As often happens on the Internet, a comment that was made somewhat in jest has gone viral and is being offered as a serious solution to a major problem.
The author of the comment was billionaire Warren Buffett who half-kiddingly told Becky Quick of CNBC that he had a simple way to end federal budget deficits.
"I could end the deficit in five minutes. You just pass a law that says that any time there's a deficit of more than 3 percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election. Now you've got the incentives in the right place."
Buffett was critical of Congress' squabbling over raising the debt limit, saying legislators had threatened "to blow our brains out" by ruining the country's creditworthiness.
"A more effective threat," Buffett concluded, with a laugh, "is to simply say 'If you guys can't get it done, we'll get some other guys to get it done.' "
The video of the quote can be seen at www.cnbc.com/id/45078444.
Well, that comment is making the rounds of emails as a chain letter supporting a constitutional amendment to deny legislators re-election if the deficit passes that 3 percent threshold.
Frankly, we're not certain it isn't a good idea. The only problem is the chain letter says "Warren Buffet (sic) is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise."
Except Buffett has nothing to do with the chain letter - other than offering the "fix the deficit in five minutes" quote.
So, be aware when the chain letter hits your computer, the letter and the constitutional amendment are not Buffett's ideas. This may be a fine way to get Congress' attention - but it is some anonymous computer user's plan, not Warren Buffett's.
(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.