THE BUTT-UGLY RICH
by Rip Rense
I was confused about this whole Enron thing, so I phoned my friend, Sir Real.
"Sir Real," says I, "Is this just 'business gone awry,' or is it the biggest political scandal since Teapot Dome and Watergate?"
"What's the difference?"
"Enron's pals, the president and vice president and, well, shucks, most of Congress, were backed by lots of Enron money. Enron wanted deregulation, and influence in D.C., in order to fool more people into investing. Enron got what it wanted, courtesy of the people it paid to get elected. That's the American way!"
"Well, I don't know "
"For Sale: Congress Cheap runs good. Deregulation and D.C. prestige freed up Enron to hire The Three Stooges as accountants, and do business like Three-Card-Monte and the hidden pea under the walnut-shell trick. When Moe, Larry and Curly got caught, a lot of people including Sir Real lost big bucks. The Enron suicide count is currently at two. Not counting the death of sanity."
"So you're saying "
"I'm saying that back where I come from, 'regulation' was called 'law.' Here we have business colluding with government to abolish laws in order that business specifically, Enron and a myriad of investors, from Citicorp to J.P. Morgan Chase could get butt-ugly rich. I mean, butt-uglier rich. A whole lot of people in government have either worked for Enron, or owned Enron stock including the attorney general you see, so they all stood to clean up."
"But Sir Real," I said, "you're suggesting monumental, pervasive conflict of interest. I mean, Nixon almost quit the vice-presidency once just because somebody gave his wife a nice jacket."
"Conflict of interest? Gone the way of paying with cash! Government and Enron had exactly the same interests. You couldn't tell where Enron left off and Washington, D.C., started. It's the corporate state, realized. And despite the fact that the president is distancing himself from his friend, former Enron head Kenneth 'Kenny Boy' Lay, I think you still can't tell where Enron stops and D.C. starts. Any investigation is a snake eating itself."
"No. I am."
"But lobbying always goes on "
"This wasn't lobbying. This was a merger! Have you read reports about the alleged mixing of foreign policy with Enron's interests? How Lay was a top adviser and they don't make irony this thick in Pittsburgh on President Bush's energy appointments?"
"I have, but I don't really understand them."
"Neither do the reporters who write them!" said Sir Real. "The Enron coverage is intelligible only to Alan Greenspan and other extra-terrestrials. This story is more dipsy-doodle than the inside of Michael Jackson's head."
"But what about the American people's influence in government?"
"What about Glynda, the Good Witch of the North? What about the Easter Bunny? The people have plenty of influence in government every time you watch 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.' The people have been duped, as usual sold a bill of goods about deregulation, for starters. They equate all regulation with big government, and tyranny! What? We can't put a highway through that redwood forest? Tyranny! What? We have to balance our ledgers? Tyranny!"
"But there is excessive, maddening, government regulation."
"Yes! Always. Red tape makes the world go 'round. But that doesn't mean you free up business to turn investments into Monopoly money, or to extort power-starved states like California. Kenny Boy and the Enronians sounds like a rock group, doesn't it? were calculating their profits by investing the imaginary in the possible."
"They were wagering what they didn't have on what might happen you know, the principle on which the most profitable enterprise in America is based."
"No! Las Vegas! Kenny Boy and his pals were betting like Omar Sharif at the craps table. If they'd welshed in Vegas the way they did in Texas, they'd have wound up being taken for a nice one-way drive in the desert by guys who listen to Louis Prima."
"Are you calling them criminals?"
"Well, a whole lot of them cashed out just before Enron crashed out, leaving their loyal working stiffs holding the bag. The bag that had contained their pensions. What do you call that?"
"Capitalism. Or what it's become. So what will happen?"
"Lots of 'Get Out of Jail Free' cards. They're taking more fifths than W.C. Fields, but nothing much will stick. Oh, a few of the boys will get fines and short vacations at 'honor farms,' and there might be a low-level resignation or two in D.C.. But as long as the government is for sale, and deregulation-happy, and the people content with their beer and satellite TV, there will be Enrons. In fact, there still is Enron. Its stock disappeared, and its employees lost their shirts, but the company is still in the energy-futures business."
"But how can that be? How can it function?"
"They're hoping nobody will notice their big, shiny hind sticking up into the Texas sky, while their head is buried deep in Texas soil."
"You know, I just realized I don't even really know what an energy future is!"
"Doesn't matter. With deregulation, there is no energy future, anyhow."
© 2002 Rip Rense. All rights reserved.