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Common denominators

December 18, 2008 - Rob Weaver
The A-T's county government reporter, Kevin Risner, posed an interesting question today over lunch: How many cars could you buy for $15 billion?
It's not a frivolous question. Large figures, like those tossed around in federal bailouts, are difficult for most of us to comprehend.
That $700 billion for the financial industry, for instance. That's equal to about $2,300 for every American — man, woman, child, citizen or guest worker.
The proposed auto bailout, however, ends up with mind-boggling numbers no matter how it's divided. For example, based on an average price of $28,000 for a new car, that $15 billion would buy 535,714 of 'em. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? except in 2007, Americans bought 16.1 million cars, trucks and vans. If my calculator is functioning properly, that's about $450 billion worth of automobiles.
Estimating that 54 percent of autos sold in the United States in 2007 were made by Ford, GM or Chrysler, that $15 billion would equal roughly 6 percent of “domestic” auto sales last year.
That's less than a month's worth of sales, on average.
Just for fun, I figured out how many copies of our daily newspaper you could buy for $15 billion: 30 billion.
I didn't need the calculator.


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