Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The New Government Math

Many of us were confused when "New Math" came into use in our schools. Far more of us are confused by the math that the government throws around these days when talking about the bills and budgets that they are passing (including me). It got me thinking I that I should run some common sense calculations to see what they all mean. I found it interesting enough that I thought I would post it. Please note that this math is completely non-partisan, with both parties equally guilty of throwing around numbers with far too many zeroes these days.

One Million Dollars 
If you spent $100 every day of the year, you would run out of this sum in slightly less than 27.4 years. If you upped the ante to $1,000 per day however, it would all be gone in less than 3 years (but you would be having a really good time)

One Billion Dollars 
Forget the $100 per diem on this one, as none of us is planning to live 27,397 years. Even if we up our spending to $1,000 per day, we're still going at it 2,739 years later. Ramp it up to $10,000 per day and we could be living a "Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous" for almost 274 years; and if you go hog wild and manage to blow $100,000 per day, you are out of cash before attaining room temperature in a mere 27.4 years. (Can you see where this is going?)

One Trillion Dollars 
I had to do some of this work by hand, as my calculator is a couple of years old and won't display that many zeroes. If we start out at the $100,000 per day level however, we're broke in 27,397 years (plenty of time to watch climate change). If we can find a way to spend $1,000,000 per day, we would have to hang around 2,739 years or face some serious "inheritance tax" issues before passing the balance on to our heirs (assuming any of them are left by then). At $10,000,000 we can manage to hang out for some 274 years, and if we threw money at everything and everyone in sight to the tune of $100,000,000 per day, it would still last for over 27 years. (You know, it occurs to me that you could probably run a fair sized country for something on the order of ten to one hundred million per day. Or at least you used to ...) 

These days of course, Congress is throwing billions and trillions around the way we once talked about millions. In fact, it seems like the talk of a mere million dollars is treated these days with a fair amount of disdain. (Heck, 40 million doesn't seem to concern most in Toledo these days.) 

It reminds me of the movie "Austin Powers - International Man of Mystery", where the villain Dr Evil, having been kept in cryogenic slumber for thirty years, asks for a ransom of "one million dollars". How we all laughed at the fact that he didn't realize how little that was back in 1997. Somehow it doesn't seem nearly as funny these days when Congress casually mentions one billion dollars. The joke falls completely flat when mentioning one trillion dollars doesn't cause a raised eyebrow. 

Could it be that money has somehow become meaningless in recent years (not in my house, thank you), or that there has been runaway inflation in the last couple of years to devalue currency? Could it be that both parties in Congress and their willing bureaucratic allies have finally managed to desensitized us to these vast sums, either by accident or in some insidious plot to control every aspect of our lives. (Sorry, I slipped on my tin foil hat for a minute by accident.) 

You know much like the New Math when I first heard of it, the more I learn about this New Government Math, the more frightened I become. Perhaps in this case ignorance was bliss, since a little knowledge is anything but reassuring. Heck, I didn't even take into account the interest that could be earned by simply placing the initial sum into a bank account in my calculations. Then again, who but the government would be silly enough to place such sums in the hands of "fat cat bankers" these days.

No comments: