Corporate Conmen: The Real Axis Of Evil

December 22, 2006

Bush Administration policies (tax cuts, deregulation, privatization, decentralization, local control, etc.) combined to decrease the power of the elected government and increase the power of corporations.  This is especially tragic because increasingly conmen like Ken Lay (Enron Corp), Bernie Ebers (WorldCom), and Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco International) control our corporations.  They use shareholders’ money to build their private fortunes and use their corporations’ power to manipulate American public affairs. 



Of course, not all CEOs are conmen.  Bill Gates, for instance, has actually created a successful business and helped to build a new industry. In the process, he has made himself fabulously rich, made his shareholders grateful, and made his country stronger. Alas, Bill Gates is the exception.  Many CEOs make themselves rich, but they make their shareholders poor and with their extravagant corruption and waste, they weaken the country.  Lay and company are far from the only conmen leading global corporations; they are just the ones who were so greedy and so stupid that they killed their golden goose.  


Corporate conmen now control much of the world’s wealth and increasingly, wealth controls politics, especially in
America.  Over the past few decades, the cost of political campaigns (particularly the cost of media) has grown enormously.  At the same time, wealth has concentrated into fewer and fewer hands.  Republicans and Democrats, regardless of the convictions they may once have had, must now get their money from the same few hands.  Increasingly they are not the hands of those who own the corporations, but the hands of the conmen who control them.

The conmen do not even represent the interests of American wealth.  Their corporations are global and they are global fortune hunters whose agenda has little room for patriotism.  Perhaps it was once true that what was good for
General Motors is good for America, but that day passed when GM became a global manufacturer.  A corporation’s owners may be patriotic, but the corporations are not. Furthermore, management does not even run the corporations in the interests of their stockholders, but in their personal interests.

Consider the big events of recent years and ask yourself, who benefited.  Seldom is the answer, the shareholders, or the country as a whole.  Repeatedly the answer is the corporate conmen. 

Start with President Clinton’s health care proposal.  The Clinton system would have increased the elected government’s role in healthcare and diminished the role and profits of big insurance companies, HMOs, and drug companies.  Corporate lackeys in Congress blocked the Clinton proposal.  Shortly thereafter, these same lackeys started the Whitewater investigation and ultimately President Clinton’s impeachment. 

Did the impeachment benefit the American public?  Far from it. The people elected Clinton to a second term and disapproved of the impeachment 2 to 1.  The incident weakened our nation’s prestige and emboldened our enemies.  It was during this period that Osama bin Ladin began hatching his plot to blow a hole in Manhattan. Did the Whitewater investigation save the taxpayers money?  The Clinton’s involvement in Whitewater concerned a $203,000 loan.  As of April 1998, Ken Starr’s investigation cost $30 million. The fraud at Enron alone cost stockholders $60 billion.  

The corporate conmen, Ken Lay in particular, bought George W. Bush a fine campaign.  Bush rewarded Lay and his friends with tax cuts.  When the economy faltered, because of the corporate scandals, Bush ordered still more tax cuts to stimulate the economy back to life before the election.  This was not simply an attempt to buy a second term with a bad check.  It is part of a coordinated effort to weaken the government and strengthen corporations and the conmen. Tax cuts are an alternative to increased government spending (building highways, bridges, etc.) as a means of stimulating the economy.  Tax cuts are not as effective as government spending at boosting the economy or at creating jobs, but they do minimize the government’s influence, and put money and control into corporate hands.

Bush has also championed deregulation—another cause dear to the hearts of corporate conmen.  Impoverished shareholders of the nations deregulated savings and loan institutions might have predicted Enron’s fate in the newly deregulated energy industry.  One might think that the government would have been on their guard. However, when the deregulated conmen at Enron lied about their corporate profits so that they could continue to collect their massive bonuses, the newly deregulated accounting firms swore to Enron’s lies.

When 19 terrorists boarded four different airplanes on September 11, 2001, the deregulated airline industry’s low budget security system failed to detect any thing that needed a closer look.  It did not notice that many of the terrorists bought one-way tickets, or paid with cash.  It failed to see many foreign, one-way passengers boarding the same plane.  They failed to see any of the 19 box cutters, with which the terrorists slit the passengers’ throats.

Decentralization and local control is another prong in the Bush Administration’s campaign to minimize public control and maximize corporate influence. Bush is anxious to turn federal programs and regulations over to state and local governments, allegedly because local government is more responsive. Local government is certainly more responsive to corporations. Even large corporations are small compared to the federal government.  Although they often succeed, corporations find it difficult and expensive to influence the federal government and the federal bureaucracy.  

At the local level, no such limitations apply. Corporations can have a decisive influence over local elections.  More importantly, they can grab the states by the purse strings. States must run a balanced budget.  By threatening to move their plants to another, more tractable state, corporations can play states off against one another in order to force states to give them tax breaks.  From the Administration’s point of view, local control has an important side benefit. Since states cannot effectively tax the corporations, the Administration can safely turn social programs over to cash strapped local governments with little fear that the local governments will ever have the money to fund them properly.

The Administration’s latest effort to undermine the citizens’ control of their government is its wartime footing.  Bush took office as a minority president, lacking any clear mandate, much less a mandate to push the radical agenda of the corporate conmen. With 9/11, Bush’s corporate tenders found a pretext to seize the powers of a wartime administration.  

Bush pursued a low-budget war against the real terrorists in Afghanistan by turning the country over to the local warlords, but did little to fix the problems that made Afghanistan so unstable that it became a haven for Osama bin Laden.  That problem, of course, was the warlords themselves.  Bush did not establish control of the situation in Afghanistan; nor take any action that would deter future attacks.  

The 9/11 attack was carried out and financed largely from Saudi Arabia, whose royal family are close friends of Bush and the Texas oil interests that put Bush in power.  Not only has Bush handled the Saudi’s with kid gloves, but he has apparently failed to grasp the strategic issue.  The oil supply has become unreliable and an instrument of blackmail.  Bush has not taken the obvious counter measure of developing a viable and aggressive alternative fuels program, which we should now pursue with the same urgency as the Manhattan Project. 

Bush has been ineffective in fighting the war on terrorism. He has made no substantial changes in the federal intelligence agencies that dropped the ball and failed to protect us against the 9/11 attacks.  He has not built international support for concerted action against terrorism. On the contrary, his policies have created new enemies and alienated our friends.  As a result, he has failed to reduce funding for terrorist organizations. 

Tax cuts have left the country so far in debt that our currency is collapsing.  While he has given tax breaks to Ken Lay, he has not built up our homeland defenses.  He has not funded programs to ready our public health system to cope with a biological attack.  He has failed to increase security at our boarders and he has left our ports unprotected.

Instead of taking effective action, Bush has pursued a war in Iraq under false pretenses.  Before the war began, our planes were patrolling no-fly zones over two thirds of Iraq.  We had troops in Saudi (were they were really needed) and U.N. economic sanctions were in place.  Saddam was contained and probably doomed to go the way of the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, claiming the Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that we needed to take immediate action, Bush conned Congress into giving him a blank check.  The President has now cashed that check in the amount of hundreds of Americans killed, thousands wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted.  Who has benefited?  Iraq may be better off, but America is weaker.  The only clear winners are the conmen at Halliburton (formerly led by Vice President Cheney) and the other war profiteers who are lining their pockets with money that should have gone to building our homeland defenses.   


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