Thursday, September 25, 2008

On Not Believing Everything You Read

With all the zillions of pieces of information floating around "out there" at any given time it's a wonder that any facts and details every get reported straight. Case in point is one of those "pass it on" emails that I just got. The writer has the perfect solution to the AIG bailout problem: instead of giving the money to AIG, use that money to give a rebate to the American people.

The writer estimates that there are about 200,000,000 bonafide US citizens eighteen years of age and older. His suggestion is to divide that 85 billion going to AIG among the 200 million people instead. Early on in the article he gives as his figure that every one of those citizens will get $425,000.00 each. The rest of the article goes on to give his rationale for using the money this way.

The person I got this from forwarded it to about two dozen people. She was one of about two dozen people to whom it was forwarded to begin with. Heaven only knows how many people have already gotten a copy of this. And I shudder to think just how many people have read this article and agreed completely with the writer's sentiments. I shudder to think how many people are going to come away from this article thinking that the government is cheating us out of a whole load of money that should be ours.

Maybe it was all those zeros that confused the writer; it's clear from the article that it wasn't just a one time typo. But just in case you are wondering and aren't about to do the math yourself, 200,000,000 times 425,000.00 is 85 TRILLION dollars, not 85 billion dollars. And thus it is that misinformation is passed along and multiplies as it travels along the Internet.

Just as a suggestion for the future: read those "pass alongs" carefully before you hit "forward." And maybe keep in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the original writer was British; in British English what in the US is called a trillion is called a billion, and what Americans call a billion is called a milliard. However, a moments thought would have made clear that no insurance company needs 6 times the US GNP for a bailout.

Anonymous said...

Or check out everything before you buy into it by going to or Amazing the incorrect information and downright lies that are passed along with the little typed note that "this is true." Says who?

Anonymous said...

The book "Innumeracy" by John Paulos (admittedly not a lover of religious Jews, although he may be Jewish himself) is a wonderful source.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is slightly off topic,
but I am extremely upset at the insistence of the Democrats that the government should also help homeowners facing foreclosure.My wife and I both work as professionals and would love to own a house and not rent, however we felt that we couldn't risk taking on a mortgage expense so we didn't.Now we are still renting and all those who took the risk and lost are getting helped by the GOV.Why doesn't the government pay my down payment along with the mortagee's???

Commenter Abbi said...

While his details might have been off, the sentiment that bailout money should be going to taxpayers rather than the banks is not so crazy:

The fact that the government is using taxpayer money to bailout errant companies left and right and not demanding any equity is troubling. Some numbers might have been wrong but the sentiment is not.