In the wake of the news that Elon Musk had purchased Twitter for $44 billion, a number of social media users suggested that the Tesla CEO’s money could have been better spent elsewhere. He could have, they suggested, solved world hunger or ended poverty. One viral tweet claimed that Musk could have given every single person in the United States $1 million (and still have $7 billion leftover) for roughly the purchase price of Twitter:
The math here doesn’t quite add up. Using the population figure in the tweet, if Musk really decided to dole out $40 billion to everybody in the United States equally, every individual would get about $121.21.
How Many Millions Are in a Billion?
The number 1 billion is written as a 1 followed by nine zeroes, or 1,000,000,000. Another way to describe a billion is a “thousand millions.” Forty billion, then, is 40 thousand millions. If Musk were to hand out the $40 billion in $1 million increments, only 40 thousand people would receive a payment.
Not the First ‘Bad Math’ Take
This isn’t the first time that bad math has been employed to criticize people with vast amounts of wealth. In fact, the above-displayed tweet was followed up with a message about a similar incident in March 2020 when MSNBC anchor Brian Williams, while reading a viral tweet, said that former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg could have given every American $1 million instead of spending $500 million on ads.
Politifact did the math on that one and found that if Bloomberg’s $500 million for ad purchases were divvied out equally, every American would get about $1.53.
“If that sounds too good to be true,” Politifact reported, “it’s because it is. A quick use of a calculator shows that $500 million divided by 327 million people is actually about $1.53 per person.”
How Much Money Does Elon Musk Have?
As of this writing, Musk is considered the richest person in the world, with a fortune of about $270 billion. While that’s not enough money to give every person in the United States $1 million, it is a fortune of near unfathomable size.
In 2021, when Musk’s fortune was approximately $195 billion, YouTuber Humphrey Yang visualized Musk’s wealth with grains of rice.
“Bad Math at MSNBC: Bloomberg’s Ad Spending Wasn’t Enough to Give Every American $1 Million.” Politifact, https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/mar/06/msnbc/bad-math-msnbc-bloombergs-ad-spending-wasnt-enough/. Accessed 26 Apr. 2022.
“Elon Musk Is Worth $270 Billion. He’d Buy Twitter with an IOU.” Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/04/22/musk-twitter-financing-tesla/. Accessed 26 Apr. 2022.
How Big Is a Billion? https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/education/explorations/tours/geotime/guide/billion.html. Accessed 26 Apr. 2022.
Manfredi, Lucas. “Twitter Accepts Musk’s $44 Billion Deal.” FOXBusiness, 25 Apr. 2022, https://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/elon-musk-buys-twitter.