Far from being a sideshow that threatens merely to keep the White House “off-message,” the Enron scandal moves daily closer to being perceived as emblematic of the whole point of the Bush administration. It is increasingly clear that efforts to “prevent another Enron” need to be directed not merely to other high-flying companies but to the national economy as a whole.
One need only look at the roster of Bush appointees to see the extent to which people who came out of the Enron mentality (even if they did not personally help run the company into the ground while looting it) are now running the country. They are the same people who, according to Ari Fleischer, “looked at that” and concluded that the fall of Enron would have “no more impact on the overall economy.”
The problem is not that Enron and other companies like it bought access to the White House. The problem is that these Frankensteins of business were able to buy the White House itself and thought they owned the country. The problem is that Bush is their creature.
Here is the basic equation to bear in mind: Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are to Enron as Bush and Cheney are to the U.S. economy.
The Bush agenda is to do to the nation what Ken Lay and his cronies did for Enron — loot it for the benefit of the people at the top. Loot the economy, loot the environment, loot the public wallet, leaving ordinary citizens to foot the bill and clean up the damage, like ruined Enron employees.
That is why Lay and company were invited to write Texas’ environmental regulations when Bush was governor there.
That is why Gale Norton was made Secretary of the Interior upon Bush’s accession to the presidency.
That is why there is concern that the conquest of Afghanistan will serve as prelude to the siphoning of Central Asian oil and gas reserves with a trans-Afghan pipeline, a great sucking sound thought to have originated in Sugar Land, Texas during Governor Bush’s term.
That is why massive tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy — including a $254 million refund for Enron, a company that didn’t even pay taxes in four of the past five years — are the centerpiece of the Bush economic program.
That is why Lay and company were invited to write national energy policy.
That is why Cheney (“Yeth, master”) will not — cannot — dare not — come clean about his meetings with energy executives, any more than Lay now dares offer testimony (or answer questions) without invoking the Fifth Amendment or scoring an immunity deal.
When Bush told Congress and the nation that “the state of our union has never been stronger,” it was impossible not to think of Lay telling Enron employees that the company was in great shape, even as he and his fellow executives were dumping their stock.
If we judge the state of the union by the status of our civil liberties, has it ever been more precarious?
A budget surplus the size of many Enrons has disappeared since Bush took office, much of it handed over to the rich in tax cuts. Many among the unrich have lost not only their investments but their jobs and their savings. Images of Enron employees walking out of the building with their personal belongings in cardboard boxes offer a disturbing premonition of people vacating foreclosed homes. (For years Bush has been longing to do with Social Security what Lay did with the 401K plans of Enron workers.)
Governors and legislatures in most states search for ways to cut public services. The fate of the environment, from the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to the dwindling forests of the Pacific Northwest, is hanging by a thread. The reproductive rights of women are in the hands of John Ashcroft.
Even if the pretzel-scarred creature (Bush), said to have “bonded” with the American public, must now turn on his creator (Lay), it may only signify that Enron’s unpardonable sin was letting itself get a little too far ahead of the curve.
It has been a long time since the creature has been able to read “Thomas the Tank Engine” to the children. Does the creature miss those days? Or is he listening keenly for the first sound of peasants massing with pitchforks and torches, coming unbonded and heading toward the castle?
He will most assuredly be listening intently for investigators whispering into the ears of subpoenaed witnesses, “Who can you give us?”
My money’s on Igor.
David Vest is a regular writer for CounterPunch, a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit his website at http://www.mindspring.com/~dcqv