A Dime Saved Out of $3500

Via Randy Barnet at The Volokh Conspiracy.

People do have a great deal of trouble with scale, especially exponential scale.  Developing an intuition of scale is one of the most important lessons when training in technical fields. 

When talking about big spending, I like to cut every number down by a single factor that will put the numbers in a range that people deal with on a day-to-day basis. In this case, let’s cut everything down by a factor of a billion (10^9), so that a trillion (10^12) dollars becomes a thousand (10^3) dollars and a million (10^6) dollars becomes 0.001 (10^(-3)) dollars. This preserves all the ratios without giving people big-number MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over).

So, if the total 2010 budget comes to $3,500, then Obama wants credit for trimming 100 X $0.001 which comes to $0.1 which is one tenth of a dollar or one thin dime. 

One dime out of $3,500 dollars. 

Imagine that you go to buy a used car and the seller wants $3,500 for a clunker. You say that $3,500 is way too much and he replies that in order to compromise, he’ll take a dime off. Would you feel like the seller was taking your position seriously?

Heck, maybe Obama really light a fire under his people and increase the savings ten times over! Why that would bring us up to $1 out of $3500. Whoopee. I’m so excited I might get the vapors!

By contrast, if the total budget is $3500, then Obama is borrowing ~$1800. 

The video is correct. Obama is counting on people hearing “a big pile of money taken out of a bigger pile of money.” He’s counting on them not understanding how badly he is misleading them. 

4 thoughts on “A Dime Saved Out of $3500”

  1. it may be better to show it as $100.00 out of 3,500,000 budget.
    3.5 million million out of 100 million? YMMV

  2. Here is another take on this that shows the enormous scale of the original amounts.

    This graphic at PageTutor.com shows
    what the current National Debt of $11 trillion would look like stacked in $100 bills
    . $11 trillion is $11,000 billion, or $11,000,000 million.

    Government spending for 2010 will be about $3.5 trillion ($3,500 billion). That is about one-third of that $11 trillion graphic. Obama has asked his administration to find $100 million in savings within that one-third of the pile. That is one cube within the graphic. Each cube is $100 million, a single shipping pallet stacked with $100 bills.

    Notice the figure of a man in the lower-left corner, which gives the graphic some scale. Here is a link to the entire presentation

  3. The key difference between the first and the second great depressions, is that in the first great depression, the people who knew that FDR was full of crap had a very limited ability to reach the public to counter his propaganda. Today, we have the internet, and the mainstream media that runs the stories the government wants them to run are on the brink of bankruptcy.

    Even if the government uses our money to keep their camp followers like the New York Times and the Washington Post from going under, their pretense of objective reporting will be forever abandoned once they start living on the government teat.


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