Okay, so I have to gripe about this before I forget.
A week or two ago, I was doing some investment research on Apple (which defied my 2011 expectations and doubled its market cap with little more than a hop, skip and a jump. Damn you, Apple, and good work!). In the process, I stumbled across an article commenting on a WSJ article commenting on the ethics of Apple’s tax strategy. Basically, Apple shuffled its taxes through a series of loopholes, crevices, secret passages, and one flaming hoop, and the result of all these baroque maneuvers is that it is paying $2.4 billion dollars less in federal taxes. I think the topic of tax loopholes is a very interesting one, but I found the article commenting on it even more interesting:
According to the New York Times, Apple’s accounting methods and business structure — including subsidiaries in countries around the world — has helped it cut its U.S. tax bill by $2.4 billion.
The federal government currently spends approximately $6.9 million per second.
That extra $2.4 billion would fund the U.S. government for 348 seconds — or less than six minutes.
For six minutes of spending, the New York Times tries to portray Apple as a greedy, selfish company that doesn’t care about education or the deficit…
Now, something about this just leaped out at me — that’s right, it leaped. Out. No, it’s not the dramatic sentence structure or the claim that Apple is a greedy, selfish company (really? shock). It was the math. $6.9 million dollars per second? Wait a second, that means…
After I’d done the math, I tried to register an account at NewsBusters.org so that I could comment on the article, challenging its factual accuracy (or, more precisely, pointing out its almost astronomical inaccuracy).
I would have been nice about it. I wouldn’t even have said anything like, wow, I had no idea the federal government’s budget was more than three times the entire world’s annual GDP! I would certainly have been cutting, but not rude. I have yet to hear back from newsbusters about my account; the fact they haven’t responded almost certainly explains why *all* their commentary boils down to amen and hallelujah from the choir section.
At this point, I was annoyed but rather sympathetic for the author, a Mr. Matthew Sheffield. Had I made the simple mistake of tacking two zeroes in where they didn’t belong, I would infinitely prefer some considerate reader inform me, without fuss or fanfare, that I had made an error. So I penned this message:
Good afternoon —
I just skimmed your article about apple and something about the numbers struck me askew, so I crunched them myself. I believe you are incorrect by a factor of 100 in your estimate of the impact of Apple’s tax differential on the American federal government’s effective “run time.”
Seconds per year: 60 * 60 * 24 * 365 = 31,536,000
Approximate Federal Budget: $2,400,000,000,000
Approximate expenditure per second: $76,103.50 (don’t forget the fifty cents)
$76K is plenty per second for emphasis value. Thought you might want to update your text for credibility’s sake.
I intentionally designed the wording in such a way that a spam filter would be unlikely to catch it. I have not heard anything back from Mr. Sheffield.
So, let me hasten to point out the fact: newsbusters.com is a site dedicated to exposing the “liberal bias” of the popular media. It exists behind a selective registration wall that allows no commentary from the general public. A factual correction of the most amiable nature has been ignored (I can hardly have been the only one to note it; the article showed up in Google finance, and if you search for “liberal”, “apple,” and “tax” the article will be in the top few results). No serious publication aiming to correct bias can seriously allow a numerical discrepancy of a factor of 100 to stand for almost two weeks, unchallenged… can they?