The meaninglessness of raw numbers

There’s a fundamental problem with the way numbers are presented to the general public. Typically, there’s no perspective of how good, bad, large, or small these numbers are – unfortunately, the main point of presenting numbers in the first place.

Democrat Barack Obama said Wednesday that as president he would spend $50 billion to create jobs in construction and environmental industries, as he tried to win over economically struggling voters.

Obama’s investment would be over 10 years as part of two programs. The larger is $35 billion to create 1 million so-called “green collar” jobs to develop more environmentally friendly energy sources.

This sure sounds like alot. After reading this passage, I guess we should be optimiztic about Obama’s job plan- despite me having the faintest idea of what the normal amount of money we should spend on jobs based on previous trends.

In reality, I drastically altered these numbers. The real story, courtesy of the AP:

Democrat Barack Obama said Wednesday that as president he would spend $210 billion to create jobs in construction and environmental industries, as he tried to win over economically struggling voters.

Obama’s investment would be over 10 years as part of two programs. The larger is $150 billion to create 5 million so-called “green collar” jobs to develop more environmentally friendly energy sources.

Numbers are pretty numbing sometimes.