Sam Smith

Most Washington journalists graduated with degrees in the humanities or social sciences. As a result they are easily conned by the numbers that buzz like mosquitoes around the capital or just don’t bother to question them.

For example, some time ago, Washington pols discovered the decade. You take whatever figure you like or don’t like and multiply by ten. If you’re lucky you can turn tens of millions into hundreds of millions or hundreds of millions into trillions. The decade figure is misleading in a number of regards including the fact that the people using it aren’t likely to be around to answer for any error in their calculations and, further, the accuracy of predicting something ten years from now is inevitably far less precise than estimating next year’s budget.

Another major scam might be called the public-private option. Both parties use it. Take healthcare for example. The GOP gives frightening estimates of what public healthcare expenditures will be without ever subtracting the parallel reduction in private healthcare costs. The Democrats, pushing for a mandatory purchase of health insurance for many, simultaneously claim not to be raising taxes. Of course, to the individual involved, whether you write the check to Aetna or the Treasury doesn’t make all that much difference.


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