If I Had 92 Quadrillion Dollars…

A Delaware County man thought he'd received that sum. What could you do with the biggest windfall of all?

Did you hear about the local man who briefly became the world’s first quadrillionaire?

Thanks to what Monopoly used to call a “bank error in your favor,” 56-year-old PR man and eBay hobbyist Chris Reynolds of Media received a PayPal statement earlier this month listing his balance at more than $92 quadrillion ($92,233,720,368,547,800, to be exact.)

Reynolds’ story, which was picked up by news outlets nationwide,  was broken in the Daily News last week by Stephanie Farr, the young reporter with an incredible knack for finding these wonderful little stories, usually in the most unlikely of places, by which I mean Delaware County.

Reynolds didn’t get to keep the money, of course — PayPal corrected the mistake almost immediately and brought his balance back to zero — and even if they hadn’t, the eBay-owned PayPal isn’t exactly in position to cover that kind of sum. In fact, nobody is —because there isn’t that much money in the world.

How much is $92 quadrillion?

–  A quadrillion, as my colleague Gail Shister pointed out in a column about the debt ceiling two years ago, is a thousand million million. It’s 15 zeroes. And that’s just one quadrillion — multiply that by 92.

– TARP — the program that kicked off the national ragegasm known as the Tea Party — cost taxpayers the then-astronomical sum of $1.6 trillion — an amount the PayPal windfall could have covered 57,500 times. The richest man in the world, Mexican media mogul Carlos Slim, has a net worth of  about $67 billion — which you’d have to multiply by 1,373,134 to reach $92 quadrillion.

– Remember the trillion-dollar coin? Yea, that was nothing. $92 quadrillion could buy 92,000 of those.

– The city of Detroit, which declared bankruptcy this week, reportedly has a municipal debt in the $18-20 billion range. That Paypal sum could cover Detroit’s debts  more than 4.6 million times over.

– Reynolds told the Daily News that if the money had been real, he would’ve paid down the national debt, and then bought the Phillies. Of course, the national debt is “only” about $16 trillion, which is 1/5,750th of $92 quadrillion.

– As of this past March, according to Forbes, the Fightins were valued at $893 million, meaning Reynolds could’ve purchased the Phillies more than 100 million times. Which would make you feel better about Ryan Howard’s $125 million contract.

– But that’s not all — a man with $92 quadrillion could buy and sell every bank in the world, and the treasury of every country. He could buy all the gold, all the silver and all the oil.  And you thought wealth being concentrated in the hands of too few people was a problem in America before.

– I’m trying to imagine Reynolds’ story as a Frank Capra-esque Hollywood movie. A middle-aged everyman (Tom Hanks?) who’s never gotten a break in his life suddenly, through a bank error, obtains a windfall so large that it’s more than all the rest of the money in the world put together. Maybe a sympathetic judge, eager to send a message to those evil banks, lets him keep the money.

– Imagine a montage — he quits his job and buys everything he’s ever wanted, from his dream house to a bunch of cars to his favorite baseball team. His one long-unrequited love suddenly isn’t so unrequited anymore.

He hands a grinning President of the United States a check in order to retire the national debt, plus a little extra to fix every crumbling school, fund unlimited green energy and give every American universal health care, in the process giving new meaning to the term “single payer health care.” He’d even have a enough left over to feed all the hungry, clothe all the naked and house all the homeless.

– Sounds great, right? Maybe not. Maybe his windfall is so disruptive to the macroeconomic order that it triggers massive inflation and plunges the entire global economy into complete chaos. Maybe he has every criminal in the world trying to rob him. Maybe his best friend confronts him: “The money changed you, man!”

Maybe he decides, all the money in the world notwithstanding, that he really loved his old life after all and wants to go back.

– Obviously, that couldn’t really happen — money would have to come from somewhere, and there’s no financial entity that could or would just give a guy $92 quadrillion, or $1 quadrillion, or $92,000, or even $92. We live in the real world, where the only $92 quadrillion windfalls, like so much these days, are fleeting and disappear before you know it.