Stories about homelessness and the spread of tent cities abound. It has always been difficult to get an accurate number on how many people are without shelter, but homelessness groups have estimated that on a given night in one of the worst months of a typical recent year, that figure might near 800,000.

Say it were possible to find rudimentary housing for each of those people at a cost of $50 a night. On an annualized basis, that would come to $14.6 billion. By comparison, in 2007, employees at Wall Street’s five biggest firms — Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley — received a record $39 billion in bonuses. Thus, if just this comparative handful of financial execs had given up a bit more than a third of their bonuses, it would theoretically have been possible to ensure that every man, woman and child in America had a roof over their heads.

News organizations could serve a vital public interest by providing these sorts of comparative statistics on a daily basis.

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