Brian Williams and New York Times Editorial board member Mara Gay promoted the claim on MSNBC that Mike Bloomberg could have given each American $1 million instead of spending $500 million on ads. While the math seems to check out at first blush, we have to be discerning consumers of news, and so we called up our third-grade math teachers to ask if this was accurate. After they said things like, "Hey, aren't you the kid who would only write book reports on Star Wars novels?" and "How did you get this number, I retired 20 years ago?" we got down to brass tacks, and here's the answer they unanimously agreed on:
Fact Check: Could Bloomberg have given every American $1 million?
He could have given each American $1 million, and then stolen it back and handed it to the next American, and so on until everyone had received $1 million.
This is just basic math. As long as Bloomberg had at least $1 million, he could have given any American $1 million. Then he could just take it back. Like he could hand them a briefcase and then say, "Hey, look over there!" and while they were distracted he could pull it back and run away. Then he could hide behind a small shrubbery or park bench, which would be easy for him to do because of his height.
So while it's easy to start mocking reporters for not knowing very basic division and very common common sense, once you look at the numbers and squint your eyes a bit, the math really checks out.
One alternative solution is that Bloomberg could have murdered everyone in the country except 500 people, and that would definitely work as well.