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Hi-tech Titans meet privately with Dubya

Republican whippers-in guide the pack

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US President-elect George Dubya Bush convened an economic summit in Austin, Texas this week, during which he joyously received the Big Swinging Dicks of American high technology behind closed doors.

The guest list read like a who's who in IT: Michael Dell of Dell Computers; John Chambers of Cisco; Lou Gerstner of IBM; Scott McNealy of Sun; Gordon Moore, formerly of Intel; Craig Barrett, currently of Intel; Tom Engibous of Texas Instruments; Ray Lane, formerly of Oracle; Jim Barksdale of Netscape Communications; and scores of others.

We'd love to tell you what went on, but the press was barred from all the winking, nodding, ass-kissing and related festivities. All we can do is make a few educated guesses based on the usual post-game spin sessions.

Clearly Dubya wanted to reassure everyone present that his administration is going to be as kind to Corporate America as previously advertised. It's also clear that Dubya wanted to air a few items of business with his loyal minions that the man in the street would be better off not knowing.

Meeting privately was a significant gesture. It was a way of setting a tone. It was a way of signalling his availability to be approached, in strict confidence, with the concerns of Big Business in general, and the tech sector in particular.

In 1999 Bush created his Information Technology Advisory Committee, an in-club of influential tech-sector contributors, nearly all of whom were present at the summit.

It was a way of signalling that their generous campaign contributions were not made in vain.

Little was said after the meeting. Michael Dell's burbling about a two-pronged approach to the economic slowdown, one of which is Alan Greenspan's recent interest-rate cut, leads us to surmise that Dubya pitched his Big Tax Cut pretty hard, and that he wouldn't mind hearing a few public grunts of approval from his tech-savvy buddies. Dell, at least, hurried to accommodate him.

Dubya's been talking recession lately, in a determined effort to convince us that if one comes, it's Clinton's fault, not his. The touching irony there of course is that recessions are in large part the product of losses in consumer and investor confidence, so by hammering away at the R-word he may very well scare everyone enough to create one.

Unfortunately, to sell the Big Tax Cut he has to keep the recession fears alive, to justify it as a desperately-needed economic stimulus over the objections of those who'd prefer to use the surplus to get Uncle Sam out of debt for a change and to fund a few important social programmes like health care and Social Security.

So Dubya proposes to piss away the federal surplus in tax cuts to Joe Sixpack, so that he, in turn, can enact his solemn patriotic duty to the US economy by pissing away even more money on meaningless consumer rubbish which he's destined to lose in his next divorce.

The beauty here is that a significant heap of that meaningless consumer rubbish will be manufactured and marketed by the very IT Illuminati Dubya is indebted to; and furthermore, his proposed tax cuts will affect them even more profoundly, allowing them to bask for a while longer in the illusion that they earn real profits.

So we gather from the meeting that Dubya hopes to recruit big-name CEOs to pitch his plan, and will strive to be good to Corporate America in the short term, stimulating economic activity by squandering a finite windfall earned under the economic husbandry of his predecessor.

All indications suggest it will be a smashing success. We just wonder what's going to happen when the money's gone. ®

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