Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
NOW with Bill Moyers

Moyers on Enron and History

If Enron isn't a wakeup call, I don't know what it will take. But then, Ivan Boesky didn't wake us up, either. You remember Ivan Boesky, Mr. Insider trader, who took money from small investors and ran laughing all the way to the bank.

Okay, so you don't remember Ivan Boesky. What about the savings and loan scandal? Seems like the dark ages, doesn't it, but it was hardly more than a decade ago that taxpayers had to foot the bill for one of the biggest ripoffs of the public trust ever.

By the way, that one, too, was first cultivated in the hothouse of Texas, where rented politicians put the watchdogs to sleep so the predators could make off with the loot. By the time it was over it cost you and you and you a hundred and fifty billion dollars. Never again, we said. But never again doesn't reckon on the ability of money to erase memory. Now comes Enron, turning Boesky into a piker and the S&L scandal into a tea-party.

You have got to admire Kenneth Lay. This son of a Baptist preacher understood the power of the collection plate. Every time a politician passed one, he filled it, until he owned the right to fleece the flock. Employees, shareholders, pensioners — "Kenny boy," as he's known to friends, ran an equal opportunity scam. He got you, too, and you and you and you. Because by the wholesale use of tax dodges, Enron avoided paying its fair share of operating the Weather Bureau, the National Park Service, and the War on Terrorism.

Guess who made up the difference? Then, because Congress allows corporations to pass the cost of executive stock options on to you, the government turned around and gave Enron a tax refund...out of your pocket...for taxes it never even paid. What a system. It's enough to make you long for the dark ages again.