February 6, 2009

Note to overseas readers: millions, billions, trillions

A German reader has pointed out that my recent work on Community Reinvestment Act pledges of boggling scale by American financial firms is confusing to Continental readers more familiar with the "long scale"" of naming huge numbers (where a "billion" is what Americans call a "trillion") rather than the American "short scale." So, let me recount some ten year pledges to serve minority and low income "communities" with both the American words and the dollar numbers:

WaMu -- $375 billion -- $375,000,000,000.00
Bank of America -- 1.5 trillion -- $1,500,000,000,000.00
Countrywide -- 600 billion -- $600,000,000,000.00

My apologies.

In fact, from now on, I think I'll write out the numbers in words as if on a check.
We, Bank of America, promise to pay to CRA-covered recipients One Trillion, Five Hundred Billion, No Million, No Thousands, No Dollars, and 00/100 Cents.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

"Countrywide -- 600 billion -- $600,000,000"
You lost three zeros here.

Anonymous said...


You may want to write it the way the FT does for the benefit of your foreign readers, i.e., write "mn" instead of the last six zeros. So, $6 billion = $6,000,000,000 = $6000mn.

- Fred

Frank said...

"WaMu -- $375 billion -- $375,000,000,000.00
Bank of America -- 1.5 trillion -- $1,500,000,000,000.00
Countrywide -- 600 billion -- $600,000,000,000.00"

Save yourself some writing:

WaMu $375e9
BoA $1.5e12
CW $600e9

Steve Sailer said...

No, from now on, I'm going to write it out in full.

Anonymous said...

I often thought it would help the debate if instead of dollars (sheesh what are those ever worth), all this stuff were quoted in median-man-lifetime-wages (MW).

In the US, the latest median salary is about $50k, and let's figure most folks work about 40 years. So, 1 MMLW is equal to $2,000,000.

187,500 MW -- WaMu
750,000 MW -- BoA
300,000 MW -- Countrywide

Maybe it's me, but the entire lifetime productive output of over a million American workers seems like a huge future hole in GDP.

FWIW, Obama's economic stimulus is pushing 500,000 MW. So we're looking at a half million of today's 25 y.o.'s working for nothing but to pay back that debt. Makes me wonder how many 25 y.o.'s America has.

Anonymous said...

nerd alert:

EU/UK media speaking or writing in English usually eschew the word "billion" and speak of "X thousand millions" instead. Seems to get the meaning across.

Anonymous said...

This constant harping on the dollar figures of the bailout is the kind of irresponsible panic-mongering that respectable journalists should eschew.

I suggest, instead, devising a new financial unit to be used for all bailout-related or other worrisomely large sums. This would be the Khufu, defined as the putative value of a volume of pure gold the size of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. (Ignore the fact that the current world gold supply only be enough for a 20-foot pyramid.)

At current prices, 1 Khufu = approx. $1,447,500,000,000,000 (1.457 quadrillion dollars in American terms). The bailout figures now seem much less alarming, mere millikhufus:

WaMu: 0.26 mKh
Bank of American: 1.4 mKh
Countrywide: 0.41 mKh
U.S. national debt: 7.4 mKh

Now, everyone CALM down.

Anonymous said...

So how may crore would that be?

Anonymous said...


I don't think that quite gets the point home. "Look people, we're only talking the lifetime efforts of less than 1% of the American workforce!"

Anonymous said...

Nobody likes a wise guy, Steve :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve that will help me in future. I'm glad you also remembered the 2 decimal places. They are important considering the small numbers we are dealing with.