Home > Uncategorized > Leo W. Gerard – Political Corruption: GOP Embraces the Ken Lay Way

Leo W. Gerard – Political Corruption: GOP Embraces the Ken Lay Way

From the AFL-CIO Now Blog:

Political Corruption: GOP Embraces the Ken Lay Way

by Leo W. Gerard, Dec 2, 2010

The GOP has adopted the Ken Lay principles—that is obfuscation, false statements and feigned innocence. Republicans are obfuscating about the real reason for their opposition to extending unemployment benefits, the way Enron CEO Ken Lay concealed the truth about billions in losses his corporation racked up.

Lay assured Enron workers the corporation was strong—five weeks before it failed. When the nation’s seventh largest corporation collapsed into bankruptcy in 2001, Lay walked away, by his own estimate, with $20 million. By contrast, Enron’s 4,000 workers and creditors left with debts. The employees lost their jobs and pensions, and the creditors lost $65 billion.

A jury, and a judge in a separate case, convicted Lay in 2006—finding him guilty of fraud, conspiracy and false statements. He obscured Enron’s massive losses with accounting hocus-pocus then lied about it so pervasively and persuasively that in February 2001, 10 months before the bankruptcy, Fortune magazine awarded Enron first place for innovation and second for management quality.

Republican acolytes of the Ken Lay way contend that the federal budget deficit prohibits spending $65 billion to extend emergency unemployment insurance for a year. But, at the same time, they insist the deficit doesn’t constrain extending tax cuts to the richest 1 percent at a cost of $61 billion for the year 2011. It’s masterful. And as corrupt as Ken Lay.

In the past 60 years, Congress has never terminated emergency unemployment benefits when joblessness was this severe. The highest point at which Congress ended the program previously was 7.2 percent, and that rate was declining. Now, unemployment is stuck at a rate significantly higher—9.6 percent. There are 14.8 million unemployed workers, five jostling for every single job opening. They subsist on unemployment checks averaging less than $290 a week, which for too many is insufficient to forestall foreclosure because it’s half of what an average family spends for necessities.

Despite that six-decade precedent, Republicans blocked extension of unemployment benefits on Tuesday, then on Wednesday announced they’d vote on no measure until they got renewal of the Bush tax cuts and a resolution continuing funding for the federal government. As a result, 800,000 jobless Americans lost those small, family-preserving checks. Republicans are holding them hostage, with a ransom demand of tax cuts for the nation’s richest 1 percent. If the GOP doesn’t get what it wants, 2 million will lose unemployment insurance by year’s end.

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