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United States of Innumeracy

A number of my posts reference innumeracy. Innumeracy is to numbers what illiteracy is to reading and writing. There are two distinctions, however. First, when reading, one can keep a dictionary handy, and at least work their way through the passage or book. It can’t work quite that way with numbers. Second, when I read a poorly written piece, I am usually able to gather its meaning or intent. When someone simply offers me bad numbers, it often takes a bit of research to find the mistake.

Now, to my point, and observation. There are numerous emails (and blogs posts) out there who claim the $700 billion bailout package is $250,000 per individual, or $450,000 per family. This number is mind boggling and wrong. Let’s set the record straight. We have about 305 million people in our country. Using that number, we can easily see that a billion dollars is $3.28 per person. So $700B is $2295 per person. So for sake of hyperbole, we can call it $7000 per household or $4-5000 per adult, but while those numbers are a disgrace, it’s not the $450,000 per family that is spreading around unquestioned. If you such get an email, please reply back to the sender and set them straight.

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