I got an e-mail titled “An Angry American With An Idea.” This e-mail must have gone viral, because I received it a half-dozen times. You probably got it too. Here is what it said:
“I’m against the $85,000,000,000 bailout of AIG. Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a ‘We Deserve It Dividend.’ To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bona fide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/-, counting every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up. So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billion. That equals $425,000. My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a ‘We Deserve It Dividend.’ “
The letter goes on and describes the many wonderful things that could happen in America if each adult had an extra $425,000.
Now the funny part. Friends and colleagues–they shall remain anonymous–who passed this e-mail along would append a note: “You should read this.” “This actually makes sense.”
Not once did anyone point out the Angry American’s wee calculation flaw. Eighty-five billion dollars divided by 200 million people is $425, not $425,000.