Meanwhile, Gregg Easterbrook wonders where the conservatives are while corporate yo-yos make mockery of their capitalistic values:
After all, counterfeit corporate bookkeeping and unjustified CEO self-enrichment both represent lack of character--don't conservatives care about character?--and discourage investors from offering their capital. Yet we've heard almost nothing from conservatives denouncing the revelations of widespread corporate quasi-theft.
This silence is even more startling when you think about how the CEO deceptions violate the basic precepts of the free market. Economic theory says markets work best with "transparency"--information must be accurate and must flow openly in order for markets to be efficient. Markets can't be efficient if corporations are lying about their financial condition, clouding the air with disinformation. "Clearing," one of the essential tenets of free market economics--driving all prices to their true value--can also happen only in the presence of accurate information available to anyone.
Next, consider the two standard rationalizations that CEOs have used to justify high pay--that top managers possess incredibly valuable expertise, and that the market price of executives is simply rising. The supposed incredibly valuable skills are increasingly turning out to be the willingness to lie and cheat. When Lay and other Enron executives defended themselves by insisting they were so totally, utterly stupid they had no idea what was going on around them, it might have been pointed out that these same inspiring felons originally justified their high pay on the grounds they were extraordinarily skilled financial geniuses.
Let me make this perfectly clear: both Bush and Cheney campaigned touting their business acumen, as well as pledging to relieve business of pesky regulations. As exemplified by Bush's limp speech on corporate responsibility--in which he lectured Wall Street about the same sort of sweetheart loans he himself once received--Bush is going to have a hard time shaking the perception of corporate cronyism, and rightly so.