How do you lose $17.3 billion?

God this is disgusting. Is there any excuse?*

DaLovin’ Dj

*For government mismanagement - not for reading The Post :wink:

Well, see, I left it in my pants pocket. Then I brought those pants to the laundry …


Step 1: Get $17.3 billion…

You just close your eyes while someone walks out with thirty three million, every week for ten years. If you have longer, of course, you can do it in smaller amounts.


“The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness…This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.” ~ Plato ~

Wise guys.

Or, you can tell Tom DeLay, “Well, since that Whitewater thing didn’t turn up any dirt on the Clintons, let’s do it again with three more prosecutors!” Only it wouldn’t take you ten years… :wink:

How do you lose track of $17 billion? Well, one thing, you start by taking in a couple of trillion bucks, or a little less, and then you spend a trillion point eight and some change.

Interestingly, I note that the author of that article seems to have trouble making up his mind if the discrepancy is $17.3 billion or $17.4 billion. To put that in perspective, that’s a difference of $100,000,000.00–or $100,000 dollars a year…

For a thousand years.

Apparently Gaudere’s Law applies to arithmetic as well as to spelling.

dalovindj wrote:

I know! God! That picture of Denise Richards doesn’t even show her giant engagement ring!

Forty years ago Senator Dirksen claimed if you took a billion here and a billion there, it wouldn’t take long to add up to something significant.

Well, see, I hacked into the government’s computers and I messed around with the payroll. When they calculate the wages for an individual, there is inevitably a fraction of a cent rounded off. I had that fraction of a cent transferred electronically into my ceramic piggy bank that I keep hidden under my bed (so it couldn’t be traced). Lo and behold, with the size of the federal government these days, I was a billionaire before I knew what happened.

Now I just have to find a bank that will cash all of these penny fragments.

Counting them was a bitch. ( One billion five hundred seventy three million two hundred sixty eight thousand four hundred twelve and a third, One billion five hundred seventy three million two hundred sixty eight thousand four hundred twelve and thirteen twentysevenths…)


The answer is pretty simple, work for the government.

The government has basically no reason to worry about accounting. If they fall short they will just take more tax money. Regrettably us poor tax payers will not call them when they blow the budget. Some of us try but other tax payers claim that cutting taxes is evil because some social program will be underfunded. So we end up with a system that blows amazing amounts of money with basically no checks on how it is spent. At the same time private companies have real world reasons to be straight with accounting issues. (For those who are going to bring up the Enron debacle, the Enron execs that played with the books aren’t rich anymore or soon won’t be. Very few companies cook the books like Enron did)

What is truely ironic is that the government punishes companies that keep shoddy books yet the governments own books wouldn’t pass the same standard private companies are supposed to keep.

Accountablity in government rarely happens unless a major event, like 9-11, happens.


$17 billion? Why, that’s a whole half of a Pentagon hammer!

17 billion is nothing, on a cosmic scale.

Let’s put this into scale. If they spend $1.7 Trillion, then $17 Billion would be 1% of their total spending. In a corporation, that level of error would be totally unacceptable. Maybe an accountant in the house can give us an idea what level of error IS acceptable, if any error at all is acceptable.

The business unit that I support spends on the order of $200 million per year, to lose $2M and not know where it is spent is unthinkable. They may waste money on that kind of scale, but they damn well know where that money goes.

I wonder if anybody who is responsible for the government’s “accounting” is going to lose their jobs over this.

I’m not an accountant, but I play one on TV.

What you’re talking about is called materiality. Materiality is the amount that would cause a user of the financial statements to make a different decision. If a material amount is misstated it may lead someone reading the accounts to decide to invest, when they would not otherwise have done so.

For limited companies materiality is set on a client-by-client basis by the auditors, based on their professional judgement. It’s usually expressed as a percentage of profits or turnover. The SEC is re-considering traditional quantitative approaches (where the auditor just sets a blanket percentage) for more complex qualitative calculations including a non-numeric component (i.e. perhaps deliberate fraudulent misstatement should be publicised regardless of the size).

Well, that is only .0081% of the budget.

The total US tax collections for 2001 were 2 trillion dollars.


Sorry, my mistake in typing - its .8% of the tax collections.