdote that supports his point. Kennedy's naval aide, Tazewell Shepard, recalled, "I remember, very early in his administration, when he opened one of those reports, and he looked at those expenditures which were reported in millions with tenths. He, with his usual colorful language, said, 'I want every zero put in there. I want those guys to realize they're spending money!'"
Fifty years later, we've gone from millions to trillions, but they're still spending money!