I'm sure that readers of this blog don't need me to point out how increasingly vacuous and self-indulgent NPR's Planet Money has become, but the latest installment on this Friday's ME was particularly pointless and lame.
Channa Joffe-Walt and David Kestenbaum set out to provide some perspective for understanding the scale of the recent federal bailouts of financial institutions. However, to do this they decided to recreate a 5th grade math exercise. They considered how long it would take to count to 165 million (the AIG executive bonuses), 45 billion (Bank of America's bailout so far), and 1.2 trillion (total estimated federal bailouts of banks so far). The exciting answer: It takes approximatley 39,000 years to count to 1.2 trillion.
Remarkably, ME gave them five LONG minutes for this. It was infuriating after a long week of severely deficient coverage of actual financial news, such as the superficial coverage ATC gave to credit card legislation, or the 40 seconds ME spent pararaphrasing a New York Times article on the looming Chrysler bankruptcy.
The sad thing is that it actually might have been helpful to provide some real context for the scale of the federal bailouts. However, rather than counting to 1.2 trillion, it would be much more useful to place the bailout figures into contexts that matter, such as comparing the AIG bonuses to the median U.S. household income ($50.2 K in 2007); comparing the $45 B to BOA's ownership equity ($146 B); or comparing the $1.2 T in bailout funds to the U.S GDP ($14.3 T) or the annual U.S. federal spending (approximately $3 T).
Still not exciting, to be sure, but perhaps a little more meaningful than counting for 39,000 years.