Wednesday, August 16, 2006

'Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room' ...

Oh my.

Ethan, my cyberpal, has written about this movie. As he says in his opening salvo, he and his wife were "shaking the Snoopy fist" at their DVD player after watching the film. I love that image. Ethan is a very good writer (check out more of his blog, er, site; he insists it's not a blog; it looks like a blog and it reads like a blog, but apparently, it's a duck), always very readable, but this particular bit of imagery cracks me up. In honor of him, I was shaking my fist at my TV tonight, pretending to be Snoopy.

Which, I suppose, makes Enron the Red Baron. Curse you, Enron! Turns out, it's pretty hard to find an image online of Snoopy shaking his fist. I like this one for its primitive quality. But I digress.

Ethan called this flick required viewing. No kidding. The story was all over the news for a long time, but to see it presented this way, to see the rise of a company and then to see it fall by the very hands that built it was staggering.

At one point I actually yelled at my TV, "How do you live with yourself?" Funny thing is, onscreen was George W. Bush. I didn't realize just how chummy he and his dear old dad were with "Kenny Boy." Oh, but I digress again.

I also didn't realize that Enron essentially orchestrated the California energy crisis that led to the downfall of Gray Davis. Energy that should have been trading in the $30-$40 range was selling for more than $1,000. In the end, California was faced with a $30 billion bill. The recordings of the traders cheering on castastrophe were chilling. But they were earning multi-million-dollar bonuses. What's fair market value for a soul these days, anyway?

It was awful to watch the footage of the rank-and-file employees the day they lost their jobs. Losing my job at Thomson was like experiencing a death. But I lost my job because Thomson decided to divest itself of all newspaper holdings, not because of financial collapse, and especially not because our company had been nothing but smoke and mirrors. And while the initial announcement was stunning, I was asked to stay on to help fulfill our contracts to clients for the next several months. I had time to mentally prepare.

And I didn't lose my life savings. While Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow and others were cashing out tens of milions of dollars worth of stock, the everyday employees were losing their shirts. One lineman in a company Enron had acquired revealed that at the stock's peak, his pension was worth $348,000.

When he was finally allowed to cash out, he got $1,200.

Of course, Ken Lay died recently - apparently some people really can't live with themselves - and the others have seen their reputations reduced to shit and are living life in a cell.

Meanwhile, that lineman probably can't afford to retire any time soon.

I used to have Tribune stock. I sold it when I bought my house. It wasn't worth a lot then. It's not worth a lot now. And my friends who still work there are understandably upset. To see a couple hundred thousand dollars evaporate out of your retirement fund? I'm not comparing the Tribune to Enron ethically. But people think a large company means security. When I was getting out of college, a lot of people walked right over to Arthur Andersen and got jobs. Andersen was always hiring. Not anymore.

My grandmother collected a pension until the day she died. She received a pension for many more years than she actually worked for the company. Today, no one could fathom such a thing. A company paying you because you *used* to work there? Who could afford it? I'm employed full time and pay for my own health care. FICA is taken out of my check this month and probably mailed to my father the next. If it calls in its chips tomorrow, China will own this country. Our national debt is $8.5 trillion. Congress raised our debt ceiling to $9 trillion. Over the past year, our national debt has increased, on average, $1.75 billion a day.

I was going to calculate how many $4 cups of Starbucks that would buy every day, but my calculator doesn't have enough spaces to enter 1,750,000,000.


Blogger Dave said...

Ken Lay's current existence as wormmeat is proof positive that karma can be a bitch sometimes.

Word verification: rlbbqvp

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Ethan said...

I wish I could take credit for the phrase "shaking the Snoopy fist." I have no idea where I read it, but it stuck, and how.

Glad you liked the movie, insofar as it is a movie to be "liked".

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shake your snoopy fist at corrupt corporations or have it your way and shake it at corrupt socialist governments. Fuck both of them, I'm moving to Paris, France with Johnny Depp! What, he moved you say? To where? Oh, England. Why Johnny? Johnny replies, "America is dumb. It's like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you, it's aggressive."

9:53 AM  
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