When Thomas Herndon, a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst's doctoral program in economics, spotted possible errors made by two eminent Harvard economists in an influential research paper, he called his girlfriend over for a second look.
As they pored over the spreadsheets Herndon had requested from Harvard's Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, which formed the basis for a widely quoted 2010 study, they spotted what they believed were glaring errors.
Their study, which found economic growth slows dramatically when a government's debt exceeds 90 percent of a country's annual economic output, has been cited by policymakers around the world as justification for slashing spending.
Former U.S. vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, is one influential politician who has cited the report to justify a budget slashing agenda.
Using the two professors' data, Herndon found that instead of a dramatic fall in growth, the decline was much milder, slowing to about 2.2 percent, instead of the slump to minus 0.1 percent that Reinhart and Rogoff predicted.
(Edward Krudy, Reuters online, earlier today)