Panic + Math Skillz = Funny Emails

You know how news reports frequently claim that the average American has serious trouble with basic math? Well, it applies to some very intelligent acquaintances of mine as well. I was forwarded an interesting petition by two people whom I think very highly of. Read the opening paragraphs below and see if you can spot the problem… 😉

I’m against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG. Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a “We Deserve It Dividend”.

To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up..

So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion that equals $425,000.00.

PS. Unlike the original $700B bailout plan proposed by President Bush, the $85B bailout of AIG appears to have the approval of most analysts (or so it seems from what I’ve read, anyway.) Part of the reason: we, the taxpayers, get 80% of AIG as condition of the bailout, in addition to a relatively high interest rate on our $85B loan to the company. By most accounts, it sounds like we may very well turn a profit on our “investment” in AIG.

4 responses to “Panic + Math Skillz = Funny Emails

  1. For a moment there, I thought you didn’t catch the error! That e-mail is spreading around fairly quickly. Many people appear to have caught the error, after someone rushed to post the e-mail to their blog!

  2. What’s even more troubling is that most people don’t realize the 700 billion, and all loans, consist of money that doesn’t yet exist. Which means that in addition to being a liability for which direct taxes will need to be collected, that’s another 700 billion of inflation as well.

  3. Lol! Although, if it weren’t for the fact that the first sentence is written with the zeros explicitly spelled out I’d fathom that maybe the author was thinking “long scale” billion (Continental European, million million) instead of “short scale” billion (United States, thousand million). That would make the mistake cultural, not mathematical. Many people don’t realize that “billion” isn’t the same number depending on where you are in the world!

  4. Lisa:

    That would make the mistake cultural, not mathematical.

    The author, T.J. “Birk” Birkenmeier, claims that the e-mail was a social experiment. Birk asserts that he sent the e-mail to 100 of his contacts to see how many people would catch the error. Those 100 people apparently sent the e-mail to their contacts, which would account for the 46,000 hits on Google. I’ve read that the e-mail, with the error, appeared on several politicians’ websites for a short time as an example of public competence.

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