Monday, December 22, 2008

How far does a billion dollars go?

It's only shocking if you haven't been paying attention. Two new bailout items of interest today, but honestly I'm getting tired of talking about this. Nobody cares. Trillions of dollars are being wasted, but nobody cares.

Have we forgotten what these numbers mean? I know they sound the same.... "million, billion, trillion..." But because they rhyme, it's easy to forget how much money that actually is. Think of it in terms of miles traveled. A dollar bill is about 6" wide. A million dollars laid end-to-end would go about 94.7 miles. A billion dollars would go about 94,697 miles, almost enough to go four times around the earth at the equator. A trillion is a thousand times larger than that. A trillion dollars is 94,696,969.7 miles, which is enough to travel to the moon and back to earth about 198 times. Does that give you an idea of the scale here?

Where'd the bailout money go? Here are some of the actual answers from bankers:

  • "We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it.' We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."
  • "We're not providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking."
  • "We're choosing not to disclose that."
  • "We're not sharing any other details. We're just not at this time."
  • "We are going to decline to comment on your story."
And my favorite quotation is
  • "I just would prefer if you wouldn't say that we're not going to discuss those details."
In other words, "I'm not telling you how we're spending it, and please don't report the fact that we're not telling you." Of course, they can't really come out and say that it's going to bonuses can they?

AP Reports $1.6 billion went to bailed-out execs. That's enough for more than 6 trips around the earth with dollar bills laid end-to-end. The median income in the US in 2007 was $50,233 in 2007, enough to travel 4.75 miles. The CEO of Goldman Sachs made $54,000,000 last year, enough to travel 5113 miles. It's just obscene.

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