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Fun with Numbers

Basic math skills enhance understanding of current events. Too bad many of today's high school — and college — graduates don't have them.

by
Tom Blumer

Bio

June 26, 2009 - 12:00 am
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Problem 2: The Underground Railroad Freedom Center in downtown Cincinnati may receive a two-year subsidy of $3.1 million from the State of Ohio to keep its doors open. The Center receives 62,000 visitors per year who pay $9 or less to get in. If attendance is stable, how much will each visit be subsidized by state taxpayers during the next two years?

Answer: $25 ($3.1 million ÷ 2 ÷ 62,000).

Comments: The Center is a noble endeavor. But, in the white guilt-ridden aftermath of the city’s 2001 riots, it was placed on too-valuable land and its potential was overhyped. There’s no reason the important and awful legacy of slavery cannot be recalled on a smaller but equally effective scale. As long as the taxpayer subsidy of roughly triple what visitors pay continues, that won’t happen.

Problem 3: President Obama claims that his health care plan will cost $1 trillion over 10 years while reducing the number of Americans without health insurance from 46 million to 30 million. If all of this comes to pass, how much will taxpayers shell out for the average newly insured person per year, even if the expected drop in the number of uninsured occurs immediately?

Answer: $6,250 ($1 trillion ÷ 10 ÷ the 16 million alleged reduction in the uninsured).

Comments: I know health insurance costs are high, but any pre-Medicare single person without major health issues should be able to get gold-plated coverage for far less than $6,250. The result also implies that the government will be shelling out an absurd $25,000 for a family of four. Where is all that money going to go? And how in the world can the Obama plan claim to be reducing costs? Additionally, the real answer to the problem is much, much higher in the real world, because the drop in the uninsured will occur gradually.

Problem 4: An advocacy organization claimed in mid-June that “clean energy” jobs grew by 9.1% during the decade ending in 2007, while jobs in the economy as a whole grew by only 3.7%. Seasonally adjusted data found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that there were 124 million Americans working at the end of 1997 and 138 million at the end of 2007.

A) What was the percentage of job growth in the whole economy during the decade?

B) What does that result do to the claim by the advocacy group that “the number of jobs in America’s emerging clean energy economy grew nearly two and a half times faster than overall jobs between 1998 and 2007″?

Answers:

A) 11.3% ([138 - 124] ÷ 124).

B) The result blows the claim made by the Pew Charitable Trusts to smithereens.

Comments: The Associated Press repeated Pew’s claim. Its reporters were either ignorant, lazy, or conditioned to believe the organization’s absurdly low number by the wire service’s virtual non-stop denigration of the economy during the Bush years. Nobody with a brain at Pew or the AP should have bought the 3.7% claim. The fact that a Pew representative has lamely defended the study instead of retracting it is a risible disgrace. If AP has issued a correction, I haven’t seen it, and Ive looked.

Hmm. It turns out that my problems mostly involved only one of the four basic math functions. That goes to show that America badly needs a lot more of at least one kind of division.

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Along with having a decades-long career in accounting, finance, training and development, Tom Blumer has written for several national online publications primarily on business, economics, politics and media bias. He has had his own blog, BizzyBlog.com, since 2005, and has been a PJM contributor since 2008.
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