Is Bush Still an Enron Fan?


Is Bush Still an Enron Fan?

Robert Scheer:
If you follow George 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 is 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 Enron's crash.

Bush's Army secretary, Thomas White Jr., is another former top Enron executive who also managed to sell his $50-million to $100-million stake in the company well before shares dropped from $90 to 29 cents. Karl Rove, top White House political advisor, 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 advisor, 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 like Enron?

"Stupidity" is used charitably, when 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 advisors 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.



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