EMAIL PAGE SIX
COLUMN SIXTY-NINE, MARCH 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
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MOLLY IVANS WRITES ABOUT ENRON
Molly Ivins: the accounting stick-up
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 21:13:31 -0800 (PST)
From: portsideMod <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: ps <email@example.com>
Up! This is Aggressive Accounting!
on Wednesday, January 30, 2002 in the Boulder Daily Camera
-- The seminal historic event always affects the language. Already we can see
that Enron is of this shattering magnitude. A stick-up artist goes into the
you take your car to Ralph's Rip-Off Garage to get a 50-buck problem fixed and,
sure enough, he bills you $600. You say, "What an aggressive accounting
of the Year, and not even February yet.
single most distinguishing feature of the Enron collapse is that no one is yet
sure the company did anything illegal. (Aside from destroying documents,
they might have violated it.
funniest line of argument about Enron so far is, "This is not a political
scandal." Boy, there's a triumph of denial. Of course it's a political
writers solemnly explain that Enron was in the business of buying and selling
everything from natural gas and electricity to - as the company grew
Wendy Gramm's key decision as chair of the Commodities Futures Trading
Commission to deregulate energy futures markets. She has been on the Enron board
Sen. Phil Gramm received over $97,000 in Enron contributions and passed
legislation that exempted key parts of Enron from government oversight.
President George W. Bush got $2 million in contributions from Enron and its
officers over the years, and numerous administration officials have Enron
connections. A key decision by the administration was to call off the
Clinton-led effort to stop international money-laundering (used by terrorists,
drug-traffickers, kleptocratic dictators and tax evaders) by going after
off-shore banks. As has been widely reported, Enron maintained more than 800
offshore accounts in order to avoid taxes - paying zero in four of the last five
as we would love to gyre and gimble in the wabe of Enron with the Jabberwock,
there's some serious business here. If we are lucky, plucky and raise lots of
hell, Congress will probably make some improvements in campaign finance laws,
the conflict of interest on auditors also working as consultants and oversight
of private partnerships. And that will not be enough.
Bill Greider writes in the current issue of The Nation: "The rot consists
of more than greed and ignorance. The evolving new forms of finance and banking,
joined with the permissive culture in Washington, produced an exotic structural
nightmare. ... They converge, with kereitzu (Japanese crony capitalism) -style
back-scratching in the business of lending and investing other people's money.
The results are profoundly conflicted loyalties in banks and financial firms -
who have fiduciary obligations to the citizens who give them money to invest.
Banks and brokerages often cannot tell the truth to retail customers, depositors
or investors without potentially injuring the corporate clients that provide
huge commissions and profits from investment deals. Sometimes bankers cannot
even tell the truth to themselves because they have put their own capital (or
government-insured deposits) at risk in the deals."
seems to me pointless to continue the argument over free-market capitalism
versus regulated capitalism. It is a theological, not a practical, argument,
requiring perfect faith from the free market fundamentalists. The questions are,
"What works?" and, "What doesn't work?" Leaving corporations
without government oversight doesn't work. "The disorder writ large by the
Enron story is this regular plundering of ordinary Americans (through pension
plans and mutual funds)," concludes Greider.
the greater danger is that as these enormous financial institutions run into
trouble, they'll take everybody with them. Greider quotes Tom Schlesinger,
you hear people say Enron represents a "systemic" or
"structural" failure, this is what they're talking about. And that's
what needs to be fixed.
"2002 The Daily Camera ##
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