In the Superman comic books, Clark Kent worked as a reporter for the Daily Planet. As such, Superman’s alter ego was able to get advance notice of breaking news. In a fictional world where villains build dastardly machines and hold cities hostage, the reliance on breaking news makes sense. Still, one has to wonder whether averting petty thefts in alleyways was really the best use of invincibility and x-ray vision. While perhaps a less sexy profession, there’s an argument to be made that Mr. Kent would have had more meaningful power as a CPA.
Crime boss Al Capone was famously imprisoned for charges of tax evasion. The IRS and special agents ultimately did some fancy CPA work to confirm that Capone had more income than he was documenting in his tax forms, and the rest is history. While we like to see comic book heroes engage in slugfests with bad guys, few of history’s crime lords have been exposed and incarcerated as a direct result of fisticuffs. It’s great that childhood readers feel empowered by the idea of standing up to bullies, but violent reprisals may not be the healthiest end goal of disputes that could better be resolved by litigation.
Unseen Powers Among Elites
The Oscars are a popular gathering for the rich and famous, and as a reporter for the Daily Planet, it’s conceivable that Kent could have gotten as close as the red carpet outside. Surrounded by paparazzi, the hero could publicly ask one or two questions while Hollywood’s mega-rich villains stroll past. It’s a visible role that makes “reporter” a natural choice for a comic character. Still, in the case of the real Oscars, accountants arguably have the most power. Since 1935, accountants have held and counted the ballots for the Academy Awards. A CPA in that position could make sure that votes are counted and tallied accurately. The event has been periodically accused of cronyism and racial bias, and a true hero of democracy could make sure that new artists receive appropriate recognition.
The Fairness of Numbers
A kid who reads about Superman’s exploits is left longing for the powers of flight, super strength, and invincibility. The setup doesn’t say much about the skills required for real ethical journalism (without the vigilante intervention). By contrast, crunching numbers does not require super strength or other fictional powers. Far from magical powers imbued by birth on a distant planet, patience, attention to detail, and discipline are the values that lead to successful training and work as a CPA. Anyone with the patience to learn math and double check tax forms and other paper trails is a true hero.
Following a decade fraught with bailouts of car manufacturers and banks, the advent of Super PACs, and politicians’ increased reliance on campaign funding, it’s reasonable to argue that an inquisitive CPA could do more good than a slaphappy jock in a unitard.