During my formative schooling years, in which my brain enjoyed a longer shelf life as a tabula rasa than most of my peers, I came across an information book which described a number followed by 100 zeros that was known by the odd nomenclature of a “googol.”

For some strange reason, I’d never forgotten that unfathomably large metric and the name remained in the back of my mind rather undisturbed until six years ago, when I came across an Internet search engine whose name was based on the word.

It instantly became one of my favorites, not just from a nostalgic standpoint, but because even my severely challenged tech skills could navigate the portal with relative ease.

I mention this only because the now-popular search concern is on the precipice of going public — rumored to be sometime in the Spring — as it now has an audit certifying its compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The company is apparently taking careful steps in this age of government oversight.

In just a few years, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has morphed from just one of many search engines into a cash machine whose IPO may fetch as much as $20 billion, according to several reports. Compare that to the $2.6 billion Netscape fetched in its public offering during the dot-com mania circa 1995.

I mention the potential Google largesse and its carefully measured procedures only because a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office on the federal deficit was as depressing as Google's financials were uplifting.

The CBO projected that the federal deficit would hit a record $477 billion in fiscal 2004, and deficits over the next decade would total $1.9 trillion. Yes, that’s with a “T.”

And, the CBO warned, should Congress extend all the tax breaks that are scheduled to expire — as President Bush exhorted them to do in his recent State of the Union — the total cost would add up to more than $2 trillion in additional borrowing over the next decade. No wonder Ted Kennedy was shaking his head -- if only to show he was still awake.

Couple that with Congress' intent to stop the alternative minimum tax, and the Treasury could be out an additional $470 billion.

If this year's deficit equals or even comes close to what analysts have projected, it would come to roughly 4.5 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. That’s nearly a googol by my reckoning.

Normally I don't get political in this space, but the track record of fiscal recklessness of the current administration will obviously be a key striking point for the Democrats during the primaries and through the general election.

If GWB wants another four years at 1600 Pennsylvania, he’d put quotations on the words “balanced budget” and Google it.

It's got to be better than the advice he’s getting now.

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