Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Billion Here, A Billion There...Who's Counting?


It’s never good to make a mistake but owning up to them is important and we need to do that here.

In our case, our original press release and report about inaccuracies in the Laura and John Arnold Foundation report contained a mistake about the size of the estimated national pension shortfall for public employees, according to GASB. The correct amount is $700 billion, not $700 million as we originally stated in our press release and in one place in our original report.

We should note that $700 billion was mentioned correctly in a second place in our original report. And that $700 billion is indeed more than four times less than the $3 trillion estimate provided by the LJAF, which we also stated in our press release. In our view, the $3 trillion figure is the bigger mistake that still needs correction.

Interestingly, the million-billion-trillion fiasco reminds of the statement attributed to the late Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen, who was reported to have said, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” The problem with that, as we’ve learned from the Dirksen Congressional Center, is that Senator Dirksen may not have ever said that in so many words.

Regardless, we still think a million, a billion, and a trillion is real money and shouldn’t be taken lightly by anyone involved in public policy debates. – Max Patterson

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