NPR’s ‘5th Grade Math Exercise’

Critiquing the April 24 edition of NPR‘s “increasingly vacuous and self-indulgent” Planet Money show, blogger Brian (NPR Check, 4/24/09) notices that the “five long minutes” spent discussing “how long it would take to count to 165 million (the AIG executive bonuses), 45 billion (Bank of America’s bailout so far), and 1.2 trillion (total estimated federal bailouts of banks so far),” came right after “a long week of severely deficient coverage of actual financial news” like “40 seconds Morning Edition spent pararaphrasing a New York Times article on the looming Chrysler bankruptcy”:

The sad thing is that it actually might have been helpful to provide some real context for the scale of the federal bailouts. However, rather than counting to 1.2 trillion, it would be much more useful to place the bailout figures into contexts that matter, such as comparing the AIG bonuses to the median U.S. household income ($50.2 K in 2007); comparing the $45 B to BOA’s ownership equity ($146 B); or comparing the $1.2 T in bailout funds to the U.S. GDP ($14.3 T) or the annual U.S. federal spending (approximately $3 T).

Admitting that these examples are “still not exciting, to be sure,” Mytwords considers them “perhaps a little more meaningful than counting for 39,000 years.”