“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” is an outstanding documentary of the rise and fall of Enron. Enron is a corporation still based in Houston. It collapsed in 2001. The symbiotic relationship between the Bush family and Enron is noted. The merger of corporations and government, which Mussolini called the definition of fascism, is easy to see in this excellent film. I liked the question posed at the beginning: “Was this just the work of a few bad men, or was it the dark side of the American dream?”
The main characters are people who made daily headlines in Houston and across the nation throughout the company’s operation: Ken Lay (dubbed “Kenny Boy” by George W. Bush), Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow, among others. The film presents them as human beings who were convinced that what they were doing was right. At one point, Skilling declares, “We’re the good guys … we’re on the side of angels!” It was interesting to see them merge religious ideology with their business conduct and use it to justify egregious wrongs against their employees, the U.S. as a whole, and California in particular.
The executives are portrayed as risk-takers and intensely greedy. At one point, Lay laments that he only has $20 million left after the collapse! The push for profit was the constant preoccupation of the traders and executives alike. Their profit mania led them to use fraudulent accounting that resulted in a meteoric rise of the stock value.
They also manipulated the state of California by creating “rolling blackouts” throughout the state, although plenty of power was available. This created panic and a rise in the value of the electricity they provided, which again served to inflate the stock value. Of course, poor and working people were the ones hardest hit. Many could not pay the price of power.
The scariest part of the movie is seeing the resemblance between Enron’s twisted reasoning and President Bush’s justifications for invading Iraq. The Downing Street Memo makes it clear that the Bush and Blair administrations used lies and manipulation to justify a criminal war, which only served the interests of the elite.
Although this film is an excellent documentary of the contradictions inherent in the capitalist system, it fails to present any solutions. It is up to working people to pick up where the film leaves off. This is a monumental responsibility. The fate of our planet will be determined by how working people respond to the negative direction taken by the “smart guys” at Enron and the rest of the right-wing elite.