558: 1000 Times

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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1000 Times
And 0.002 dollars will NEVER equal 0.002 cents.
Title text: And 0.002 dollars will NEVER equal 0.002 cents.


When amounts of U.S. dollars (or other currencies of comparable size) in the millions, billions, or trillions are mentioned in conversation, the impression left by the cited number is not some specific amount, but rather some generically large amount of money. A billion is a thousand times larger than a million, but if one is not paying close attention, they both mentally register as being "very large" or "life-changing if they ended up in my bank account", rather than being as different as "one dollar" and "a thousand dollars" are.

In this comic, Randall notes how news organizations take advantage of this fact to make certain figures sound comparable, when they are actually not. The "Bailout" referred to is the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), wherein money was cheaply loaned to large banks by the government to help them remain solvent. The "Bonuses" are the subsequent bonuses paid by those banks to their employees.

Citing the size of the bailout in billions and the size of the bonuses in millions gives the misleading impression that the bulk of the bailout was spent on bonuses - in particular to the very traders who caused the problem that cause the need for TARP in the first place - making for much more outrageous and therefore attention-grabbing story. While the news organizations are not lying per se, citing the figures using the same unit makes it clearer that the bonus payments were a tiny fraction of the bailout which is not as obviously outrageous. The news organizations, as news organizations are, were choosing the presentation that was most attention-grabbing over the presentation that conveys the information most accurately.

Below the two comic panels Randall asks the news organizations to stop using this way to misleadingly represent large numbers. He then proceeds to compares the difference between a million and a billion using an analogue that a newscaster may understand. Proportionally speaking, if a million is like Randall taking a sip of wine and spending 30 seconds (presumably talking over the wine) with your daughter, then a billion would be like him drinking a bottle of Gin and spending a night with her (presumably having drunken sex with her). Note that a billion is 1000 million, and 1000 times 30 seconds does indeed equal 8 hours and 20 minutes, or about "one night". And a bottle of gin (750 mL, 40% ABV) contains 1000 times as much alcohol as a small sip of wine (3 mL, 10% ABV)

The title text is a reference to a semi-famous case where Verizon Wireless quoted a rate of 0.002¢ (which equals $0.00002) per kB on their data plan, but charged $0.002. They could not see the difference.


[Two almost identical panels are shown with Ponytail sitting behind desk. Above each panel there are a caption and the text in the sign of each panel is slightly different]
[Left panel caption above and sign in the panel:]
Bailout: $170 billion
Bonuses: $165 million
[Right panel caption above and sign in the panel:]
Bailout: $170,000 million
Bonuses: $165 million
[Caption below the panels:]
Dear news organizations: Stop giving large
numbers without context or proper comparison.
The difference between a million and a
billion is the difference between me having a
sip of wine and 30 seconds with your daughter,
and a bottle of gin and a night with her.

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Most honest: Bailout - 1.7 x 10^11 Bonuses - 1.65 x 10^8 BruceJohnJennerLawso (talk) 23:39, 17 November 2013 (UTC)

so what WERE the boni for?

I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 16:54, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

For bringing money into the company (from the government) according to those executives' contracts (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

A bit surprised Randall ignored the still significant figure of 0.1% paid out as bonuses instead of being used to help revitalize the economy. flewk (talk) 07:50, 5 January 2016 (UTC)

I believe he was more upset about the dishonest reporting. How drastic that .1% are is a matter of debate, but I would argue that the amount of outrage the dishonest figures aim to incite is certainly unwarranted and would not serve any attempt at rational discourse. Randall has also shown a certain aversion to making political comics and commentaries until recently. 06:15, 3 March 2017 (UTC)