Like little stars.
I’m tracking a new phenomenon called “scandal fatigue.” It sets in when the corporate crime rate gets too high and the numbers being bandied about become too boggling to get your mind around.
For instance, I was plenty angry when WorldCom announced that it had misstated its earnings by $3.7 billion. I couldn’t really get a handle on what a figure like that meant, but I knew it was a pantload. Then they looked through the books again and realized that, oops, the amount was actually $7 billion. Was I supposed to be twice as ticked off? Or were there just too many zeros to grasp?
The reason our eyes start to glaze over at a certain point is that we lack what T.S. Eliot called “an objective correlative” — a way of relating to something as abstract and conceptual as a 7 followed by nine zeros.
With that in mind, I’ve done a little research in an effort to offer up some perspective on the magnitude of these crimes. My hope is that when you see a number like $100 million — the amount Jeff Skilling pocketed from Enron before abandoning the sinking ship — expressed not in dollars but in terms we can all identify with, your outrage meter will be set to the proper scale.
The total amount of sweetheart insider loans doled out to John Rigas (Adelphia), Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom), Stephen Hilbert (Conseco), Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco) and Ken Lay (Enron) was $3.9 billion.
With $3.9 billion, you could:
Still having a little trouble with the figures? Well, consider this: According to Fortune magazine, the total amount of money raked in by corporate executives selling company stock even while their companies crashed and burned was roughly $66 billion.
With $66 billion, you could:
I imagine your blood is really boiling now. But maybe still not enough to take action. Then try these numbers on for size:
The total loss in market value of WorldCom, Tyco, Qwest, Enron and Global Crossing was $427 billion.
With $427 billion, you could:
Arianna Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist, the co-host of the National Public Radio program "Left, Right, and Center," and the author of 10 books. Her latest is "Fanatics and Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America."More Arianna Huffington.
Like little stars.
World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.
So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).
My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.
High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.
Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.
New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.
Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.
Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.
Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.
Really does taste like pineapple.