Montana Politics

Bullock Budget: Perspective on the Numbers, with Graphic!

I suppose I should be happy that the newspaper of our capital city saw fit to put the Governor’s proposed budget, which affects directly or indirectly nearly everyone in town, on the front page above the fold. But three numbers in bright red, though accurate, troubled me a bit. They appeared exactly like this:

10 Billion Proposed Budget

400 Million Increase

80 Million in Pay Raises

And as far as I know the numbers are correct. But the thing is, its hard to properly comprehend the difference between a billion and a million, even if you theoretically know the difference. So the IR could take this witty suggestion and write the numbers like this”

10,000 Million Proposed Budget

400 Million Increase

80 Million in Pay Raises

But I’ll admit that more than two zeros is a bit unwieldy. So perhaps, rather than a generic photo of Steve Bullock looking very formal and dignified and cold, they could run the above graphic, constructed pixel-by-pixel to visually represent the relative sizes of these figures. Of course this isn’t really a criticism of the IR, as they are doing what every newspaper does. And it doesn’t really indicate bias. But it does have the effect of magnifying the perceived importance of relatively small amounts of money, setting up public opinion fights that don’t matter nearly as much as the bigger issues that really, really do.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • No matter whether it’s 10 billion or 10000 million, 20% of the spending increase is still for pay raises. Isn’t that worth discussing? Should it be 50% or 5%?

      • Both numbers were cited in the IR article, they may have been referring to slightly different things. The raises are .8% of the total budget. That’s what Republicans have decided to attack? Tell me they are choosing their priorities wisely.

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