My wife tells me that the ridiculous story that Ronald Reagan buried 20 trillion dollars in the White House Rose Garden actually made it to the Google news listing last night. I found a copy of it here.
As soon as I heard it, I started laughing. WhenÂ I heard it was buried in mason jars, I laughed louder.
This is not my typical blog post, but I couldn’t resist talking about this. Humor, politics, and math combined. Irresistible.
Zero Is a Really Big Number
I love math. One of the things I love about math is how big a number zero is.
Just three zeros turns 1 into 1,000. Three more zeros are worth 999,000, as they turn 1,000 into 1,000,000.
The next threeÂ zeros are worth 999 million as they turn a million into a billion.
What’s the point?
The White House Has a Really Big Rose Garden
The article says that the money was buried in “low denomination bills.”
Let’s assume these “low denomination bills” are 100’s. If you divide 20 trillion by 100, you only get to take two zeros off. You still have 200 billion.
Do you know how much room 200 billion $100 bills takes up?
Well, assuming that it takes 250 bills to make an inch (which is close to true of 20# typing paper, and I think that money’s thicker), then you have a stack of bills 800 million inches high. Divide that by 5,280 and you get a stack of money 151,515 miles high. That’s 60% of the way to the moon.
You’re going to bury that in the White House rose garden?
We did some more math and determined that Ronald Reagan had to dig a cavern 5 miles long, 1 mile wide, and 100 feet deep. And that’s assuming there’s no mason jars or oven mitts taking up room with them.
That’s a big rose garden.
Where Did Reagan Get the Money?
I was 26 years old in 1987 when Reagan did this. I remember hearing about the deficit and the national debt. To this day, the national debt is still less that 20 trillion dollars. In 1987, the federal budget was less than a billion dollars.
So I looked up the gross domestic product for 1987. It was difficult to find, but I did find that the gross domestic product for “all industries” totaled 4.8 trillion dollars or so.
So Ronald Reagan buried something over 4 times what the entire United States spent in 1987?
Ronald Reagan’s Buried Money Was a Joke
I don’t know who started the joke, but if you read the article, it’s obviously tongue-in-cheek.
Computers are computers, even if they’re run by Google. I’m sure one of those quick spiders, which can read keywords but can’t see tongues or cheeks, picked it up.
You can’t find it on Google News today, even with a search, so some insightful (mildly) human has removed it.
It’s not April 1, so I don’t know why the story was written. It was funny, though. I loved the comment attributed to Barack Obama:
“‘Our economic worries are no more,’ announced a jubilant Barack Obama.”