Michelle Lee, a fact checker with the Washington Post, just posted a long and, to my mind, highly political column. Her column, read carefully, undermines Presidential candidate Ben Carson’s absolutely correct claim, made in announcing his candidacy, that the true measure of U.S. fiscal debt is not the $13 trillion our government reports as its debt. Instead, our true debt is over $200 trillion. Obviously, most of this true debt has been kept off the books by our politicians.

In this column, I’m going to defend Dr. Carson’s statement. But I want to point out that I don’t know Dr. Carson. I have never spoken with him. And I don’t yet know enough about Dr. Carson’s positions to have a view about his overall suitability for President. I am, however, impressed that out of the gate he is talking about the right measure of our nation’s fiscal condition.

I spoke at length to Michelle Lee prior to her writing her column. She told me she was a fact checker. But when fact checking turns into disguised political commentary, there’s a problem. Fact checkers are supposed to check the facts with experts. When it comes to economics, the experts are PhD economists, not political organizations or people, without real economics training, parading as economists, both of which she quotes in undermining Dr. Carson’s credibility.

Now let me turn to the substance. In referring to $211 trillion in unfunded mandates, Dr. Carson was referencing my calculation of the U.S. fiscal gap. As I explained in a NY Times op ed, the U.S. fiscal gap is $210 trillion. So Dr. Carson was off by $1 trillion – by less than one half of one percent.

The fiscal gap is the present value of all projected future expenditures less the present value of all projected future taxes. The fiscal gap is calculated over the infinite horizon. But since future expenditures and taxes far off in the future are being discounted, their contribution to the fiscal gap is smaller the farther out one goes. The $210 trillion figure is based on the Congressional Budget Office’s July 2014 Alternative Fiscal Scenario projections, which I extended beyond their 75-year horizon.

Dr. Carson referenced $211 trillion as the size of “unfunded mandates.” Michelle Lee correctly points out that Dr. Carson was referencing the U.S. fiscal gap, not the present value of mandatory spending. What she knew (because I told her), but failed to say, is that the present value of mandatory spending is far larger than $210 trillion because the fiscal gap is a net, not a gross number.

Michelle Lee is not a PhD economist. Nor is Bruce Barlett, whose truly absurd statement about the debt being an asset she quotes. Yes, it’s an asset, but it’s an asset that young and future generations must pay off. Social Security benefits are also an asset to their recipients, but again, they must be paid off by people who aren’t getting the benefits.

Michelle Lee apparently takes Bruce Bartell’s views more seriously than the views of 17 Nobel Laureates in economics and over 1200 PhD economists from MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Berkeley, Yale, Columbia, Penn, and lesser known universities and colleges around the country. Each of these economists has endorsed The Inform Act, a bi-partisan bill that requires the CBO, GAO, and OMB to do infinite horizon fiscal gap accounting on a routine and ongoing basis.