Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why Our Country Needs Better Math Skills

I am always amused by how those who understand math and have a sense for numbers can use that to befuddle those who don't. You can see it all the time on TV ads for pay-day loans or cash now for your structured settlement payments. In both cases, people who can do math are making a lot of money off of those who can't (or choose not to). In a lot of ways, politicians do the same thing. Bush and Gore argued over "fuzzy math" seemingly non-stop in the 2000 presidential election. Here in Colorado last fall we had a "right to work" ballot measure where both sides claimed widely different numbers as far as the cost of passing or failing the measure, and when a local news channel did the math, it turned out that both sides were using ridiculous estimates.

The latest example, from the Associated Press, reads "Obama orders Cabinent to cut spending by $100 million". To someone who can't or won't crunch the numbers, $100 million looks like a lot of money. But when compared with the size of the federal budget it amounts to a 0.0025% cut in spending. In fact, that cut is well within the projected error in the budgeted expenses and income for the government for any given week. However, since most people have a hard time appreciating the difference between a million, a billion, and a trillion, it looks like Obama is working hard to cut the federal budget and save the taxpayers money.

1 comment:

~*Jen*~ said...

Oh man, I just about went ballistic when I saw this story in the news! I loved Glenn Beck's illustraion of the debacle. It's like someone making $100K a year and getting into $30K of debt each, to only say that he's going to cut his latte for the current day (not every day)and expect that to remedy the situation. Oy...