Uncle Sam Gets Lay'd: Enron and the Government Give Us the Shaft

Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, the pair who guided Enron to false new heights which culminated in a long plunge into the toilet, were both found guilty on multiple charges. In September, it is expected that they will be sentenced to one of the longest board meetings in history.

The world shuddered after energy giant Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The announcement essentially meant that thousands of investors had lost a fortune virtually overnight. For many, their life savings, retirement plans, and college funds are now gone. Their money has been used as pawns in a white collar chess game.

This scam caused the government to jump in and do what it does best: complicate matters. The U.S. government responded to Enron and a handful of other corporate scandals by passing laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley, which is the best example of the many being forced to suffer for the crimes of a few.

I remember a day when we envisioned an automated, computerized world and often spoke of a “paperless society” (with the obvious exception of toilet tissue and Willie Nelson’s Zig Zags). Environmentalists were giddy, for trees were going to be spared from ending up as Comerica’s quarterly report or a widget invoice. Well, one of the first paperless society experiements was Enron, so we can safely assume that from now on we’ll be buried in more paper than ever. Frankly I’m surprised shredders aren’t illegal yet.


Maybe it’s the upcoming long weekend that’s causing me to look on the bright side of things, but there could be a reason for a few people to be in a “glass is half full” mood.

Having the nations 7th largest company file Chapter 11 and lay off thousands of employees certainly gave the economy a huge hit, but there were segments that must have made gains. First to come to mind was K-Mart, who themselves filed for bankruptcy in early 2002. All those poor folks who lost their entire 401K’s and investment portfolios in Enron went running for the blue light specials – or so K-Mart hoped. Now if only GM or Exxon would go under, K-Mart might be able to dig themselves completely out of the hole.

Tens of thousands of people losing their life savings also must have been welcome news for the Ramen Noodle company. There’s only so long you can support an entire company on feeding desperate grad students. With college kids having more and more disposable income and therefore the ability to afford higher quality foods such as fish sticks, Taco Bell, and fruit roll-ups, the Enron thing must have been a real Godsend. Not since “Black Tuesday” has there been a party at Ramen headquarters like the one there was after Enron’s announcement of bankruptcy.

The credit card people must have been swimming in happy, too. No cash for people meant credit card companies were going to be turning out more plastic than a Malibu cosmetic surgeon, and making loans at interest rates that would make the Gambino family tell them to cool it.

The limited and somewhat (but not completely) satirical examples of Enron upsides can’t change the fact that, thanks to a few corporate scandals, all our lives have been altered in some way. If you’re in business, you’re jumping through hoops and suffering through creating all sorts of make-work government reports. If you’re a consumer, congratulations, the cost of all the extra legal bills taken on by companies who have to hire lawyers to ensure they’re up to speed with the new government laws, has been passed on to you.

It may be ending for Lay and Skilling, but for you and me, it’s only the beginning, because the government’s idea of ensuring that the fox never again raids the chicken coop is to kill the chickens.


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Author: Doug Powers

Doug Powers is a writer, editor and commentator covering news of the day from a conservative viewpoint with an occasional shot of irreverence and a chaser of snark. Townhall Media writer/editor. MichelleMalkin.com alum. Bowling novice. Long-suffering Detroit Lions fan. Contact: WriteDoug@Live.com.