With all the talk of millions and billions and trillions flying around these days (the recent G20 summit proposed spending a trillion dollars to prop up the ailing world economy), it may be worthwhile for us who don’t deal with so many zero’s on a daily basis to find a way to visualize the numbers.
A million dollars, how much is it really?Â Just to get an idea, think of putting a million dollar bills on the ground, side by side.Â They would cover almost 2 U.S. football fields, including the end zones.
Now for some real world numbers.Â The amount of money that the AIG executives tried to pay themselves in bonuses, after driving the company into the wall, was $165 million (before taxes).Â That’s approximately 300 football fields of dollars.
And the amount of money that the AIG bailout is going to cost U.S. taxpayers (according to Joe Nocera, writing in the New York Times of Feb. 28, 2009, and quoting Donn Vickrey, who runs the independent research firm Gradient Analytics) is “at least $100 billion”.Â That’s so many football fields (186,920) that it’s impossible for us mortals to visualize.Â So let’s think of the island of Manhattan.Â If you cover the island from Wall Street to the Bronx in dollar bills, the bailout of just AIG is going to cost us taxpayersÂ enough dollar bills to cover more than 17 Manhattan islands.Â That’s approximately $3,620 for every man, woman, and child in the United States.
And that’s just one company’s bailout money.Â What about the billions needed for Citicorp, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, or General Motors?