Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Enron and our government

I read the following article in the Chicago Tribune dated Sunday, December 4, 2011.

“Mistakes of Enron keep repeating.”

The author, Paul Rosenthal is blasting the corporate culture that created the Enron disaster. And he is seeing this same problem in other companies today. The basic accounting problem of hiding debt in order to borrow more to the point that debt caused a rapid collapse. This all sounds familiar to me.

Is not our Federal government facing the same problem? Are not our state governments also dealing with a massive debt problem? How about our city governments like Detroit who is threatened with takeover by the state of Michigan? And let’s not talk about the local governments and counties. This problem is much more widespread than our corporate executives.

Our entire society has been going this way for decades. My father told me back in the 1980’s that when he was a young man, you shook hands and your word was good. Even if the deal turned out to be a mistake, you went ahead with it unless the other party agreed. I read an article in Time magazine around the same time (Mid 1980’s) that said in the culture in American today, it was acceptable to lie if it was to your advantage. You know, about that used car you are selling with the bad brakes or transmission.

I only lend any of my property out to certain people. Others just do not take the time or effort to return what I have lent them. I myself go way out of my way to return others property, but this is not a two way street. I had an acquaintance who I approached to borrow something. He refused, but I told him that if anything happened, I would buy him a new one. He was surprised and asked me: Really? So he lent it to me (I guess he knew my word was good) I returned it intact. If anything had happened, I WOULD have replaced it with a new one. Our society is not generally like this anymore.

It makes sense that we see this in our company leadership as well as our government. After all, our leadership is only what we are. We elect others who are like us.

What surprised me about the article was how he did not even mention the massive debt our local, city, state and Federal governments have. I guess the author’s focus is corporations. What is concerning is that our government debt is Enron multiplied many, many times over. And we have not hit the wall yet. And just like Enron, when we do, it will come quick and fast.

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