You’ve heard by now about the billions of useless $100 bills made by the Fort Worth money making machine.
The Fort Worth Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces U.S. government security documents, including $100 bills. The bills start as blank paper and theoretically, after a complicated top-secret process, are ready to pump into the economy.
In April, the announcement came that the new ultra-secure $100 bills would come out this February. Since all the movies are going 3D, the $100 bills are too. After years and years of research, each $100 bill is to feature a 3-D security strip and a color-shifting image of a bell, both which are extremely hard to counterfeit unless you’re willing to make a substantial investment more than several $100 bills.
But something went wrong. To be fair, the Federal Reserve Board announced there would be a delay in the new bill on October 1. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing “ identified a problem with sporadic creasing of the paper during printing of the new $100 note, which was not apparent during extensive pre-production testing.” In other words, the procedure is so difficult, the government screwed up the print job.
But the fact that $110 billion of the bills, or 10 percent of the existing money supply, did not come out till last week. Within $110 billion evidently are more than $36 billion flawed bills. That means there are 6,875,000 packs of 16,000 $100 bills. What a sorting job for some poor money handler.
The solution depends on whether it’s cheaper to invent a mechanical process to sort the good Benjamins from the bad Benjamins, or to incinerate or recycle the bills and start up the printing process again. Reportedly more than $120 million already has been spent to print the defective pile of money.
The Federal Reserve did say it would not have sufficient inventories of the $100 bill. But we didn’t know that a huge inventory of what may be useless $100 bills had been manufactured over the last few months.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with Colonel John Stapp in the 1980s. Stapp, briefly the fastest man in history, endured 46 gs of gravitational forces in U.S. Air Force testing. Stapp also gave us the modern shoulder and lap belt that is standard in most vehicles from his design on the rocket sled.
And Stapp is also the guy who coined Murphy’s Law after enduing a grueling ride on a rocket-powered sled at Edwards Air Force Base.
The speed gage was wired incorrectly. That meant the rocket sled ride was for naught. Stapp made a remark to the press that included a reference to Captain Ed Murphy. And that saying was boiled down to “If anything can go wrong, it will.”
And the corollary to this is Stapp’s Ironic Paradox: The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle.
I think Stapp was wrong. Here’s a new law. It’s called Alan Nelson’s Theorem: Rules are Rules And They’re All Screwed Up: Things go wrong. Things almost always go wrong. You must go through a tremendous number of bungles to blunder into something right.
As a bonus, I also apply Alan Nelson’s Rule: Rules are rules and they’re all screwed up.