Friday, January 11, 2008

Real Fun with Fake Money

It looks like one can make an honest living out of frivolous lawsuits.

Last Wednesday, an article was published revealing that our Federal government was hit with 489,000 lawsuits stemming from the 2005 Katrina disaster totaling $3,014,170,389,176,41. That's 3 + QUADRILLION dollars. Being a math teacher, I occasionally come across very large numbers (not when counting my paycheck), but even I had forgotten what comes after a billion. Because of this beyond-astronomical number, I will not likely soon forget that it is quadrillion.

After my initial shock at such an unfathomably huge dollar amount that was, I did the math to find the AVERAGE amount of each lawsuit, hoping this would bring the number into the realm of reasonableness--it didn't. With 489,000 claims, that comes out to a staggering 6,163,947,626 per person. THAT'S 6.1 BILLION DOLLARS EACH FOR ALMOST HALF A MILLION PEOPLE!!!!! That's equivalent to EVERYONE in Atlanta, Georgia being a multi-BILLIONaire, including toddlers, rugrats, criminals, middle school students, and yes, even every school teacher!! The population of New Orleans was only about 230,000 at the time of Katrina.

But wait, there's more . . . . . .

One claim in particular stood out from the others. It was a staggering $3 quadrillion itself! How much damage can one person suffer to feel they deserve to be compensated by an amount that is more than three times the United State's Gross Domestic Product? I'm guessing they got more than a little water damage. If the diagram above doesn't put a quadrillion into perspective (the cubed stack is made up of 1 quadrillion pennies), this example ought to. Based on the thickness of a penny, if the amount of $3 quadrillion was paid in pennies, and those pennies were stacked, the stack would make 150 round trips to SATURN (or 300 one-way trips.) With Saturn being about 746 million miles aways, the stack would be 300*746 million = 223,800,000,000 miles (that's 223 billion miles.) If you'd rather make fewer round trips, the pennies can make more than 30 round trips from the sun to the once-planet Pluto.

Once you through out this frivolous statistical outlier from the total sum of Federal claims, the average claim amount drops to

($3,014,170,389,176,410 - $3,000,000,000,000,000) / (489,000 - 1) = $28,978,360.23

That's somewhat better, but it still means giving almost $29 million dollars to everyone in Atlanta, Georgia minus one guy (perhaps Ted Turner.)

But who can really put a price tag on human suffering? Is "cold, hard cash" really a proper description of the money these victims seek? Does something cold and hard really comfort? NO! Their seeking warm, soft, cuddly cash, the kind they can snuggle up with and use for toilet paper, or burn if they get too chilly.

It is likely that many of these claims were merely unnatural, punitive acts against the Federal Government by victims who feel slighted by the lack of protection or intervention by a blind act of nature, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who are taking full responsibility for the levees that eventually failed, are diplomatically claiming in public that they are not passing judgment on the merits of each claim, while they are secretly popping one Advil after another to ease the pain their cheeks are feeling from the laughter produced by each new claim.

It will be interesting to see how this one ends up playing out, and to see how much money is actually award to which individuals.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Mr. Math teacher, you made a major mistake in your blog. Quadrillion does NOT came after Billion. The correct math answer is Trillion.

Bi = 2
Tri = 3
Quad = 4

Thank you, however, for the rest of your useful info.