Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How Much Is A Billion? (Another email from the silly side)

How Much is a Billion?

This is too true to be funny. The next time you hear a politician use the
word 'billion' in a casual manner, think about whether you want the 'politicians' spending YOUR tax money.

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of it's releases.

A. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
B. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

C. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
D. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
E. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let's take a look at New Orleans... It's amazing what you can learn with some simple division. Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu (D), is presently asking Congress for 250 BILLION DOLLARS to rebuild New Orleans . Interesting number... what does it mean?

A. Well... if you are one of the 484,674 residents of New Orleans (every man, woman, and child) you each get $516,528.
B. Or... if you have one of the 188,251 homes in New Orleans , your home gets $1,329,787.
C. Or... if you are a family of four... your family gets $2,066,012.

Washington , D. C. - **HELLO!** Are all your calculators broken??

Accounts Receivable Tax - Building Permit Tax - CDL License Tax - Cigarette Tax - Corporate Income Tax - Dog License Tax - Federal Income Tax - Federal Unemployment Tax(FUTA) - Fishing License Tax - Food License Tax - Fuel Permit Tax - Gasoline Tax - Hunting License Tax - Inheritance Tax - Inventory Tax - IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax) - IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax) - Liquor Tax - Luxury Tax - Marriage License Tax - Medicare Tax - Property Tax - Real Estate Tax - Service charge taxes - Social Security Tax - Road Usage Tax (Truckers) - Sales Taxes - Recreational Vehicle Tax - School Tax - State Income Tax - State Unemployment Tax (SUTA) - Telephone Federal Excise Tax - Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax - Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax - Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax - Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax - Telephone State and Local Tax - Telephone Usage Charge Tax - Utility Tax - Vehicle License Registration Tax - Vehicle Sales Tax - Watercraft Registration Tax - Well Permit Tax - Workers Compensation Tax

STILL THINK THIS IS FUNNY? Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago... and our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt... We had the largest middle class in the world... and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

What happened? Can you spell 'politicians!' And I still have to press '1' for English. I hope this goes around the USA at least 100 times.

What the heck happened?????
I've been putting this off for a couple of months because, well, life was busy. But this email is too ignorant to let pass...

The first problem it has is that the math is wrong. A minute is 60 second, so and hour is 3,600 second (60 x 60) and there are 86,400 second in one day (60 x 60 x 24). That means there are 31,556,736 (thirty-one million, five hundred and fifty-six thousand, seven hundred and thirty-six) seconds in a year (60 x 60 x 24 x 365.24). If we take a billion (a one with nine zeros; 1,000,000,000) and divide it by 31,556,736 (the number of seconds in a year) we find out that a billion seconds is about 31 and two-thirds years (give or take a couple of weeks).

I got the email on June 9th. If I subtract 31 years and eight months from that, I don't get 1959. A billion seconds ago it was 1976. If you're going to walk around saying that ("A billion seconds ago it was 1976!") you'll have to change the date you use in another month or so; some time around September you'll have to start saying " was 1977!" Because time goes on...

The author doesn't do any better with minutes. There are 1440 minutes in a day. That means 525,669 minutes in a year (a year is 365 days, six hours, nine minutes and some-odd seconds long). Divide that into a billion and you find out that a billion minutes is 1902 years and (about) four months. Jesus wasn't walking around on the Earth in 106AD. By most accounts the resurrection occurred at least 70 years before that. Trajan was Emperor of Rome in 106AD. Ignatius (a student of the Apostle John) wrote his letter to the Christians at Smyrna. But Jesus had ascended into Heaven a while back.

So, question: do you really want to talk about taxes (which is what the email is about) with someone who can't do math?

I could throw in here that the line about how nothing walked on two feet a billion days ago is also debatable. A billion days is about 2.74 million years. That many years ago Australopithecus had been around for perhaps more than a million years (if you believe the time line most archaeologists subscribe to).

Having failed miserably at the basic math involved in this email, the author goes on to murder politics. The Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief and Economic Recovery Act was focused on the whole state of Louisiana, along with other parts of the Gulf Coast. If you divided the money up among those people it would come out to more like $55,000 each. When you consider the infrastructure involved (roads, bridges, levees, and such), that sounds more reasonable than if you talk about giving the money away (which the bill didn't suggest).

Finally, the author rattles off a long list of taxes (some state, some local, some redundant, and some that I think are made up) that he says we didn't have one hundred years ago. He talks about how great life was back then. One reason I know a man wrote this is that part of his idea of how great America was back then included Mom getting to stay home.

How great was life 100 years ago? Well for starters, the average life expectancy was about 47 years. Today it's over 69 years. Those taxes (among other things) might have bought you an extra 22 years of life. Since I'm 48, I like the present better than the past.

The average wage in 1908 was under a quarter an hour and a teacher made about $325 a year. Women didn't vote and black people didn't drink from the same water fountains as white people.

The only reason I can think of to throw in the line about "press '1' for English" is to push buttons and create emotions to attach to this warped message.

Does anyone really want to go back to 1908? Give me a break...


Scott McLeod said...

This cracked me up! Kudos to you for taking this on and exposing its lunacies.

Sorry I didn't get to spend more time with Cheryl at the Institute. Hope she had a good week!

Greg_Cruey said...

Hi Scott,

Cheryl came backed pumped. Pumped and tired. Something about 14 hour days... But she's recovering.

I thought about you last week when I did this story:

The Survey of Earned Doctorates showed that in 2006 over 1% of the doctorates awarded went to undergrads from a single university in China...