Skip to comments.Send in the Clowns - The Enron hearings.
Posted on 02/08/2002 10:08:58 AM PST by wcdukenfield
What a bunch of clowns! If anyone still wonders why the American people have such disregard and even contempt for Congress, they need only watch a few hours of congressional hearings on Enron. I don't think most dictatorships could run better show trials. I'm waiting for Representatives Billy Tauzin and John Dingell to pull a Nikita Khrushchev and start banging one of their shoes on the table for attention.
I don't know whether executives at Enron violated any criminal statutes, securities regulations, or pension rules. I don't know whether they conspired with auditors from Arthur Andersen to cook the books, or with creditors like Citigroup to conceal the true financial condition of the company. But I do know one thing: The group demagoguery being practiced by Congress contributes nothing to the public's knowledge about Enron's bankruptcy or to the pursuit of useful information in the formulation of public policy.
Of course, the irony of congressional handwringers denouncing Enron executives for screwing the little people is not lost on most conservatives. These are many of the same politicians who continue to perpetuate the myth that Social Security benefits are actually paid out of a trust fund when, in fact, they long ago misappropriated those retirement funds to support unrelated federal programs. This is the biggest financial scam in the history of man, involving hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of millions of largely unwitting taxpayers and pensioners. While Congress heaps praise on whistleblowers inside Enron, who purportedly sought to alert top management of the company's coming financial collapse, those who dare to question the practices and solvency of the Social Security program are denounced roundly and hysterically.
Congress also has legislative oversight responsibility for the rest of the federal bureaucracy. The General Accounting Office, an arm of Congress, has stacks of reports exposing waste, fraud, and abuse throughout the government from the Education Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to the Interior Department and Health and Human Services. Billions and billions of tax dollars are mismanaged or unaccounted for in hundreds of programs involving student loans, Indian trust funds, unemployment compensation, grants to nonprofit environmental groups, farm subsidies, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid funds, and on and on. Yet despite the overwhelming evidence of widespread abuse, not only will every one of these budget items receive generous increases in funding, but Congress plans to create a massive new entitlement for prescription drugs, among other things.
The unvarnished truth is that Enron's collapse is of no direct consequence to most Americans. We haven't invested in Enron or we've invested a small amount through widely diversified mutual funds. Despite the mantra that Enron's was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, at its peak the company employed a workforce of only 19,000, 4,500 of whom have received pink slips. To put this in perspective, last month Ford Motor Company announced it was laying off over 20,000 employees. And since the beginning of the recession, over 1,000,000 workers have lost their jobs. Enron's bankruptcy simply does not merit the attention of a dozen congressional committees.
Moreover, and unlike the systemic mismanagement and malfeasance that pervade the federal government, Enron's dealings are in no way typical of corporate America. The overwhelming majority of businesses are law-abiding and ethical. They care about their employees, they manage their finances including pension funds responsibly, they make public a true accounting of their financial health, and they contribute mightily to the nation's unparalleled economic prosperity.
There's every indication that the Enron executives who appear to have failed in their fiduciary responsibilities to investors and employees, or who may have violated the law, will be dealt with by federal and state law enforcement and regulatory authorities. And that's as it should be.
What's troubling is the transparent attempt by too many in Congress to use Enron to advance their political agendas. Some hope to damage the Bush administration by creating a web of suspicion involving meetings, past associations, and campaign contributions. Others are using Enron to disparage capitalism itself and promote bigger government. And still more are grandstanding to impress their constituents, or to inoculate themselves from criticism for their own past associations with the company.
In the end, little benefit will come from these hearings. They afford little more than the sorry spectacle of public officials abusing the public's trust in the name of the public interest.
'Moreover, and unlike the systemic mismanagement and malfeasance that pervade the federal government, Enron's dealings are in no way typical of corporate America. The overwhelming majority of businesses are law-abiding and ethical. They care about their employees, they manage their finances ? including pension funds ? responsibly, they make public a true accounting of their financial health, and they contribute mightily to the nation's unparalleled economic prosperity.'
Perhaps we should send a copy of this to Bobby Byrd.
The best part of this whole farce is how foolish everyone in Congress looks. Could you believe the questions they were asking? Worse yet, they all thought they were the next Perry Mason with their incivisive questioning. What a crock. They have no idea what they are talking about so all they can do is huff and puff, pound the table and show their outright indignation!!! It's so pathetic it is embarrassing.
Not SOME - MOST. And --- it's not working. Another 3-4 weeks of Dubya's 85% approval ratings, and you'll see the Enron hearings fade away without a trace - or a mention. All of a sudden "Enron" will simply not be there.
F. Lee Levin is right about why Enron isn't sticking, but let's be a little more direct. Enron is labyrythian, hard to follow for most people. There is no sex involved. No one's gotten killed. There is no intrigue. In fact, Enron is a dull scandal. It may be the "biggest bankruptcy in US history," but it's also the dullest. Not one flashy player, no ring of sexual slavery, and - despite the media's attempt to put "an average ordinary American face on it" - Enron just doesn't hit home.
Plus, there's the backlash. Any time the media try to link Dubya with Enron, the 85% who approve of him rebel. It's like some outsider criticizing a family member. Bush's approval rating is too high for the media's smear gambit to work...and people resent it.
Bottom line - a dull scandal that affects very few people and an attempt to link it to an overwhelmingly-popular President is just not what works in the media. The problem is that the media is still not convinced that it won't work. Another 3 weeks and they'll be convinced.
The only problemo with that is that the Dems won't be able to keep these hearings going that long. When all of the major players have pled the fifth and they've covered the few witnesses they have, there's nothing else to hear. If there IS to be any action, it could come in a court of law, but that's going to be WAY down the road, time-wise...not sustainable as an election-killer.
For instance, take Kenlay. All Kenlay has to do is show up next week and invoke the fifth. That's it. They're done with him. Oh, they might grandstand around for a couple of hours, trying to get their asinine questions into the Congressional Record, but that's still it. Lay Is Over In A Day. Same with everyone else. After a while, you run out of questionees. When that happens, the hearings are OVER.
From October 29, the first day of the temporary shutdown, through November 13, the first day participants could transfer funds, the Enron share price went from $13.81 to $9.98, a drop of $3.83. On five of those trading days, Enrons share price closed below $9.98. Outside of the brief transition period, Enron employees have always been able to transfer their own contributions in the 401K, at any time. They have 20 investment options to choose from, Enron stock being one of them."
The employees should have been investing their 401K's in index or mutual funds rather than being greedy in having all of their eggs in one basket. The employee matching money is usually in stock and can represent 30% of a typical 401K alone. This was a classic investment no-no. I'm interested in why they failed and how it relates (or doesn't) to the situation with Grey-out Davis a year ago. If Enron was such a greedy evil energy company, how did it go belly-up? We all need to learn more.
Bravo ... Bravo .... Great article .. Straight and to the point!!
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