presents The Angry Liberal
August 1, 2002
Bush's Sleight of Hand on Corporate Reform: Bush Enacts and Kills Corporate Reform on the Same Day
by The Angry Liberal
It is a dark time for the American investor. The stock market has given up just about every gain that the Clinton administration could coax out of it. Investors are watching helplessly as their retirement incomes vanish. Corporate creeps are looting their own companies. Accounting creeps are looking the other way while their clients doctor their books. And just when you think things couldn't get any worse in Corporate America, along comes George W. Bush! After several unsuccessful attempts to reassure nervous investors by reading cue cards full of tough talk , Dubya finally had to face the music. In order to restore investor confidence, he had no choice but to support legislation cracking down on corporate fraud. Or did he?
Let's face it. Bush is a hard-wired corporate cheerleader. He fancies himself a successful businessman, which is absolutely true, except for the "successful" part. Anyway, the point is that if Bush ever attempted to really crack down on corporate fraud, his head would explode like a piñata, scattering misremembered quotes from his favorite Johns (Locke and Wayne) on the floor beneath him. So I listened to Bush give his stern little speeches, pausing in the middle. . . of every sentence, . . . a trick he stole . . . from the Duke. And I watched as he lifted his presidential pen (I assume that anti-rejection drugs were racing through his system, allowing him to actually hold onto the pen and do what passes for work to people like him) and sign the Sarbanes corporate reform bill into law. And I waited for the other shoe to drop.
The other shoe hit the ground in Washington just hours after the signing ceremony. Before the disappearing ink making up Bush's signature had even begun to fade, the word came down from his administration that Congress really didn't mean to write in all of that federal whistle-blower protection for courageous citizens who might want to come forward and expose wrongdoing at their places of employment. What Congress really meant, according to Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer, is that the new law only protects whistle-blowers who fink on their bosses in front of a congressional committee during the course of an official congressional investigation. An attempt to inform Congress of corporate funny business under any other circumstances, according to Fleischer, could result in the patriotic American who had the guts to come forward losing his or her job, and there was nothing the federal government could do about it. That's what Congress really meant when they wrote the bill.
Then it came to me. This is how Bush and the Republicans can get behind corporate reform just in time for the midterm election without actually having to reform any corporations. After years of Republican legislation that weakened corporate accountability, Republicans had to appear to get out in front on cleaning up the mess that they helped create or face a potential ass-kicking at the polls in November. So they supported the Democrats after it was clear the public would stand for nothing less. Ah, but Bush isn't up for reelection in November. What you witnessed on Tuesday was Bush's real message to Corporate America: Let Congress pass whatever it wants in the way of corporate reform. As long as George W. Bush and his band of merry men are in charge of enforcing those laws, the fat cats who bought Bush's election in 2000 have nothing to fear. By incorrectly interpreting and selectively enforcing the law, the Bush administration can weaken to its heart's content any potentially problematic statues that might otherwise interfere with the corporate campaign contributions.
On the flip-side of this little revelation, Republicans who are up for reelection this Fall now have an opportunity to criticize the Bush administration on this issue, asserting their independence from the Republican machine and their willingness to get tough with corporate criminals in front of the folks back home. After the midterm election there will be plenty of time for voters to forget about Bush's big smooch on the backside of Corporate America on Tuesday. Remember, America's dance card is filled between now and 2004 with names like Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, and Osama bin Laden. With a couple of low-level wars going at any given minute, the odds that anybody will hold Bush accountable for sucking the life out of the brand new corporate reform law the same day he signed it are pretty much zero. So Bush reassures his sleazy corporate base that he will do what he can to continue business as usual, and Republicans up for reelection get to criticize him for it in full view of their constituents. It looks like everybody wins.
Except for the very investors this new law was supposed to protect, of course. But did you really expect anything else from these guys?
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© 2002, The Angry Liberal
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