The bottom line is the bottom line

The literal bottom line is how all the numbers, assets, expenses and debits add up…

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

The bottom line of any contract or document is literally the final statement, the conclusion, the summary.

The literal bottom line is how all the numbers, assets, expenses and debits add up.

We may not always like the results that it shows, but any bottom line should be solid, reliable and unquestioned.

There’s something authoritative, almost scriptural, about a trustworthy bottom line.

Any given company or agency might have a specific product or service that it provides, but beyond, and before, and even within that product or service, every company and agency relies on trust for its survival.

As you’ve certainly heard in too many news commentaries, we as a nation are divided, even polarized, as never before.

We believe in, vote for and to a large degree, we are led to believe, care about very different things.

But I am convinced that we all do care about one thing; a solid and reliable bottom line. No matter what our profession, political beliefs or religious values, virtually all of us prefer and value verifiable truth.

And, no matter what political beliefs or religious values we might hold, as every business person knows, nothing matters more than a trusted bottom line.

As every accountant knows, if you can’t trust the bottom line, what can you trust?

Anyone else tired of the endless euphemisms for lies? “Baseless claims”, alternative facts, false statements, unsubstantiated rumors.

Back in the early days of widespread, everyday use of computers (the mid-1970s) a term emerged for all the fantastical claims, fears and fantasies about what computers and all the related technologies would/could/should or shouldn’t do to us.

Besides the Orwellian dystopian visions, there were competing, but just as transfixing and captivating promises about the sheer miracles of security, productivity, prosperity and human happiness these machines and their software held in store for us – all of us. The name for these unfulfilled promises of algorithms, programs and digital explorations was “vaporware”.

Back in those heady days when we thought computers could solve all of our problems (and few of us imagined that they would create problems on the same scale) many of us believed/hoped/feared that computers could compete with, replace or dramatically increase the intensity and power of every human impulse, reach or undreamt of possibility.

What we got, of course, was very different.

The bottom line of our culture, and many other countries and cultures at the same time, is that no one, or at least very few of us, agree on what the bottom line is.

It’s not so much that many of us have lost our faith in science or government, the media or even religion and commerce, as that we have lost our faith in the objectivity of it all.

When was the last time you heard any of those standard truisms that upheld business, government and faith traditions for centuries if not longer?

These were not “aspirational” mottos – these were statements businesses and agencies lived by, statements like “The customer is always right”, “The buck stops here”, “Honesty is the best policy” or “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”.

If it’s been a while since you’ve heard these terms and terms like them, its because our entire atmosphere has changed.

We have become accustomed to an era where winning is “the only thing” and sore losers – even “sore winners” have become commonplace.

People who avoid doing their fair share of work, and who claim more than their share of profits or credit for ideas or inventions have become our cultural heroes.

Hucksters and liars who game the system, skate out of paying taxes, cheat on their spouses or bypass responsibility fill our news feeds and our conversations.

Their names and their exploits fill our news pages.

Even if you work for, or vote for these people, you know, they know and we all know that the scam will not go on forever.

We all know that the days of different sets of books, one for customers, one for investors, one for the IRS and one for marketing and publicity will not stand for long.

Legal “immunity”, “qualified” or not, will never be a solid defense.

We all know that there is somewhere, maybe out of sight, maybe beyond our horizon, maybe even past our paltry imagining, justice in the form of a solid, stable, indisputable, unarguable bottom line.

The truth, as Shakespeare put it, “will out”.

How about, instead of endless gyrations around obvious facts, and ever more convoluted euphemisms for deception, we dug up, restored or even used some euphemisms for truth? Integrity – authenticity, reality. Or just the near obsolete idea of a non-questionable bottom line?

When it comes to the literal bottom line of any business or household budget, the numbers better add up.

An honest appraisal of assets and a straightforward acknowledgment of liabilities is to everyone’s advantage.

Deception, like mold or corrosion of any kind, will rarely, if ever diminish on its own.

The sooner it is uncovered, and rooted out of any business or relationship, the better.

You can call me old fashioned, but I like the idea of a stable, reliable bottom line; a set of facts we can all agree on, a point from which we can plan, negotiate or move on from.

Without that base line reality, we don’t know where we are, where we’ve been or where we are going.

You don’t need to be a CPA or auditor to know that nothing could be worse for any business, and it won’t do your household budget or relationship status any good either.

That humble and much derided bottom line is where we see the final act, the ultimate summation of what has come before.

And that simple sum shows us where we have been, what we have to work with and where we are going.

It better be a solid foundation.

From a national economy to the monthly budget of each one of us, we all need solid numbers.