Friday, November 04, 2005
The Bush administration, with its crony corporations in tow, essentially sallied forth into the world with the collective mentality of a plunderer, ready to strip mine the planet. While its plans for global -- and energy -- domination (as well as the military conquest of space) have been aimed at forever, its business plans seemed more focused on tomorrow and the day after. For a while, it looked as if the President and his friends might even make back to Crawford for a life of Mai Tais and brush-cutting without the economic chickens coming home to roost. This now looks less likely.
Mark Engler takes up a distinctly under-attended subject -- just how bad for business (at least as measured by the post-Cold War presidencies of Bush the Elder and Bill Clinton) this administration might prove to be. He also explores the question of whether significant sectors of the business community will turn on the administration's war in Iraq and allied policies. Though largely forgotten, it happened once before -- in the Vietnam era. Tom
Bush's Bad Business Empire
Making the World Unsafe for Microsoft and Mickey Mouse
By Mark Engler
The Bush administration has a reputation for creating an unusually business-friendly White House. Put Dick Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force and massive tax cuts together with corporate lobbyists writing regulations for their own industries, and you've made an argument that seems pretty persuasive.
There are reasons, however, to consider a contrary notion: Maybe George Bush and Dick Cheney aren't very good capitalists at all.
George W. Bush's history as a failed businessman is well known. Dick Cheney, portrayed by conservatives as a brilliant ex-CEO and by progressives as a Halliburton shill, also has a suspect past. While he certainly increased Halliburton's profile in four-and-a-half years as its chief, his foremost accomplishment was the $7.7 billion acquisition in 1998 of Dresser Industries, a rival that turned out to be plagued with staggering asbestos-related liabilities. In the wake of Cheney's reign, multiple Halliburton divisions sought bankruptcy protection and the company's stock price plunged. Rolling Stone magazine reported in August 2004, "Even with the bounce Halliburton stock has received from the war, an investor who put $100,000 into the company just before Cheney became vice president would have less than $60,000 today."
Many analysts hold the Vice President accountable for the downturn, arguing that Dresser's asbestos problems, which cost Halliburton billions, were predictable. Less harsh critics nonetheless question his success as a business leader. For instance, Jason E. Putman, an energy analyst at Victory Capital Management, argues that, as Halliburton chief, "[o]verall, Cheney did maybe at best an average job." Newsweek's Wall Street editor, Allan Sloan, is less complimentary, suggesting Cheney was a "CEO who messed up big-time."
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