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America's Obsession With Cowboys Is Going To Ruin Us All

By Emily Cutler | Last Week Tonight | March 9, 2020 |

By Emily Cutler | Last Week Tonight | March 9, 2020 |


As I might have mentioned round these parts before, I’m an accountant in the real world (or as Dustin might have phrased it when he found out about my day job “you’re a f*cking accountant?!”). Being an accountant, one of the things I hear most often (other than total disbelief that I have a job that isn’t related to the training and exploitation of thief monkeys) is “you must be great at math.” And guys? I’m super, super not. Accountants don’t really work with numbers so much as we categorize them. This amount represents income for the day, this amount is our payroll, this amount has been earmarked for the training and maintenance of an army of thief monkeys. I almost never do any math that’s more complicated than basic algebra, and even then, the calculations are mostly performed by whatever software program I’m using. (True fact: in a lot of cases, if a cost needs to be broken out over a year, accountants will divide the total by 360 days, not 365 days, because it’s easier and, you know, close enough.)

What accountants actually do with most of their day is completely piss off their coworkers. We need to categorize and track all of the money that comes into and out of a business. So when you want to spend any amount of money, my job is to ask what it’s for, if you need it, whose budget it’s coming out of, send me the purchase order, now send me the proof of delivery, now send me the invoice, you didn’t tell me that you bought this laptop from your nephew’s electronic store, did you get quotes from three different sources, send them to me, you paid too much for this laptop, send it back and buy it from one of the other places you got a quote, also because you bought this from your nephew your purchasing rights have been revoked, you have to talk to your supervisor and probably attend a workshop where we teach you how to properly follow the purchasing guidelines and you need to have your instructor sign off that you passed the course before we’ll let you buy stuff again. Oh, and I’ll need you to send me a copy of the proof that you passed the course. For my records.

Basically I get paid to make sure that everyone follows the rules, that I can prove that everyone has followed the rules, and to suck the fun out of any room I’m in. Which is why John Oliver’s piece from last night made me lose my godd*mn mind.

I get that people who willingly and eagerly choose to go into a profession where they’re grown-up tattlers would not endear me to the renegade cowboy mentality, but everyone else can see how stupid this is, yes? You just have one guy in charge, he doesn’t really need to answer to anyone other than the (sometimes few hundred) constituents electing him, and put him in charge of a group of people that society traditionally doesn’t care anything about. Everyone sees how that could lead to some insanely terrible situations? Like how then, the sheriff of a county could feed inmates too-small quantities of low-quality food, but the hell does he care when he’s got a new house? Especially because he’s not the one who has to work with the inmates on a day-to-day basis, and therefore doesn’t have to deal with the impact of having up to hundreds of hungry angry criminals? We can see that this is bad, yes?

But, in addition to not actually caring that much about people housed in jails and prisons, Americans have a serious obsession with the Cowboy. When the local authorities are too cowardly or inept to take care of the local gang, the Cowboy rolls in to stand up for truth, justice, and the American Way, but the real American Way. Like the one in the comic books from when I was a kid, back before that Witcher dude started ruining it by saying that Superman is for everyone. Superman saves Americans, godd*mnit! And Cowboys are basically mini-Supermans who understand that what we need isn’t a bunch of bureaucrats making sure that sheriffs are “treating inmates with basic common decency and not violating their civil rights” or “not flat out breaking the law.” We need bureaucrats to get the hell out of the way so that the local lawman can set things right the way that he sees fit and in the way that will allow him to buy a boat with his bonus for keeping medical care costs down!

The point is, I’m biased, but oversight is always your friend. If you really can’t tell if a situation needs more regulation than it currently has, ask yourself if Steven Segal is there. And then ask an accountant how to fix that.

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