08 August 2009

On Cash for Clunkers and Why Fox News Sucks at Math

I started to write a brief end note to this post about political fist fights, town hall meetings, and the conservative double standard. The end note was going to be on an outrageous claim from Fox News that the Cash for Clunkers deal was running out of money. But the note quickly spiraled, and has taken the form you see now.

Now, on to Cash for Clunkers.

Yes, due to the program's popularity, it burned through it's allocation rather quickly, leading to additional funds being allocated. But at the time FN's claim, the math worked out like this:

The statement claims CfC was allocated $1 billion, and spent $96 million with another $96 million promised, and was therefore "basically out of money already". That's dishonesty in reporting. Let's look at this in digits.

One billion = 1,000,000,000
One million = 0,001,000,000

Notice the three extra zeros. At this point, CfC had spent $192,000,000. Out of $1,000,000,000.

Each clunker traded in is worth between $3,500 and $4,500.

Let us now consider this with smaller numbers and get rid of a few zeros. We'll move the decimals over six places. One billion becomes one thousand and one million becomes one. We will leave the percentages the same.

CfC allocated-------------$1,000.00
CfC spent-----------------$0,192.00
Each additional deal----$0,000.0045

Each additional clunker traded in costs less than one half of one percent. That means that 202,000 more trade-ins were made between Fox New's wonderful display of (willful) ignorance and the renewal of CfC.

What thinking man, given a thousand dollars, would claim that he was out of money after spending $192, if each purchase cost him less than half a penny?

Using elementary-school level math, you can move the decimal over one more place, and see that 19.2% of the allocation had been expended.

Does this mean that Fox News is a less-than-twenty-percent-of-the-glass-empty style pessimist? If this is the case, they are truly the most depressed people in the world. By the time you're a teenager, you're "basically" almost dead.

Another option is that they so incredibly simple as to not understand the difference between a million and a billion. But I would hope that "America's News Network" was smarter than that.

Instead, I see it that the network that claims to report the facts and let the viewer decided, who has taken "Fair and Balanced" to be their slogan, is so incredibly biased as to purposely misinterpret the facts to mislead the public.

Rock on.

Edited on 8 September 2009 for minor formatting changes.

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