The Smartest Guys in the Room

Remember Enron, The Smartest Guys in the Room? The California energy corporation that stole and mismanaged piles of money, subjected California to rolling brownouts, laughed at the people they were robbing? Remember their poor brainwashed, fired employees whose retirement funds of Enron stock was only good to line the catbox?

We hear Enron traders laughing about “Grandma Millie,” a hypothetical victim of the rolling blackouts, and boasting about the millions they made for Enron. As the company goes belly up, 20,000 employees are fired. Their pensions are gone, their stock worthless. The usual widows and orphans are victimized. A power company lineman in Portland, who worked for the same utility all his life, observes that his retirement fund was worth $248,000 before Enron bought the utility and looted it, investing its retirement funds in Enron stock. Now, he says, his retirement fund is worth about $1,200.

Michael Lind at Salon remembers. His post today is a 101 on how we got into this mess…

Beginning in the 1970s, Democrats and Republicans alike dismantled the regulatory systems that a previous generation of Democrats and Republicans had constructed in the 1930s and 1940s. In electricity generation and distribution, airlines and trucking, as well as finance, the conservatives and neoliberals of the last generation dismantled New Deal-era regulations. Entranced by a naive Econ 101 view of markets, the champions of deregulation promised market miracles that did not happen while failing to foresee disasters that did.

The Republicans in Congress have united to filibuster finance reform. They are the same party that pushed deregulation with evangelical zeal, and for thirty years have been constructing the myth of virtuous bankers and brilliant financiers who will save us all if only we don’t ask questions or trouble them with rules.

Let’s revisit a true crime story, and let the Republicans go on record as a party united to defend ‘too big to fail’. The Democrats don’t have clean hands either, and they need some serious pressure from ‘we the people’ because money talks louder than a bunch of people writing blogs. Vote and make it count.


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