Book review: Huffington’s “Pigs at the trough”

With so much happening in the US under a leader who is not exactly known for business and other ethics, I decided to read a few golden oldies. One of these is Arianna Huffington’s “Pigs at the trough: how corporate greed and political corruption are undermining America”.

Let’s be clear from the very start: I was not disappointed. He’s in it. Of course, Huffington’s comparison is not positive. But you will have to read the book, for at the time, Trump was still small fry – compared to some in the book – , so he didn’t make it into its Index.

huffington-pigs-at-the-troughThis book was first published in 2003. Being over a decade old, it could do with a few up-to-date chapters. Though on the other hand, it might be more convenient to wait till Trump has disappeared. This should give Arianna Huffington a chance to survey the wreckage the Trump government will leave behind.

Despite it being perhaps a bit dated, after reading it, one suspects  the means and ways and deals and corruption described in this book may have not been stamped out between 2002 and the banking crisis. Whatever changed due to the huge no-longer-to-be-hidden-under-the-carpet scandals, may actually soon be back with a vengeance; perhaps legalized by executive and other orders.

The signs are already there, for Huntington’s  books dedicates quite a few pages to unsavory, close business and political ties between family members and family friends. Or promotions of family members and friends to business and political posts by CEOs and others. You get the gist.

Huntington’s book was written as a response to the huge scandals involving corporate America, with the help of accounting firms like Andersen and corrupt politicians.  (Remember Enron, Worldcom, but also the American Steel Industry, car manufacturers, pharmaceutical corporations and plenty others.) As it covers major events till 2002, it has no chapters dedicated to what followed: the banking and financial crisis.

In five large chapters, it traces the immensely close ties between corporations, lobbyists (now probably called consultants, like say Trump’s son-in-law), politicians, congress men, senators, presidents (especially Bush jr – but plenty others too). Oh: and the duped USA citizens. It does not describe what went wrong per firm in great detail. So it helps being familiar with what happened with certain firms and some people like say Bernie Ebbers, the Rigas, Dennis Kozlowski, Al Dunlap and many, many others.

This is not just a polemic piece of writing. It is seething yet underpinned and definitely no “alternative facts” stuff. Though it would have been nice to have an overview of what these scandals cost America, just item per item and than the total costs. This is a “J’ accuse” of corporate America and its political supporters. It may serve as a kind of blue-print of what may likely be uncovered in a couple of years from now.

This is not an easy read. It does take stamina, despite short “fun fact” quizzes and highlighted pages focusing on subjects like “Top 10 stupidest things said about the new economy”, or “Who’s been indicted?” If you are wondering, pages 232 -233 list companies, but as Huffington remarks on page 229:  “… But if the past is indeed prologue, very, very few of America’s new robber barons will end up in jail. …

As stated above, it certainly helps being familiar with certain company names and the names of key players. Moreover, after reading this and finding an article showing Trump’s business ties,  I’m no longer an optimist, perhaps not even a realist, just an awful pessimist. A pessimist of Trump ever getting indicted, impeached.

“Pigs at the trough”, Arianna Huffington, Crown Publishers, 1st edition 2003, 275 pp. This book is available through Amazon.

Visualization of Trump’s business ties, Madeline Stone, Business Insider, 27th off January 2017

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