The business interests that promoted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have gotten their money's worth. Since the agreement went into effect in January 1994, American and Canadian corporations have moved production and jobs south to take advantage of cheap Mexican labor. Subsidized agribusinesses in both northern countries have blown small-scale Mexican farmers out of their local markets for corn, wheat and other commodities. Eighty-five percent of the Mexican banking system is now foreign-owned. Mexican production, meanwhile, is moving to even lower-wage countries. And the Mexican business partners who brokered these deals got rich.
The Democratic party -- like Enron, the FBI and the Catholic Church -- is a dysfunctional institution that cannot reform itself from the inside. If the party were a well-run corporation whose products weren't selling, its board of directors or its CEO would bring in outsiders to give an honest assessment of what was going wrong and engage stakeholders -- workers, customers, suppliers -- in planning a new strategy. But the Democrats have neither a competent board of directors nor a responsible CEO. The Democratic National Committee is a worn-down fundraising machine with a chairman, Terry McAuliffe, tainted by the huge windfall he made on an investment in Global Crossing.
The value of the U.S. dollar has dropped more than 15 percent against the euro since February. That may not sound like a big deal -- a bit of bad news for American tourists this summer, a bit of good news for American manufacturers selling things abroad. But, in fact, it could be a sign that America's mounting foreign debt is about to deal a major blow to an economy already reeling from the shock of the dot-com meltdown and the crisis of U.S. corporate credibility.
On the day television beamed around the world images of
tearful Enron employees stunned at the looting of their 401(k)s by the company's
top brass, pension reform became a top congressional priority. As the scandal
rippled across corporate America, even George W. Bush could sense the smoldering
class resentment. "What's fair on the top floor should be fair on the shop floor,"
he proclaimed, distancing himself from his old pals at Enron's Houston
The Enron scandal seems like a heaven-sent opportunity to reform the
business excesses of our recent Gilded Age. But the fetish of markets retains a
powerful grip on the American political psyche. Already, corporate lobbyists,
elevating stock-market gambling to the level of a fundamental human right, are
undercutting modest efforts to prevent future abuses of 401(k) pension
plans--which for most Americans is the heart of the Enron matter.