In the U.S., times are tougher for big business. Specifically, its public image
has been better.
I mean, big business today is looking, well, not quite so large and in charge
as it was during the stock market bubble of the 1990s. One major reason why is
the tidal wave of corporate bankruptcies that began with the Enron Corp.
Are the accountants at fault for this and what has followed? Just ask Federal
Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. “An infectious greed seemed to grip much of our
business community” last decade, overcoming “our historical guardians of financial
information,” he recently told Congress.
Yet in 1996, Greenspan claimed concern about investors’ “irrational exuberance”
regarding the sharp rise in stock prices. Recall the context for his concern?
“The phrase came on the eighth page of a 10-page speech on the history of central
banking in America, and then only in a question: "How do we know when irrational
exuberance has unduly escalated asset values ... ?" the Los Angeles Times of July
Now with a wink and a nod, Democrats and Republicans have fallen over themselves
in bipartisan unity, creating legislation to reign in the rogues who sit in the
corporate suites. These rogues are surely trembling in fear. Indebted U.S. households
should be so fearful.
What’s the cascade of corporate bankruptcies that began with Enron mean for
ordinary people who can’t sleep well at night thinking about their bills? They
will likely be even more pressed to repay their debt. That’s because creditors
will seek to shore up sagging profit margins battered by bankruptcy protected
corporations by putting an even greater financial squeeze on small businesses
How? With the bankruptcy “reform” bill that Congress crafted for President
Bush to sign in September. Indebted workers and small businesses beware!
Meanwhile, Congress has passed a corporate anti-fraud bill that the president
has signed. Such legislation comes with much hubbub. Yet it won’t alter the basic
economic and political inequality between those whose work enables the few to
be idle and run the system.
That message doesn’t reach much of the public. Thus its field of vision stops
at reform by the political class, owned and controlled by corporate America.
Meanwhile, elites are attempting to keep the illusion of equality intact. Well-crafted
campaigns of sloganeering from Washington are the norm in a PR-addled society
such as ours.
Against this backdrop, politicians are trying to control the emerging national
conversation about corporate scandals. They want to get out in front of the parade
to control popular discontent.
True, the political power of the exploited class is not much of a factor now.
But it could be, and that causes the Fat Cats to squirm.
It is entirely possible that current events could lead to a new working-class
politics. The economic base of U.S. society will surely change during a post-bubble
era. Who will define justice in a society run by unelected corporations which
influence political policies that govern how people live and work?
Seth Sandronsky is an editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento's progressive
newspaper. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org