Enron: the epitome of corruption, politics and greed

    The news headlines are saturated by one word these days: Enron. Stocks and Enron, the presidential administration and Enron, California’s energy crisis and Enron. Sheesh.

    I found myself asking, “”Just who is this Enron guy and why does he have everyone’s panties in a bunch?”” I don’t think I was alone when I asked this question, demonstrating my ignorance toward a situation that seemed about as far removed from me as they come.

    But then I started to read the first few sentences of the articles following these headlines, I found myself raking through entire articles concerning Enron, and now I find myself looking for Enron articles to dissect — even when they aren’t on the front page.

    Why the sudden interest, you ask? Well, I didn’t come to the realization that I had millions invested in Enron Corp. Likewise, I have not been subpoenaed to testify about my involvement in the Enron scandal.

    I realized that even though, like many of my counterparts, I am a lowly college student with hardly enough money to put that extra slice of cheese on my grilled cheese sandwiches, the Enron debacle is extremely relevant to me.

    In fact, the disintegration of Enron and the corporation’s political involvement should pinch a nerve in all of us because at the end of the day, it isn’t Kenneth Lay, the former CEO of Enron, and other millionaire tycoons who suffer, it is you and I who pay the heaviest price.

    First, the disintegration of Enron carries significant political implications. After it was noted that Enron was the single largest campaign contributor to the Bush administration — giving over $700,000 — many people began to wonder if such a hefty amount could possibly affect Bush’s policy decisions.

    Wonder as we may, the Bush administration snubbed such inquiries and flat-out refused to disclose documents concerning meetings between Bush officials and Enron executives.

    Huh? If Dubya and gang have nothing to hide, then what’s all the hubbub? Congress requested information about meetings between the solvent corporation’s leading men and Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney, with Bush’s overwhelming support, thumbed his nose at each request.

    Cheney has long been mixed up in an energy task force that smelled a little foul, but in light of Enron, his involvement with energy is downright fishy.

    Let’s review: Enron is based in Texas and so is Bush. Enron is an energy company; Bush has the power to draft legislation to make life easier for energy companies, especially if they are big contributors from his home state. Hmmm — interesting. The Bush administration claims no wrongdoing in its dealings with Enron, but refuses to disclose information proving said innocence.

    In addition, the Enron debacle carries special implications for California residents. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote in the Los Angeles Times that she made repeated requests to arrange meetings with Bush and Cheney, and she was denied each time.

    Last year, California suffered a slew of Stage 3 energy emergencies and Feinstein wrote that she wanted to meet with top energy officials to discuss the state’s energy woes. Conversely, while Feinstein was denied access to top officials, Lay, as CEO of Enron, got several meetings with Cheney and other administration officials.

    Feinstein wrote, “”Something is wrong when a senator representing 35 million Californians is not able to talk personally to the president or vice president in the midst of a crisis, but executives from a company that contributed millions of campaign dollars have complete access and significant influence.””

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I can’t speak for the rest of America, but I would much rather have my president getting a little fellatio on the side than giving billion-dollar corporations tax breaks or special consideration when no such allowances are made for me.

    Enron’s descent also took a lot of ordinary folks down with it. The company’s bankruptcy turned many of its workers’ hard-earned savings into thin air. The employees were encouraged to invest their 401(k) retirement accounts into the company’s stocks, even after indicators were showing the company was skating on thin ice. When the company collapsed, the stocks obviously nosedived and the employees were left with 401(k) plans not worth the paper they were printed on.

    Doesn’t sound very fair, does it? In fact, it isn’t fair that a handful of selfish, money-hungry executives can play Russian roulette with people’s savings and their livelihood only to lose substantially and subsequently cop out by pleading the fifth.

    We may be college students now, but we are the future workers and investors of America, and there is a valuable lesson to be learned courtesy of Enron.

    We should not blindly trust our employers, even when they assert everything is on the up-and-up. We shouldn’t over-invest in any one company — even if it is the one we work for. Also, we should be mindful of our futures, because our 401(k) plans and pensions may be all that we have to look forward to if Social Security is continually shaved by Reaganesque administrations.

    To ensure that this money is not squandered away by big corporations with their own deep pockets in mind, it would behoove us to take a diligent, watchdog approach to our savings and our portfolios so that we do not get caught holding the short end of the stick in old age.

    When I first saw the word Enron splashed on front pages, I was apathetic, as many college students would be. But after close examination, I realized that Enron indicates a lot about the officials I have elected to lead me and about my financial future.

    What do you get when you mix one part political corruption with one part corporate greed and sprinkle an enormous amount of hard-working Americans’ money on top? Enron. That is why we would all do well to pay close attention.

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