Raising questions about public money

From: Thomas Heller


You learn the most interesting things on Facebook.

Just last week, in a meme I learned that the really, really rich don’t ‘earn’ their money. The proof? Working seven days a week and paid $5,000 a day (yep, five grand a day) they still wouldn’t have earned $1 billion even if they’d worked every day since Columbus set foot in the New World!

“What’s the point of all that work if they couldn’t afford to buy an NFL team?”, I thought to myself.

So I reset the bar. If I wanted to amass, say, only $40 million, how long would I have to work if I earned $5,000 a day (or $625 an hour)? Only 22 years. Call it 25 years if I wanted to take Sundays off to watch football. That could fit into a lifetime.

But what if harvesting $40 million might require working only a handful of hours a year instead? Would it be possible to earn that small fortune with so little time on the job?

Yes it would.

I wouldn’t need to pretend to be a Nigerian prince seeking the help of an American pen pal to repatriate my family’s frozen bank account. Gullible people are hard to find these days.

I wouldn’t have to learn how to hack computers to steal a mountain of personal information to sell on the dark web — or even to ransom a hospital.

No, all I would need to do is smudge numbers in a couple of reports for a client. A few hours’ work over just a few years would be enough. And if the client needed a $1,000 a day ($125 an hour) bump in pay, three minutes at the computer terminal could do the trick.

If I told you this was really possible, would you believe me? And if I told you this really happened here, would you believe me? If I told you it happened in a government office building and it involved tax money, would you believe me?

Well, it did — and those numbers are still at work. They have a long reach despite being smudged years ago. Because they continue to work, they will pay out $40 million dollars of “dividends” to those clients by the time they fade away.

All for just a few hours’ work.