A working paper by PhD candidate Thomas Herndon and Professors Michael Ash and Robert Pollin (all economics) has garnered international attention in economic circles and far beyond, going viral on social media and featured on the Colbert Report. Heralded as a “bombshell report,” it revealed serious errors in a major study by eminent Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff that was used as the framework for austerity policies across the U.S. and internationally.
The day after the working paper was released, "Excel" was trending on Twitter and headlines like, "How an Excel error fueled panic over the federal debt" and "The Excel Error Heard Round the World" grabbed the attention of economists, bloggers, and national and international media outlets, including a story in The New Yorker. It didn't take long for Stephen Colbert to pick up on the buzz, and on Tuesday, April 23, Herndon was in New York chatting it up on the Colbert Report—following a seven and a half minute monologue by the comedian. Ash and Pollin op-eds have appeared across the country, including an April 29 piece The New York Times.
Eventually, media coverage shifted from the report itself to reviews of the entire Department of Economics. The Washington Post noted that UMass Amherst "has, over the past 40 years, developed a reputation as perhaps the single most important heterodox economics department in the country." Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research, wrote, "It is not an accident that this work] came from the University of Massachusetts...The fact that departments like UMass exist is incredibly important." And he had a lot more to say about the department thinking outside the box!