The Hightower Lowdown
Alan Greenspan's laissez faire fantasy; a Congressman teaches the wrong lesson; and readers re-name Enron.
You've gotta love Alan Greenspan, the fusty old chairman of our country's central bank. He never lets reality intrude into his unquestioning belief in laissez-faire ideology, so he sees no problem with the abusive power that today's corporate behemoths have amalgamated. If Alan had been captain of the Titanic, he would not have seen the ship's collision course with the iceberg as a disaster, but as the free market's beneficent way of delivering ice to the passengers.
Take the Enron debacle. Greenspan says it's not an example of widespread corporate excess that warrants public action, but rather an example of the free market's magical ability to punish companies that go bad. He noted that Enron's stock is now next to worthless, so, he blithely explains, the market has severely disciplined the executives who deceived investors.
Hello ... Alan, reality knocking. It was not the
executives who took the hit when Enron crashed -- they walked off with more than a billion dollars. It was the rank-and-file employees and small investors who were left out in the cold, with their jobs gone and their retirement nest eggs destroyed.
And while Enron executives were turning the company into a Ponzi scheme, their auditor Arthur Anderson was gleefully signing off on the scams. Likewise, Enron's law firm, Vinson & Elkins, was unable to smell the stink of corruption even when a whistle blower rubbed the firm's nose in it. Meanwhile, Wall Street analysts wore ethical blinders and giddily urged investors to keep buying Enron stock right up to the day the corporation imploded.
Enron is not a "bad boy" in an otherwise perfect system, as Greenspan naively claims. The system itself is corrupt and is failing our country. Enron is the inevitable product of the anything-goes, LaissezFairWorld that Greenspan and Enron executives themselves have foisted upon us. This is no time for lectures on free-market ideology -- it's time to reel in the greedheads, toughen corporate oversight, and protect workers and investors.
Money = Democracy?
This week's Gooberhead Award goes to Rep. Patrick Tiberi, a Republican Congress critter from Ohio. He was up on his hind legs recently giving an impassioned plea for young people to participate in politics. "We are constantly told about the need to get more citizens involved in the electoral process," Tiberi began. "With this bill, we are doing just the opposite," he charged. "We are telling young people, the folks we want to get involved now so they will stay involved years to come, 'no thanks, maybe when you're older,'" he wailed.
Was there a bill to prevent children and teenagers from working in campaigns, doing door-to-door leafleting, or talking to people about issues and candidates? No. Every kid should -- and still can -- participate in all of these grassroots, democratic activities. Tiberi was complaining about a campaign-finance reform bill that closes the loophole that lets parents use their children as a way to exceed the legal limits on how much money they can give to a candidate.
Legally, a person can give only $1,000 to a particular candidate for, say, Congress. Of course, your spouse can also give $1,000 -- and it was this familial link that got the more creative funders to thinking: "Why shouldn't Heather and Kimball give $1,000, too?" Never mind that Heather was 6 and Kimball was 4, as long as they had a bank account in their name, mommy or daddy could write out thousand-dollar checks from them to the favored candidates. The youngest known donor was an 18-month-old boy who sent a thousand bucks to Bill Clinton.
For Rep. Tiberi, however, stopping these kiddie kontributions "is overkill at its worst," punishing children who simply want to be involved in democracy.
What a fine civics lesson our Gooberhead is giving to children, teaching them that writing a check is what matters in our democracy.
Time to bring out the winners of our "Name That Enron" contest!
Actually, I'm the big winner here, because I have received such a joyous blast of your waggish humor from all across the country ... and beyond! I recently reported that the Enron name has been so disgraced that the company wants to change its corporate moniker, and I asked you to help Enron by making suggestions for renaming it. Hundreds of suggestions poured in from as far away as Tokyo and Saudi Arabia. I thank you for all of them, though I can only give you a few samples here.
First up are the ones that play on the current name, with EndRun getting the most entries. Then there was Enrob, EnSlime, EnDeep, EnShred, Enream, Enfamy, Enrot, Enruin, Enronic, Emroid, EndWrong, End401k, bEnwrong, and, more graphically, EnYours -- as in, "up yours," I think.
Also, the last syllable of the Enron name got its share of tweaking from you. You suggested Sham-Ron, Scamron, 401deron, Gonwrong, DunRong, Thief-ron, RobEnron (as in rob and run), Takethemoneyandron, and, of course Moron. Many of you chose the Toys "R" Us model, offering such names as Lies "R" Us, Ethics "R" Us, Thieves "R" Us, and Ploys "R" Us.
Thanks for the fun, folks!
Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To book Jim, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, send $15, your name, and address to: Lowdown, PO Box 20596, New York, NY 10011