Enron Is Symbolic of Bush Blunders
By Robert Scheer | Los Angeles Times.
December 27, 2001 IF YOU FOLLOW George W. Bush's thinking on how to fix our
broken economy, you would throw a few hundred million in tax breaks to his
buddies who bankrupted Enron. Not simply because they bankrolled his
ascension to the Texas governorship and the White House but, more important,
because they are modern alchemists who make money out of nothing.
Nothing is what Enron is to its once-loyal employees, who lost those
private savings accounts that Bush is always touting; some of them will now
have to live on Social Security, which the president seems hellbent on
bankrupting. Nothing is what Enron is to its many small stockholders,
including California's public workers, whose state pension fund was heavily
invested in the now-bankrupt company. Nothing is what Enron is to consumers
in California and half a dozen other states forced to seek expensive
long-term electricity contracts because of Enron's shenanigans in the energy
market. Nothing is what Enron is to the people of India and other countries,
still eating the ashes of spectacular Enron promises.
But Enron's millions found their way into the bank account of company
chairman Kenneth L. Lay - close family friend and financier of the political
careers of Bushes, junior and senior. Equally fortunate was Jeffrey K.
Skilling, the former CEO who masterminded Enron's meteoric rise and who
resigned in August, cashing out tens of millions before the company's crash.
Bush's secretary of the Army, Thomas White Jr., is another former top Enron
executive who also managed to sell his $50-million to $100-million stake
well before shares dropped from $90 to 29 cents. Karl Rove, top White House
political adviser, had a smaller $250,000 stake that, as far as I can
determine, reporters have not asked him about. Neither have they asked
Bush's economic adviser, Lawrence B. Lindsey, or Trade Representative Robert
B. Zoellick, both of whom went directly from Enron to the White House, if
they are now in the ranks of the suddenly poor.
The most important question for America's economic future should be directed
to the president himself: Does he still believe in the miracle of Enron?
Why, after Enron's collapse, does Bush still insist on a stimulus package
that rewards high-flying executives while resisting extending unemployment
insurance and medical coverage to workers thrown out of their jobs because
of the mismanagement and other acts of economic stupidity by companies such
as Enron?"Stupidity" is used charitably. Motives that appear more mendacious
will be explored, we hope, by congressional committees planning to get to
the bottom of the smelly Enron mess during February hearings. Can it be a
mere intelligence deficit that led Enron's ex-CEO to claim to The New York
Times that he didn't know how the company came to overvalue its assets to
the tune of $600 million, that he didn't know of the highly suspect
investment partnerships conducted by his chief financial officer - his most
trusted aide - and that he is without a clue as to the reasons behind
Enron's collapse? "We're all trying to figure out what happened," Skilling
said. That eerily dumb, if not totally disingenuous, statement haunts at a
time when we're trying to figure out what happened to a U.S. economy that
has fallen into recession on Bush's watch. Enron was Bush's model for
economic progress, and Enron's Lay was the one individual consulted most
closely in private meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney and other top
administration officials during development of their environment-busting
plan to"solve" our energy problems. Bush's Enron advisers were the chief
zealots in his kitchen cabinet pushing for unregulated markets combined with
tax breaks for rich companies. Enron won handsomely on both counts. The idea
that what's good for the super-rich is good for the economy remains Bush's
economic mantra. It's a bankrupt philosophy, as witness the Enron debacle.
For an even more ominous example, look no further than the current total
collapse of the dramatically deregulated economy of Argentina. Food riots in
a once prosperous society are not a pretty sight. (In accordance with Title
17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those
who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information
for research and educational purposes.)
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