What’s $32.2 billion among friends?

Oops:

The Social Security Administration asked its inspector general to investigate how a $32.3 billion mistake skewed its statistics on 2009 wages in the U.S.

Two people were found to have filed multiple W-2 forms that made them into multibillionaires, an agency official said yesterday. Those reports threw statistical wage tables out of whack and, in figures released Oct. 15, made it appear that top U.S. earners had seen their pay quintuple in 2009 to an average of $519 million.

The agency yesterday released corrected tables that showed the average incomes of the top earners, in fact, declined 7.7 percent to $84 million each.

POSTSCRIPT: Daniel Foster notes that an NYT column based entirely on the erroneous figures has yet to be corrected.

UPDATE: The NYT has now corrected:

An earlier version of this column incorrectly described the situation of the small group of Americans earning $50 million or more annually. Their incomes declined by 7.7 percent between 2008 and 2009; they did not quintuple.

Still, no note is made of how the correction pulls the rug out from under the entire column.

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