Dean Baker notes Fred Thompson misestimating by about $62 trillion . Naturally, the Wall Street Journal reporter who had the quote doesn't notice the error. Felix Salmon wonders "Why is it that Saturday Night Live applies more critical judgment to Fred Thompson's statements than the Wall Street Journal does?"
I've come, eventually, after many conversations, to believe the daily newspaper political reporters who swear to me that they're doing the best they can. But if that's right, the whole enterprise clearly needs to be radically rethought. Most people probably don't know how much the infinite horizon cost projection for Medicare Part D is, and they probably know they don't know it. But if they read this in the newspaper, they come to have beliefs on the subject:
"I know this probably isn't a real popular thing to say, but we couldn't afford this prescription-drug bill," Mr. Thompson said last week on a swing through Iowa, home of Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who helped push the program through Congress. "We basically put a $72 trillion commitment on top of an already-broken entitlement system. Not a responsible thing to do."
Now you're walking around thinking a $72 trillion commitment was made. You read it in the newspaper, after all. Except it's wrong! But you shouldn't be un-learning things when you read the paper.