July 2, 2002
By Michael Shannon
The irony is rich beyond measure. Although "rich" may not
be the best of all possible choices of words. Here we have
a President whose one claim to academic/intellectual fame
is that he is the first MBA to hold the office of Chief Executive
of the United States, as well as being the most blatant corporate
sycophant to hold the office since Calvin Coolidge, and what
happens? Right in the middle of his watch, by its own nefarious
and avaricious hand, corporate America plunges into the biggest
meltdown of investor confidence since the early days of the
Stocks that were until just recently among the most actively
sought after on Wall Street are now being traded for pennies.
And deservedly so. And for the would be rulers of the universe
who bailed about before the companies they drove into the
ground actually hit bottom, the most actively sought after
asset on the Street these days is a top flight criminal attorney.
So much for the benefits of having a friend of big business
being in the driver's seat.
Of course, that does not mean that Mr Bush has turned on
his corporate benefactors. On the contrary, a big part of
the problem is that he and the Republican party's love affair
with deregulation has so loosened the controls that those
who would take advantage have done so with a vengeance. Removing
the locks from the doors only works in a neighborhood where
there are no thieves. And even when you think you can trust
your neighbor, making it too easy is often enough temptation
to turn a fence sitter into a fence jumper.
This extraordinary sequence of revelations of corporate grand
larceny being unfurled on a seemingly daily basis - and these
are not middle of the road companies we are talking about.
These are outfits that have tens of thousands of employees
and tens of billions of dollars of gross revenue - has done
one thing for sure. It has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt
the wisdom of that fount of eternal wisdom Don Vito Corleone,
a.k.a. Mario Puzo, who said, "A man with a briefcase can steal
more than a hundred men with guns".
It has also shown once again that the principal of "trickle
down" economics has always been fatally flawed. Yes, a successful
company does employ X number of people and with the
company's success comes job growth, security and increased
compensation. At least that is in theory. In reality there
are very few things that grow from the top down.
To pretend that a policy of protectionism / favoritism of
the corporate elite is a sure ticket to widespread prosperity
is not only unfair it is untrue. No company was ever born
gigantic. Not ATT, not GM, not Microsoft. All of them started
as an idea held by a single individual or a very small group
of people who in spite of their size, not because of it, grew
to immense proportions through a combination of ingenuity,
hard work, being in the right place at the right time and
a thousand and one other intangibles. It is once these corporate
behemoths reach the crest of the hill that they and their
political protectors then set out to see that no Johnny-come-lately
comes along to unseat them.
And it has been said that a rich man will fight harder to
hold on to his wealth than a poor man will fight to get it.
The effect of this greed run amuck on the financial health
and well being of this country and its citizenry is both immediate
and long-term as well as global and searingly personal. Quoting
from Thursday, June 27, 2002, NY Times, "This is the most
pessimistic sentiment against the United States that I have
ever experienced in my career," said Wolfram Gerdes, chief
investment officer for global equities at Dresdner Investment
Trust in Frankfurt. "There is unanimous agreement that the
U.S. is not the best place to invest anymore." In other words,
in just two short years we have gone from being the economic
envy of the world to being a risky bet.
And if the geopolitical ramifications of all of this aren't
enough to get your attention than you're one of the lucky
ones. I have not suffered the fate of hundreds of thousands
of other American workers who have seen their jobs blow away
in the wind but judging from my latest statement I have received
from ING, my wife and I no longer have a 401k. Now after watching
its value erode twenty five percent over the past two years
we have a 301k.
Our illustrious President has, as is almost always the case
with this delegator in chief, waited far too long to step
in with the power of his office and at the least make an effort
to change the tone and restore some level of confidence in
the average Joe and Joan.
That he has not done so is not altogether surprising. His
reluctance to get fully engaged in this debacle is partially
due to his own very real potential exposure. He and his handlers
are well aware that as the Enron investigations widen there
may yet be disclosures that will jump up and bite him where
it really hurts.
Mr Bush acts as though he is extremely cognizant of the lessons
learned from his father's failed Presidency. There is one
lesson in particular that he had better pay very strict attention
to before this thing really gets out of hand; if people/voters
are worried about their financial security the war hero of
today can quickly become the discarded politician of tomorrow.