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A Few Really Big Numbers To Ponder. Would You Lend These Guys Seven Hundred Billion?

The average Americans’ head is now spinning with incomprehensibly big numbers!  Numbers for bailouts, bankruptcies, wars, deficits, CEO salaries, and various government interventions.  Not to add to the confusion – but here are a few of the more interesting big numbers.  Lets start with the really big one….

  • $3,000,000,000,000.  That’s three trillion dollars – the final price many experts are estimating for the Iraq war.
  • $60,000,000,000.  Sixty billion – the original estimate from the Bush administration for the Iraq war.
  • $80,000,000,000.  That’s eighty billion dollars, the current budget surplus the Iraq government recently reported.  (Yes – I did mean surplus – as in “we have way too much money!”)
  • $407,000,000,000. Four hundred and seven hundred billion. The upcoming estimate of the Federal Deficit.
  • $700,000,000,000.  The Bush Administration is requesting seven hundred billion from congress to stabilize the economy.

So, what to make of all these big numbers?  Well, since I am not an economist I’m not qualified to comment on the government’s increasing role as regulator and “Uncle Moneybags” to Wall Street.  But, as a businessman who has some experience borrowing money and granting credit to customers, if they were borrowing money from me I would question the credit qualification of the current administration.

Imagine someone comes to you to borrow money – perhaps to build a new building.  They initially request sixty billion – but the budget ultimately comes in at three trillion.  (OK – it’s a really, really big building! Lots of glass and gold plated elevators!) And after all the cost overuns, you learn that one of the partners in the project has abscounded with eighty billion.

If that same borrower then wanted to borrow another $700 billion after running up another $407 billion in debt – would you give them the money?

Probably not.

Though we might want to consider letting the Iraqi government run this show.  They seem to be pretty good with money!

A few more unrelated but interesting numbers to consider:

  • $91,000,000.  Ninety one million dollars – the 2006 compensation for Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O’Neal.  O’Neal received more than $160 million in compensation despite the fact that stockholders lost 41% of their value during the same period. Three other Merrill executives will share a $200 million dollar payment for tanking the company and turning it over to Bank of America.  Makes you wonder how much they would have made if he had managed to take the value of the company to zero!
  • $68,000,000. AIG’s former CEO Martin Sullivan’s contract entitled him to compensation of $68 million while the company reported losses for two quarters of $13 billion!

As the CEO of a mid-size company, the above numbers obviously indicate I am doing something wrong!  I receive bonuses based on achieving profit goals, not for running up huge losses and tanking my company.  I suspect it is much easier to lose money than make money, so I really need to renegotiate my contract!


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