To The Washington Post: Yes, $6.6 billion is actually a lot of money

Originally published April 14, 2017.

Only in Washington, D.C. could wasting $6.6 billion not be that much money.

That’s according to a Washington Post “Fact Checker” article. The article is pretty long, and it is one of many Fact Check articles that seems to not be actually very good at fact checking but very good at editorializing.

Let’s cut to the chase regarding what the article actually says. The author disagrees with budget director Mick Mulvaney’s assessment that the Social Security disability program is “very wasteful.”

The article then points out that in “fiscal 2011-2015, there were $6.6 billion in overpayments and $1.5 billion in underpayments — but they represented 0.99 percent and 0.22 percent of total disability outlays, respectively.

Here the author chooses to editorialize: “… so it’s a stretch to use these figures to say the program is “very wasteful.”

In other words, overpayments consisted of $6.6 billion, accounting for 0.99% of total disability outlays. I hope I can take the liberty to round up to 1%.

Who says that 1% is chump change? That’s an assessment the author makes. He chose to give Mulvaney “Three Pinocchios” based on his own faulty assessment that overpaying by $6.6 billion isn’t that wasteful.

If you have a 1% defect rate in manufacturing, that’s considered to be terrible. Of course, an acceptable defect rate can vary based on what type of industry you’re in. But a 1% defect rate is almost always bad. Manufacturers often measure the Defects per Unit, or DPU, or they can measure the Defects per Million Opportunities, or DPMO.

Maybe 1% waste isn’t much in government, but it is in private business.

I note in another post that Washington, D.C. doesn’t understand manufacturing very well. This Fact Check article by The Washington Post indicates that.

Let me put this in a context that maybe a Washington Post writer may understand. Imagine that you misspelled 1% of the words in your newspaper. Or imagine you misspelled 1% of the words in one 600-word article. That would be 6 misspellings in an article.

There was a time in which newspapers reported on government programs and pointed out if they weren’t efficient. Evidently today newspapers like The Washington Post prefer to be apologists for government programs.

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