I hate it when that happens

Going over the books at WorldCom, they just found another $3.3 billion that had been incorrectly accounted for, bringing the grand total of “mistakes,” thus far, to over $7 billion.

I just hate it when that happens, don’t you?

I keep pretty good track of checks I write and my debit card usage, making sure to subtract appropriately. But occasionally I fall behind, or make some simple arithmetic error, and all of a sudden, I’m spending money I don’t have, which gets very embarrassing.

So I can relate to the problems that auditors and accountants had at companies like Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossings and so many other companies.

Who doesn’t have cash flow problems? Back when I was a state employee, I got paid once a month. By the last week of the month every month, the money had run out and I was running on fumes. I would juggle money from savings to checking and then back again, send in bills hoping that they wouldn’t get cashed until after my paycheck hit the bank, wrote checks at the grocery store counting on a delay of a day or two before they made it all the way to my account.

So I understand and sympathize. My heart goes out to all the executives at the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, getting stuck with the blame for what is really just a typical problem that we all face. I hate it when that happens.

It’s happened to you. Some Friday you need to buy food for a big party on the weekend, or the rent is due, or there’s a giant multinational corporation you have to buy that day, but there won’t be money in your checking account until Monday morning. So you chance it, hoping not to get caught. And usually you get away with it.

But every once in a while you get caught, and stuck with $25 bad check charges from some store, and another $25 charge from the bank. Then more checks start to bounce because you spent all your money, not figuring on those extra hits. I hate it when that happens.

When I bounce a $10 check, I can get hit for up to $50 in NSF charges.

At that rate, the fines for WorldCom would be, let’s see, 7 billion times ... say five, meaning they’d get hit with a $35 billion fine. They must really hate it when that happens!

It’s like the old Senator from Illinois, Everett Dirksen, once said: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money!”

Or say you’re talking to some friends about an old barbeque you don’t need anymore, and one of them offers to buy it from you for all the cash in his wallet, which just happens to be several times what the broken-down rusty thing is worth. But he’s your friend, and what’s a few bucks between friends?

How is that different from the mergers and acquisitions these humongo transnationals engage in? They’re just trying to be friendly, to help out some pals, to keep everybody happy. And then they get accused of breaking the law!

I hate it when that happens.

So give the poor companies a break – they’re just having a little trouble balancing their checkbooks. I hate it when that happens.

Marc Brodine is the chair of the Communist Party of Washington. He can be reached at marcbrodine@attbi.com