…I initially felt both sympathy and empathy toward Reinhart and Rogoff, despite their arguments. If you’ve ever calculated large numbers for a living you’ll know what I mean. They’re living your worst fear, the one that fuels a flop-sweat feeling in the pit of your stomach: Did I get the math right? Did I double-check the figures enough?
It’s like those children’s nightmares where they show up in school and then realize that they’re naked.
But there’s a protocol for this sort of nakedness. You acknowledge your error immediately, and then work on correcting you error’s impact on your corporation, your organization or your community (which, in Reinhart and Rogoff’s case, is pretty much the entire planet).
Bu, as Krugman points out, they responded instead with disingenuous arguments that reflect very poorly on themselves. Meanwhile, the story has exploded around the world’s economic circles: “How an Excel error fueled panic over the Federal debt,” wrote Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times.
Reinhart and Rogoff should do what others in their position usually do: Own up and make things right. Think of it as a debt — one they owe their profession, their country, and their world. It’s what they should have done immediately.
They can still do it. The White House can do it too. It’s not too late — yet.