Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Lying On Top, Ken Lay Only One of Many

by Dean Baker

“The third quarter is going to be great.”

That’s what Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay said last September to a room full of workers who had come to hear about the company’s prospects after a recent wave of bad news had sent the stock price plummeting. These were workers who had devoted their careers to building up Enron into one of the nation’s biggest companies. Most of them were counting on Enron stock to provide the bulk of their income in retirement. Not only did Mr. Lay lie to these workers about the state of the company, he went on to encourage them to persuade their family and friends to invest in Enron as well.

As despicable as Mr. Lay’s behavior was, he actually performed a valuable service for the nation. He showed the incredible contempt with which the nation’s elite–the ones with million dollar houses, yachts, and servants–view the people who have to work for a living. Unfortunately, Mr. Lay’s conduct is not unusual among the rich and powerful. He just happened to get caught.

While the corporate world is filled with Kenneth Lays, as millions of workers and shareholders are coming to realize, the ones that are most visible to the public are the nation’s political leaders. If you want lies from on high, a good place to start is the Republican attacks against people who want to rollback part of their tax cut. The Republicans are trying to convince the public that there is a conspiracy afoot to raise their taxes.

Of course none of us want to pay higher taxes–but the Republicans recognize that the taxes for the vast majority of the public will not be affected by the tax proposals on the table. Some members of Congress are pushing to limit the portion of the tax break that would go to the richest 2 percent of the population. For most of the nation the tax rate paid by this group has as much relevance as the tax rate in Portugal–we might end up paying those taxes one day, but it’s not very likely.

Given the choice between cutting Bill Gates’ taxes or extending health care coverage to the growing number of uninsured people and making prescription drugs affordable to seniors, most people would probably opt to have Bill Gates pay more taxes. But, if a little bit if lying can convince the people that it is their tax dollars at stake–well you’ve got the Republican party platform.

Lying to the public is one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement. The press recently reported that the Democrats will attack the Republican tax cuts–not by saying that they unfairly benefited the wealthy, or by pointing out that this money could have been used for important public needs–but rather by claiming that these tax cuts jeopardize Social Security and Medicare. According to the insiders, this argument scores better in the focus groups.

News Flash: the tax cuts have no effect whatsoever on Social Security and Medicare. Social Security and Medicare have accounts that are separate from the overall budget. When the programs are running surpluses–as they are now–this money is used to buy government bonds. The programs will hold exactly the same amount of government bonds regardless of whether this money is saved or spent. Therefore Social Security and Medicare cannot be affected at all by the tax cut, unless Congress were to default on the nation’s debt, a policy that no politician in Washington would advocate.

Everyone in Washington knows this to be true–the Social Security and Medicare trust fund are described in numerous public documents. However, instead of addressing real issues, the Democrats believe that their best political strategy is to scare people about the future of these vital programs.

In short, the country is filled with Kenneth Lays, people who have made it to the top by lying and stealing, and who have nothing but contempt for ordinary people. The effort to retake the nation is a long and difficult battle. But the first step has to be restoring honesty to political debates. The next time you hear a politician complain about tax increases, or threats to Social Security and Medicare, just remember: “the third quarter is going to be great.”

Dean Baker is currently Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is co-author (with Mark Weisbrot) of Social Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press) and writes the Economic Reporting Review, a weekly analysis of media economic coverage.

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]