Did the Enron scandal forecast today’s woes?

Published 1:24 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Perhaps we should have paid more attention to the Bush administration and its cozy relationships with big — let’s make that gargantuan — business back in 2001 when the energy giant Enron failed.

Remember that debacle? When Enron caved, it took with it the retirement and other savings of thousands of people, both of its employees and others who themselves or whose retirement plans had invested heavily in the high-flying energy company that had the ears of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The company was being touted as the energy wave of the future even as it was raping California’s electrical providers and driving up electric bills for thousands of consumers.

Executives of Enron and other energy companies were having meetings at the White House with Cheney to help formulate the administration’s energy policy — and paying for the privilege.

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Then Enron came tumbling down when the shell game its executives were playing couldn’t move the pieces fast enough to keep the truth hidden away.

There’s a little side note to the story about Enron and the Bush administration’s energy policy involving our governor. Haley Barbour, who then was an energy lobbyist as well as a tobacco lobbyist, was busily raising money for the Republican Party and related causes from the energy companies meeting with Cheney, including Enron, and, not surprisingly, the Southern Companies, parent of Mississippi Power. At least one Time Magazine article from back in that time details some of Barbour’s involvement in the raising of political funds from those companies.

The Enron and related Wall Street scandals were near the beginning of this Bush administration’s first term of office. This second, and perhaps more serious Wall Street and economic crisis is coming at the end of his second administration.

Oh, by the way, shades of a previous Bush administration economic crisis also involves banks and real estate holdings. Remember the Clinton mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid.” That referred to the banks and their real estate holdings that comprised the economic crisis weighing down the administration of the first President Bush.

This crisis is being called, by some, the most serious economic crisis this nation and the world has faced since the stock market crash of 1929. It is certainly serious, especially if your company has converted you and your retirement plan into a 401k retirement account and you have a 529 account to save for your children’s education. It is serious especially if you have worked diligently and purchased stock or bought into various market funds to try to increase the earnings on your savings at a greater rate than you would get with a bank savings account while taking part in what is touted as “The American Dream.”

We are suffering all this pain because some gamblers and thieves on Wall Street have been allowed to play their games — apparently legally — with our money without anyone seriously watching over what was happening.

Just like in the days of the Enron scandal, the Bush administration climbed into bed with the wealthy and threw a big ol’ party, had themselves a great time. This time the party wasn’t supposed to end until after Bush had passed on the presidency to someone else so that president could take the blame when this latest shell game lost the pea it was trying to keep hidden.

Oops! The pea popped out too soon and the jig is up.

If this president was worried before about the legacy of his administration, he probably knows now that it is now sealed and catalogued for history with at least two other failed presidencies. One is that of the scandal-ridden Warren G. Harding administration and the other is the administration of Herbert Hoover, who was president in 1929 when the stock market crashed to begin the Great Depression.

Bush’s administration, of course, also started one war unnecessarily and mismanaged two wars while at the same time attacking and diminishing the United States Constitution in the name of National Security.

The real question is: Have we learned anything from all this failure?

Personally, I doubt it.

More masters of the shell game will step up to the table and move the shells around at blinding speed while distracting us from the one hiding the pea with dreams of great wealth and we will forget that old saying: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is [too good to be true]”