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Gates Criticizes Enron-like Accounting in State Budgets

March 7, 2011

Bill Gates took aim at the accounting tricks used in state budgets, saying that even “Enron would blush.”

Speaking last week at the annual TED conference in Long Beach, Calif., the Microsoft chairman slammed state officials for using one-time “gimmicks” such as selling off state property, delaying debt payments, and securitizing the expected revenue from tobacco settlements. He also noted that states find themselves paying more money for pension obligations, early retirement and health care costs while needing to cut back on education spending. “It really is the old versus the young to some degree,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “You’re going to be de-investing in the young.”

“Really when you get down to it, the guys at Enron never would have done this,” he said, according to the Huffington Post. “This is so blatant, so extreme.”

He said that states should be using the same accounting standards for public companies that Microsoft and Google employ. “The amount of IQ and good numeric analysis both inside Google and Microsoft and outside really is quite phenomenal,” he said.

With the mess confronting state budgets nationwide, many state officials are probably going to find they need to start weaning themselves off accounting tricks and face up to reality instead.

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