Although it's early in the process of peeling the Enron onion, it's sure looking like a lot of money has disappeared in Texas, again. Don't be surprised if those poor swindled Enron employees eventually get their pensions restored by the federal government, using you guessed it our tax dollars.
Will the real culprits get their due? Will the skullduggery in the Lone Star State unravel all the way to Washington, D.C.; even the White House?
Forgive this scribbler if he sounds cynical about this, but there is plenty of expectation here that the answer to those questions won't be satisfying. Once the smoke clears, if any Enron big shots actually go to jail that will be a surprise. Perhaps some accountants and a few flunkies will take the fall.
Still, it's going to be fascinating to hear what sort of cover stories will be invented to justify the bizarre restriction that was put on Enron employees, preventing them from selling off any of their stock during the critical period.
As far as the Bush administration is concerned, so far there's no evidence that anyone acted wrongfully as Enron imploded. Nonetheless, this scandal is likely to breathe new life into campaign finance reform. Once everyday people get a good look at how much of Enron's dirty money flowed into political campaigns, in both parties, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) will know how to use that fact.
Although that particular issue is a hard sell, there's no doubt that lobbyists representing mammoth corporations are routinely playing far too great a part in the product that emerges from Congress. So, McCain is dead right about the dire need for reform. The Enron story is surely to reanimate some of what he was saying during his insurgent campaign for the GOP nomination a year ago.
Beyond the impact Enron disclosures might have on the future of campaign finances, the investigation could well lead to the instituting of sensible new policies to do with energy in this country. A proper balance between the public's need and the industry's greed must be found.
Houston-based Enron appears to be a perfect example of what unfettered capitalism can do if left to its own devices. While creating no product and performing no necessary service, Enron insinuated itself into the marketplace and squeezed out a fortune for its executives and the privileged stockholders who got the tip on when to sell.
Wasn't Enron created to do just what it did speculate in energy supply and demand for a while, rig the game, then take the money and run? In the post-Enron investigation world, perhaps it will be easier for the workers/consumers of this nation to finally understand that energy is a vital commodity that has to be watched over by an entity with their interests in mind and the power to act wisely on their behalf.
Clearly, the only entity that can do that job is the government. Today, it's not so much a matter of the United States needing more, or less, government. America needs better government in the worst way.
In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy some citizens have seen for the first time that in spite of what they were taught during those sepia-toned Reagan years, government does have a proper role in the scheme of things. Hopefully, more of the middle class will now come to see that in many ways they've been duped by fat-cat spin into believing that swashbuckling entrepreneurs can solve all the world's problems if lazy, corrupt governments would just stand aside.
Even if the oily Bush administration has done nothing wrong on its watch, with regard to Enron, that won't necessarily make it look clean. At this writing there are six congressional committees looking into Enron's shocking collapse.
Once again DeeCee is happily abuzz with scandal. What's already coming out suggests there will be all sorts of criminal prosecutions and law suits over this. Because of Enron's ubiquitous connections to Texas politics, the yearlong free ride Bush has gotten from the press is history.
The long boring honeymoon is over.
F. T. Rea, copyright 2002
F.T. Rea is a freelance writer who lives in Richmond.
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