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Reader Opinion: Playing loose with the numbers

While I totally agree with Representative Heintzeman that it is time to eliminate fraud and waste (it's always that time), he seems to think that all big numbers are pretty much the same.

First, a TV news story suggested that there might be $100 million in fraud directly linked to the Child Care Assistance Program and went so far as to suggest that a significant portion of this fraud on the Minnesota taxpayer was then funding some terrorist group. Well, $100 million is a big number.

The report from the OLA investigation states that they believe the fraud might exceed $5-$6 million. Make no mistake, that's still a big number but nowhere near $100 million.

Somehow, Rep. Heintzeman then throws out a potential $1 billion price tag on this case without citing any justification for this hyper-inflated figure.

Just a reminder of how numbers work. The number from the investigation ($5-$6 million) is 5 percent to 6 percent of $100 million and just 0.5 percent to 0.6 percent of a billion. Those numbers aren't really interchangeable without a credible explanation and, without that explanation, much of the rest of the argument loses its credibility as well.

One more note, the OLA investigation did not find any direct link between the discovered fraud and any terrorist group.

Thoughtful reform, such as that required for waste and fraud control, only works when we avoid the hysterics of exaggerated and unfounded cries of the imaginary crises to be addressed. Let's define the problem as it truly exist, using facts and figures that both sides can see and agree on. That way, we can spend our energy and resources finding real answers instead of battling challenges that simply don't exist on the scale declared on an editorial page.

Richard German

Pequot Lakes