Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The news can be SO infuriating....

Getting the New York Times and Washington Post e-mail headline feeds can be such a blessing (because it capsulizes the news into digestable format for me) and such a curse (because I find out what's going on in the world, and it makes me crazy sometimes).

This is one of the "makes me crazy" moments.

In a Post article here (you may have to register - for free - to read it), Halliburton gets fined $7.5 million for accounting errors. That, at first, sounds like a good thing - evil-doers getting their due, eh? I'm all for that - suffering the consequences of one's actions. (I get to do that all the time, unfortunately. )

What blows my mind is later on in the article, where it says that these accounting practices went on from 1998-99, and that in 1998 alone, they erroneously reported $87.9 million, which is 46% of their total earnings. That means that they reported $191 million in income, nearly half of which was fraudulent, and got fined $7.5 million, or only 4% of total earnings, (9%, or not even a tithe, of their illegal earnings).

Now I wouldn't mind if they'd apply that same math to my $75 parking ticket (just for being in the way of the street sweepers)...but no one seems to be looking to help the little guys like me. Maybe a better way would be to base these fines on assets, instead (making it more on the ability to pay, so to speak). Say that my cash on hand at the time was $400, and let's fine me 4% of that, or $16. Then let's fine Halliburton 4% of their cash and equivalents on hand ($1.1 billion, as of 2002), or $44 million, instead. (And then put that money into gasoline vouchers for low-income folks.)

That sounds like a much better answer.

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