State of Mind Maladies: Enron and Dubya

by Philip Greenspan

October 7, 2002


When the returns of the presidential election came in from the Supreme Court, those nine unelected individuals, had, by a one-vote margin 5-4, put Baby Bush in the White House. And with Baby's entry on the scene what I call 'The Enron State of Mind' (ESM) caught the public's attention.

What is ESM? It is an appellation for an elite ideology that enthrones the corporation at the pinnacle of power. An ideology that has been espoused by the elite for many years -- long before Enron became a formidable presence.

Kenneth Lay, the Chairman and CEO of Enron, was a phenomenal entrepreneur. He was able to skyrocket a small corporation, Enron, to where it became one of the largest companies in America. With that growth, both he and Enron became highly regarded and respected. He was extremely astute in achieving his objectives. That those objectives were not well known at the time is certainly why he was so successful.

His rise resulted from his ability to gain extensive governmental assistance. He knew how to ingratiate himself with the important men in government who could do him the most good. He and his company became the largest contributors to both political parties and was an especially strong supporter of Baby Bush, who was so thrilled to have his support that he nicknamed his benefactor and buddy 'Kenny Boy'.

But the groundwork was laid years before Kenny Boy arrived on the scene. American businessmen with the aid of think-tanks, staffed and supported by corporations, and the news media, owned by corporations, were proclaiming that business had the formula to usher in good times and prosperity for all. The magic formula: 'Get the Government Off Our Backs.' -- their slogan and war-cry. By softening up the public with a great campaign and with the aid of their lobbyists, accountants and lawyers, changes were effected in legislation to accomplish that result.

Getting the proper legislation required that the Congress had to be sold on the idea as well. Corporations realized this and being fine, upstanding, public-spirited citizens, they decided to become interested in good government and accordingly contributed generously to the political process. They put their money where their mouths were. Gobs of greenbacks were bestowed on those senators and representatives who were understanding and sympathetic and particularly to those who served on committees that could do them the most good. While such generosity might wrongly be thought of as bribes -- no, no, no, it just wasn't so. The contributions were entirely legal and these fine, upstanding citizens were only thinking of good government.

With the same magic that turned illegal bribes into campaign contributions, the Congress was now implored by the lobbyists for those high-minded citizens to change some of the old New Deal restrictions on improper business practices into a legal means of conducting ones business in the modern world.

With deregulation, corporations had won their first major victory. Airlines were the first industry selected. The hype that greeted deregulation promised numerous improvements for both the industry and the traveling public. The resulting competition would lower fares, create better service, allow new entrants into the market, increase profits of the efficient operators, etc.

Those optimistic predictions have not materialized. The fares on any single flight will vary considerably. A last-minute booking might be accommodated with an unconscionable fare. Gouging if possible became an accepted feature of the deregulated environment. As for the improved service, here are just a few of the currently proposed changes: meals being reduced to peanuts, extra charges added for more than a minimum of baggage, elimination of credits when flights are missed. New entrants to the market had short lives, and many of the old major airlines have disappeared as monopolies have swallowed them up leaving numerous cities at the mercy of a single major airline. And they are swimming in so much red ink that if they haven't gone bankrupt, they will cry for their Uncle Sam to bail them out.

Concomitant with the campaign to 'Get Government Off Our Back' was one to reduce the terrible burden of high taxes not only on corporations but on those wealthy investors who are such strong supporters of the American free enterprise system.

Additional goodies for individual companies or industries were also doled out by those wonderful public servants who recognized the great advantages that would be bestowed on the country by giving subsidies of various kinds to a wide range of companies and industries, or such other presents as: the giveaway of television channels worth about $70 billion to television broadcasters, the clear-cutting of timber by logging companies from pristine forests, rancher's cattle grazing on public lands, awarding of mining permits on public lands, etc.

Kenny Boy was a master at exploiting every government benefit to its maximum potential. To show his appreciation, with his buddy George heading for the Oval Office, he induced many of his top executives, all such fine public spirited citizens, to take positions in the new administration where their expertise, that had made Enron such a successful company, could benefit the public sector.

Baby Bush was indeed fortunate. Prominent executives from other industries, imbued by a desire to contribute, enthusiastically entered the administration. How could America go wrong? These paragons knew what was good for America and we were destined to get it. Yes siree, and we are destined to get more of it.

Assistance to the corporate sector was a top priority in the Bush administration. When Enron was accused of causing an exorbitant surge in California's utility prices, the Bush administration did not panic or act. Certainly Kenny Boy was not doing anything to harm the market.

But when the final phase of ESM -- the financial irresponsibility and corruption -- became public knowledge, Kenny Boy, that wonder man was exposed as a charlatan. A substantial part of the tremendous income that Enron had earned, for which it had paid no taxes, was a mirage. Whatever actual income had been earned was promptly used to pay those enormous salaries, benefits and perks of top echelon executives. The stratospheric prices of Enron stock melted faster than an ice-cube on a skillet, but, guess what, the elite members of the company had cashed in all their stock and options at high prices. That formidable corporate structure which security analysts had only a short time ago been extolling turned out to be nothing but a pile of shit. That is what was left for those bewildered creditors, stockholders, and employees.

The name Kenny Boy no longer passed the lips of Baby Bush. At least not within earshot of the media or other blabbermouths. He seemed to have no memory of him or a company called Enron.

The Enron episode was just the opening act of an enormous scandal that spread far, wide and deep into the elite areas of the country. Baby tried to convince the public that it was just a few bad apples that caused the problem. American business was pure and sweet. But purity and sweetness just was too much to swallow. Why even he at Harken Energy, caramba, and his VP at Halliburton, double caramba, had gorged themselves at the orgy.

One thing that is so astonishing about the elite, when they are caught in the most disgraceful and scandalous conduct that would cause any normal individual to go into hiding or commit hara-kiri, is that they carry on as if nothing untoward had happened and their media brethren support the charade.

This massive corporate scandal has robbed perhaps trillions from the American people. While punishment for the atrocious actions cannot be overlooked, the culprits, all being members of the elite will, most likely, suffer very little. If by any chance one of those fine gentlemen, who caused losses of multi-billions is convicted, it is extremely unlikely that he will be compelled to stay in a minimum security 'country club' institution for any length of time. Some poor unfortunate soul who was involved in a robbery of a couple of thousand dollars will serve a sentence in a maximum security prison far in excess of anything dolled out to the corporate culprit. The sentences of drug users who cause harm to no one other than themselves also serve sentences that exceed what the culprit will get.

The media, although complicit in the scandal, are now subtly shifting the focus away from the scandal's consequences. No major corrections are being proposed. The falsity and fraud that was perpetrated by the elite forces and big business has not caused a sufficient public outcry to force the dullards in government, who are also complicit, to respond to the crisis as FDR did to a similar crisis. How this administration responds is 'Business as Usual!'

And so Baby is now off and running on another outrageous adventure. Having been bitten by the Enron bug, its virus has mutated to another virus to become the 'The Dubya State of Mind' (DSM). The elements that made up ESM will show up in the mutated DSM: getting government to support the elite, disregard for the general public, and fiscal irresponsibility. These are now the standards for the government. Expect a replay of the misery that ESM has caused.

The recently published 'National Security Strategy' discloses that the entire world is being scheduled to either accept or be bludgeoned into receiving the American style 'free market economy.' Where some poor foreign countries are headed can be gleaned from just a few choice phrases from that holy writ: 'We will promote economic growth beyond America's shores. . . We will use our economic engagement with other countries to . . .encourage business investment, . . .' and '. . . lower marginal tax rates . . .' (1) Yes, DSM for foreigners, whether they like it or not. How lucky can they get.

Many foreign countries that have already been baptized into the American free market economy by accepting the precepts of globalization or subjecting their economies to the restrictions imposed by the World Bank, or the IMF, have, as they have followed those policies, been turned into basket cases. There are ominous cries of despair being raised in more and more countries throughout the globe. Will not new terrorists arise from their discontent?

The sensible course to eliminate terrorism would be to halt the foreign policy that has been pursued by the American government. But such an action would stymie corporate growth and so they will get the American brand of freedom and capitalism and like it. Foolishly resisting the changes will result in further enlightenment by the US. If their government is receptive to US suggestions, i.e., they can provide a puppet who can be bought off, it can get substantial assistance: money, sophisticated military equipment, training for the military, etc. Should they not be accommodating, the US military can handle the job itself.

The war on terrorism has resulted in a bonanza for the military-industrial complex, the merchants of death. The offensive defense budget keeps soaring with each new adventure and with a prospect for continual wars it should go sky high.

DSM's fiscal irresponsibility symptom is following the script. The budget surplus, that had been achieved by the Clinton administration after many deficit years, has returned to deficit. A major source of income, taxes on the corporation and the wealthy, has been drastically reduced. Expenses of the defense budget keep soaring. The few benefits which are still available to the rest of the population are continually being cut but those cuts represent very little in the overall picture.

Confidence in the US has eroded around the world. The 'Go It Alone' bravado of Bush has had a negative impact. Countries all over the world, even some of its close friends, have been astonished and turned off. The collapse of the stock market and the corporate scandals has shown that the US is not as great as its PR claimed. The dollar is losing its luster. Reports of substantial withdrawals are taking place from those who supported America's indebtedness.

It was not too long ago that the US was the world's largest creditor; today it is the world's largest debtor, and that debt keeps increasing. The confidence that foreigners had in the US dollar permitted the US to obtain loans and maintain the strength of the dollar. But with the irresponsibility of DSM the dollar will slide and inflation will follow.

The hubris of the business world during the heady days of high market prices has infected the hawks in the administration. It is the sole superpower; the US is number one; it can go it alone; today America, tomorrow the world.

In 1987, a best-selling book that analyzed the rise and fall of the great powers from 1500 to 2000 explained the important relationship of economic and military power. When great powers overburdened their economies they were destined to collapse. (2) It was not long after publication that the formidable Soviet Union became an ex-superpower.

The major media, in their usual role as promoters of the establishment, are again suckering the public with their support for the dubious actions of the administration. But as sturdy as it may seem, the underlying structure in the US is rotting just like the now-exposed corporate structure.

The rot proceeds so gradually that it is not apparent to those living in the US. To a foreign visitor, however, it is an obvious surprise. The initial chapter of a book written by a Defense department consultant after the Soviet collapse describes such a scene. That visitor is astounded by what he encounters at his arrival airport and his initial drive into the adjoining city. (3)

The overall welfare of the American people has been crushed. Many good jobs have disappeared; they have been exported overseas. Those who lost jobs, if not unemployed or underemployed, are working harder and longer for less, without health insurance, a pension and other benefits formerly enjoyed. Consent of the governed is necessary for a government to remain in power -- that consent is being eroded.

The Soviets just prior to their collapse seemed quite formidable. There was no hint from our highly paid intelligence agencies of the Soviets' weakness. It was not a military defeat that did the Soviets in. Their internal weaknesses could no longer sustain the system.

The most recent analysis of the US decline is an article in the July/August issue of 'Foreign Policy'. The author, Immanuel Wallerstein, points out that the US is '. . .a lone superpower that lacks true power, a world leader nobody follows and few respect, and a nation drifting dangerously amidst a global chaos it cannot control. . .' (4)

George Carlin in his blunt way describes the US concisely and perhaps best of all. ". . . Can't build a decent car anymore. Can't make a TV set, a cell phone, or a VCR. Got no steel industry left. No textiles. Can't educate our young people. Can't get health care to our old people. But we can bomb the shit outta your country all right. . ." (5)

With that squatter in the White House and his asinine pronouncements being passively accepted it seems that America has become the Land of the Sheep and the Home of the Knave!

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References and Notes

1.  The National Security Strategy of the United States of America September 200. http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.pdf  (back)

2.  Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Power. 1987, Random House, Inc., New York  (back)

3.  Edward N. Luttwak, The Endangered American Dream: How to Stop the United States from Becoming a Third-World Country and How to Win the Geo-Economic Struggle or Industrial Supremacy. 1993, Simon & Schuster, New York  (back)

4.  Immanuel Wallerstein, The Eagle Has Crash Landed. Foreign Policy, July/August issue. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/issue_julyaug_2002/wallerstein.html. What has eroded the US hegemonic power the author points out are '. . . four symbols: the war in Vietnam, the revolutions of 1968, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the terrorist attacks of September 2001'.  (back)

5.  George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty. 2001, Hyperion, New York; page 240  (back)


Philip Greenspan's bio is concise and right to the point: 76 years old, married 50 years, 2 children, 3 grandchildren. Veteran World War II Army of the U.S. Graduate Brooklyn Law School, member of the NY bar. Private law practice, followed by employments in the motion picture industry -- distribution and exhibition, and data processing industry -- retailing and stock market; retired 6 years.

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Published October 7, 2002
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