John McCaslin

For her recent 97th birthday, Arizona Sen. John McCain's campaign-spirited mother, Roberta, celebrated by cooking beef stroganoff - by herself, no less - for 20 family members and friends.

Among the invited guests were Judy Black, national co-chairwoman of Women for McCain, and her husband, Charles Black, a top senior adviser on the McCain 2008 presidential campaign.


Regarding Barack Obama's fiscal 2010 budget, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, says unless an American lives in an igloo that is heated by whale blubber and serviced by dog sled, they won't be receiving the president's much-ballyhooed tax cuts after all.

"After promising that he will reduce taxes on 95 percent of Americans, the administration's budget establishes a $646 billion energy tax hike that will impact anyone who uses electricity, drives a car, or relies on energy in any way," observes the Republican.


Pat Cleary is senior vice president of one of Washington's larger public-affairs firms. He previously held top positions at the National Association of Manufacturers and at the Labor Department, and is past chairman of the National Mediation Board.

That said, in light of the "billions" and "trillions" of dollars now being tossed around Washington like Monopoly money, Mr. Cleary points out that suddenly "millions just seem so quaint."

"Millions are now spillage down there on Capitol Hill, a mere rounding error," he says.

Thus, he's encouraging members of Congress, and President Obama for that matter, to get back to reality by reading the children's book "How Much is a Million?" by David M. Schwartz.

"Maybe it'll help get their brains around the concept," he notes.

Sure enough, we have found on Amazon the 20th-anniversary edition of "How Much is a Million?" (ages 4-8, $6.99). And how much is a million?

According to the book, it would take 23 days to count to a million. Otherwise, a goldfish bowl large enough to hold a million goldfish could hold a whale. And if a million children climbed on each other's shoulders, they would reach higher than an airplane could fly.

So how much are a billion and trillion? Mr. Schwartz writes that if a billion children made a human tower, it would reach past the moon. And a trillion children standing on each other's shoulders would practically touch the rings of Saturn.


Inside the Beltway reader F. Osborn writes: "In your Dec. 31, 2008, column you published my recommendation that Barack Obama take a college-level economics course. After reading parts of his recent budget proposal, I would like to reduce my recommendation to a basic course in arithmetic."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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