Morning Political Note: Jan. 24

The Wall Street Journal editorial page takes a clear-eyed view at the populist outrage over the Enron pension situation, and discovers that there might be less there than meets the populist eye: "[W]hile the Enron pension story is tragic, it's more about specific corporate blunders and wrongdoing than it is about flaws in pension law or in 401(k)s. It's certainly no excuse for Congress to lobotomize a private pension system that has given millions of Americans a comfortable retirement."

USA Today considers whether or not Enron's investment in Washington worked to its benefit, and finds that it did. "It didn't attain every goal. But Enron got enough favors from government to allow it to create its own unregulated marketplace for the buying and selling of energy futures contracts and a host of other products. The company's message to the public, in a slick TV ad campaign touting its innovative spirit, was "Ask why.' But its message to government overseers often seemed to be 'Don't ask.'" ( )

Rep. Henry Waxman sounds a tiny bit defensive to us in his Washington Post op-ed: "Last week, the Bush administration gave its clearest 'tell' yet that it doesn't like its Enron hand. In response to my inquiries about contacts between administration officials and Enron executives, a senior White House official warned: 'Waxman risks transforming himself into the Dan Burton of the Democrats' … Republican White Houses rarely throw gratuitous insults at senior Republican members of Congress like Mr. Burton, the chairman of the Government Reform Committee. To make sure the message wasn't lost, the White House press secretary later called my efforts a 'partisan waste of taxpayer money.' These blunt personal attacks signal a high level of White House anxiety: Its strategy is to discredit me and make other Democrats nervous about investigating Enron's influence on White House policies." ( )

Rep. John Dingell, invigorated to the point of gangbuster-dom by the Enron/Andersen situation, has a New York Times op-ed calling on the White House to release more about the energy task force records. ( )

The Boston Globe runs its version of "Democrats took Enron money, too." ( )

Hot potato indeed: Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, tried to give an Enron donation to a charter school in his state, but the school has decided they don't want it, either, and plans to give it to a fund for Enron employees. ( )

The Economy / Budget Politics

The best budget story of the day leads the Wall Street Journal , which reviews Wednesday's deficit news, then widens out to include the implications of the new numbers for substantive policy going forward. It also previews the Greenspan testimony today: "The Fed Chairman himself was among those who assured Congress a year ago about the likelihood of sustained, big budget surpluses, and assured politicians that President Bush's tax cut was affordable. Mr. Greenspan is to return to the Senate Budget Committee Thursday to address the changes in the fiscal and economic outlook since then, and is expected to face heated questioning on those assurances."

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