Sunday, October 12, 2008

In Which Yvette Attempts to Explain the Economic Crisis

Yep, this was my column this week. It was inspired by the fact that I realized most students didn't particularly understand what's going on, nor understand how big a number the $700 billion from the federal bailout really is. Plus it let me write fun little things like this-

Let's start first by trying to grasp the scale of the numbers. Imagine I gave you access to a gigantic bank vault filled with nothing but one dollar bills, and said you could keep every bill you counted. How long would it take you to reach $700 billion if you counted one dollar bill per second without stopping?
As it turns out, if you were to count a dollar every second it would take you just under 17 minutes to earn your first thousand. You could count on being a millionaire after eleven and a half days, but it would take 115 days to count $10 million and over three years for $100 million. You could take pride in passing the one billion dollar mark at 31.7 years, but it would take you just under two thousand years to pass Warren Buffett as the world's wealthiest person. And it would take you no less than 22,182 years to reach $700 billion, the maximum amount authorized in the federal bailout.
For some perspective, 22,182 years ago you could still find glaciers in the Cleveland area and Neanderthals in Europe. And I guarantee none of your ancestors have the foggiest idea as to why you care so much about green pieces of paper in the first place.
The rest of the column can be found here (linked this week in particular because our newspaper has a new website and it looks snazzy). Special thanks to my dad and brother who read it over to ensure that no economics professors write angry letters because I got facts wrong.