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Column: Crooked and cooked

In a case of unbelievable irony, the federal government has announced that its own books may have been “cooked” and previous estimates of the federal deficit may have been grossly underestimated. Maybe big business and government have more in common than we give them credit for.

Wall Street has taken a beating over the past seven months since the accounting woes of Enron hit the media. Now, we have weathered Martha Stewart’s insider trading accusations, a pending lawsuit for Vice President Dick Cheney and a claim by the Securities and Exchange Commission that current President Bush was a little slow to react to questions surrounding a shady business dealing at the turn of the ’90s. Is no one safe?

The start of this snowball effect seems to have stemmed from Sept. 11, which woke the stock market bear too early from his hibernation. Enron’s tales of woe were a nail in the coffin of the economy, and then, Martha Stewart added another. Now it seems as if no business can add correctly. False records and reports are everywhere, and the question becomes, are all of those accountants and Stewart going to pose for Playboy, too? Let’s hope not.

As November looms closer, democrat and republican squabbling is expected to reach an all-time high, but now they actually have something legitimate to bicker over. The usual mudslinging could do the trick, but with President Bush and Vice President Cheney being investigated, the democrats have the really good mud to sling. Although the presidential seat won’t be up for debate until 2004, Washington seems abuzz with early talk of dethroning the current ruler. However, Whitewater couldn’t dethrone Clinton, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

Just to throw a kink into the works, the federal government and other political leaders, most notably former presidential candidate John McCain, are insisting that firmer punishment and harsher prison sentences be placed on corporate offenders. Even President Bush espoused these ideas in his Wall Street speech Tuesday. Does this mean, that should Cheney or Bush be found guilty of wrongdoing they would be subject to the same punishment? That would be ironic, wouldn’t it? Although with Martha Stewart as a inmate, I’m sure they’d have the prettiest cell on row B.

The irony is that big business and the federal government are really in cahoots, and while the president would like the American public to believe that he had no idea CEOs and other business tycoons could be such convincing liars, we have to read between the lines. Sept. 11 served as a wake-up call for this country and the threat of terrorism; Enron served as a wake-up call for this country and the threat of corporate greed.

While President Bush may not have done anything wrong, how he handles the next few months in the business world will be increasingly important. Consumer confidence is at an all-time low, despite high spending for the month of June. The country is in a recession and at war in the Middle East. The president’s approval rating is also rather high. These conditions are almost the exact same under which his father, the former President Bush, lost the election in 1992. If you don’t think the similarities are a little eerie, you’re not looking hard enough.

The whole business scandal can be boiled down to politics. No one in any position of power is safe from this scandal, and in Washington, they’re just hoping we don’t notice.