Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Quote of the Day

Here is a little chatter, rich in family values, that just warms the heart. This is from an audiotape (one of many recently released) of two Enron employees discussing the company's dubious policies in California that, according to internal memos obtained by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, were designed to artificially inflate energy prices in that state following the infusions de-regulation of the energy industry. The actions of Enron and other vendors led to the crippling energy crisis that sparked the recall of then Governor Gray Davis:

"They're f------g taking all the money back from you guys?" complains an Enron employee on the tapes. "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?"

"Yeah, grandma Millie, man"

"Yeah, now she wants her f------g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a------ for f------g $250 a megawatt hour."

I am of the belief that government regulation can go too far in some instances, but the cult of de-regulation also places a misguided and naive trust in the private sector to "do the right thing." Whether it be in the realm of setting energy prices, determining appropriate worker safety standards, consumer product safety or industry self-regulation of environmental protections, industry will put its interests ahead of the common good, although, luckily, the two occasionally coincide.

Simply put, there are almost always glaring and insurmountable conflicts of interests when industry is left to its own devices to insure public goods. The bottom line is, that for business, the bottom line is sacrosanct, and profits are too frequently lessened by environmental protections, worker safety precautions, product safety mandates, and government regulations on industry such as price caps. Not to mention the fact that there is an omnipresent pressure to form monopolies, trusts and cartels in order to control the market and limit the downward pressure on prices that competition brings. These, of course, hurt the consumer but improve the profit margins of the monopolistic businesses.

Here is another series of quotes, taken from a story appearing on the CBS News website, that illustrate this point:

"Before the 2000 election, Enron employees pondered the possibilities of a Bush win.

'It'd be great. I'd love to see Ken Lay Secretary of Energy,' says one Enron worker.

That didn't happen, but they were sure President Bush would fight any limits on sky-high energy prices.

'When this election comes Bush will f------g whack this s--t, man. He won't play this price-cap b------t.'

Crude, but true.

'We will not take any action that makes California's problems worse and that's why I oppose price caps,' said Mr. Bush on May 29, 2001."

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