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Jewish World Review Jan. 16, 2001 / 3 Shevat, 5762

Michael Kelly

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Consumer Reports

A Comedy of Assets


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- "I am incredibly nervous that we will implode in a wave of accounting scandals."

-- Enron employee Sherron S. Watkins to Kenneth L. Lay, chairman of the now-bankrupt energy company that inflated its profits by nearly $600 million under the approving eye of the industry-leading accounting firm of Arthur Andersen.

Scene: The executive conference room of Megaglom-Inflato Inc.

Cast: The chairman of Megaglom-Inflato and a senior partner of the accounting firm Alfred Arthursen.

Megaglom Chairman (seated at conference table, head in hands, weeping): "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips!"

Alfred Arthursen Senior Partner: "Nonsense, nonsense, now, now, come, come, chin up, stiff lip, all is not lost, no fear."

Megaglom Chair (rending clothes, tearing hair, covering self in ashes): "Doom, doom, perdition and doom. Bankruptcy. Fraud. Court TV trial. Texas jail time. Doom."

Arthursen Senior Partner (dancing gaily around table, strewing flowers, singing):

"Gray skies are gonna clear up

Put on a happy face.

Brush off the clouds and cheer up.

Put on a happy face."

Megaglom Chair (curled up on floor, fetal position, moaning): . . .

Arthursen Senior Partner (opening briefcase, arranging Megaglom ledgers, green eyeshade, eraser): "Pull yourself together, man. It's audit time! First thing, let's assess liabilities."

Megaglom Chair (whispering): "Seven hundred and ninety-seven million dollars and fourteen cents."

Arthursen Senior Partner (examining ledgers): "And this appears on the books, as -- ah, here it is -- fourteen cents. Now, that's what I call accounting."

Megaglom Chair (staring into space): "Whoops. Whoops. Whoops."

Arthursen Senior Partner: "Whoops-a-daisy, you mean -- son, this isn't nothing but a little ol' hill of beans -- nothing that a good auditor can't fix. What about assets?"

Megaglom Chair: "Zip, nada, goose egg."

Arthursen Senior Partner: "Which appears on the books as $145,000,000.14. Okey-dokey, let's get there. We'll start with corporate assets of the person. Always more there than you think. Lemme see. Shirt, Turnbull & Asher; three-piece bespoke suit, Saville Row; shoes, Church's; socks, very nice black cotton ones; belt, Mark Cross; watch, Rolex Oyster; wedding ring, Tiffany; underwear, no doubt finest kind. Lemme see, that ads up to $42,357.25."

Megaglom Chair (perking up): "Really?"

Arthursen Senior Partner: "More assets of the person: Age, 55 -- years of productive leadership service remaining -- let's say 15 at an annual compensation, adjusted, gross, net, with bells on, averaging $22 million: total $330 million. Value of spousal consortium -- figure one conjugal occasion per week, 52 weeks per year, four weeks off makes 48, multiplied by 25 years makes 1,200 at an assessed value of $5,000 per occasion equals $6 million, not bad.

"Parental value to children -- two kids, right? -- mentoring, guiding, consoling, hectoring, teaching right from wrong. Let's call it $100 million per precious wee nipper, for $200 million.

"Finally, the body itself: procreative value to corporation, figuring, say, five future Megaglom executive officers at a lifetime worth per officer of, oh, $65 million; value of precious bodily fluids adds up to $325 million. Then there are your ruby lips, sapphire eyes, pearly teeth -- gemstones valued $2 million. So, let's see, I make your corporate assets of the person out at $863,042,357.25."

Megaglom Chair (a startled smile lighting up his face): "Hey!"

Arthursen Senior Partner: "Kid, you ain't seen nothing yet. You ever contribute to any elected officials?"

Megaglom Chair: "Have I ever! Lifetime support of current president, $2.5 million; lifetime support of current members of Congress, average $45,000 a head in the Senate for a total of $4.5 million, $20,000 per each of 435 House members for $8.7 million; state, county and local officials adds up to about $5 million, give or take a hundred thou."

Arthursen Senior Partner: "Okay, that's $20.7 mil, call it $21, and figuring in a conservative multiplier effect of about six -- for as ye sow so shall ye reap -- we get $120 million more in assets. Grand total of assets of Megaglom-Inflato: $983,042,357.25. Against liabilities of $797,000,000.14, we arrive at a net market value of $186,042,357.11."

Megaglom Chair: "Wow!"

Arthursen Senior Partner: "Minus our usual consulting fee, which this time comes out to $41.1 million, that leaves you with assets of -- well, what do you know -- $144.9 million, round it up to $145,000,000.14 for accounting purposes."

Megaglom Chair (stands up, a new man, puts his arm around Arthursen Senior Partner): "Gosh, I love an audit."

Both (arm in arm, leaving, singing):

"Pick out a pleasant outlook.

Stick out that noble chin.

Wipe off that full-of-doubt look.

Slap on a happy grin!"

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