Back Big Energy Evil-Doers
Billions To Bush's Buddies at Enron, But Shunning the Middle-Class
The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives narrowly
passed a "trickle-down" economic stimulus package on a
party-line vote that is now on the Senate's agenda for consideration.
The contentious issues boil down to a classical haves vs. have-nots
conflict as the House-passed bill gives fat tax cut giveaways totaling
$70 billion to big corporate and wealthy elites rather than helping
out unemployed workers by increasing unemployment and health benefits.
The House-passed stimulus package gave the Enron Corporation a $254
million dollar tax relief gift. Enron is a Houston-based energy
giant headed by Kenneth Lay, who has been a close friend of George
W. Bush and a principal financier of Bush's political endeavors.
When Bush was Governor of Texas, Lay recommended appointments to
state boards and called on Bush to meet with dignitaries from countries
with whom Enron was hoping to do business. The longstanding corporate/political
relationship goes back to the first Bush Administration when George
W. used the family name to promote Enron's ventures in Argentina.
Enron was the major supplier of gas to California and, in the fourth
quarter of last year, their revenues had tripled from a year earlier
as energy prices soared in California's deregulated market.
Enron was the largest contributor from the oil and gas industry
in the 1999-2000 election cycle, giving $2.3 million in contributions.
In that election cycle the oil and gas industry gave 78% of their
contributions to Republicans and Bush got $1.8 million, which was
more than any federal candidate received in the last 10 years. There
was much speculation that Lay would become Bush's Secretary of Energy
and he has been a key advisor in shaping the Bush/Cheney energy
policy that has come under legal attack by the Congressional Office
of Management and Budget for being designed in secrecy by big energy
executives and the White House. It calls for vastly increased gas
and oil production in the United States, but belittles conservation
and developing renewable energy sources.
In a rapid reversal of fortunes, it appears that Enron, the big
energy insider, is running on empty. There is mounting evidence
of indictable evil-doing by top officials of Enron, causing the
N.Y. Times to report on November 7 that "various off-balance-sheet
debts and related-party transactions..have drawn the attention of
the S.E.C.(Securities and Exchange Commission). On November 5, the
Wall Street Journal reported that "the company in March made
a $35 million purchase from an entity run by a company officer."
The Journal said the payment was part of a complex series of transactions
that allowed Enron to keep "hundreds of millions of dollars
of debt off its balance sheets the past three years, during which
the energy-trading giant has grown rapidly." And, "In
recent weeks, Enron's labyrinth of financial transactions, particularly
with members of company management, has come under intense scrutiny
from investors and regulators." Enron admitted the S.E.C. has
begun a formal investigation. The Journal also reported that Enron's
auditor, Arthur Andersen, could face legal scrutiny on the clarity
of Enron disclosures.
The Wall Street Journal also reported on the gloomy employment picture
on November 5 in a front page story with headlines reading, "Slow
Economy Takes Unusually Heavy Toll On White-Collar Jobs" and
"As Service Sector Weakens, Once-Hot Labor Market Is Quickly
Turning Cold." On November 6, the Journal again reported on
the worsening job market with a story headlined with, "Small
Businesses Do What Big Firms Have Done-Cut Jobs." The N.Y.
Times told about job losses in the Cincinnati area under a headline
"The Heartland Hunkers Down" and U.S.A. Today had a story
entitled, "Recession Conditions Sink Several Sectors."
On November 5, I received an e-mail from a women in Wisconsin who
had just read an essay I wrote about the unfairness of the House
version of the stimulus package. She wrote, "Dear Tom: I was
just forwarded your article-Terrorizing the Poor and Subsidizing
the Rich. I found it to be so true. My husband lost his job on September
19 and still hasn't found another. He has sent out many, many resumes
and has agencies also looking for him. We live 20 miles north of
Milwaukee, WI. and the job market is very slim. Our unemployment
check is $266 a week. The amount doesn't even cover our mortgage
payment. We don't have any health insurance because there is no
way we can afford it. My husband has been looking for agencies that
might help us. He is a Vietnam Vet. So much for giving to your country
when they need you. I can't tell you how stressful this has been.
Every single day it's a worry how we will pay our bills and will
we end up losing our house we have worked our entire lives for.
What can we do, who can we write to and who will listen???"
Write your U.S. Senators and demand they stand up to corruption
and evil-doers like Enron. The Senate should take away Enron's $254
million gift and most of the $70 billion given to business interests
in the House-passed stimulus bill. Jobless workers deserve the stimulus
money to pay their bills and survive with dignity. Counterunch
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist
in Columbia, South Carolina. Visit his website at: www.turnipseed.net