Patriot Amnesia: Buried In Paper By Tommy Ates
Well, well, what a difference a humongous financial collapse can make! The Bush administration is now getting bushwhacked with inquiries and rumors regarding the Enron meltdown. Who would have thought the Houston-based oil broker, whose dealings in hidden partnerships and 'cooked' financial records to hide enormous losses (plus, being America's seventh largest company), would have finally healed Washington from patriot amnesia stemming from the September attacks? Well, I'll be! Money does buy happiness!
In terms of 'good old boys,' we can add Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill (a Democrat) and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans (old Bushite) to the 'no see evil, no hear evil, no speak evil' crew, even though the devil knocked on the door and they answered. No wonder the nation's economic policy cannot see the forest for the trees, it is on the political donor's beck and call.
All the while, Presidential spokesperson Ari Fleischer says the Bush administration has no prior knowledge of Enron's predicament or that they intervened as the company's behalf to the disbelief of many in Congress. How can executives be able to contact secretaries of the Cabinet and have word not go to the President's hands? It's a shame that the Bush administration may have not blown the whistle on Enron's dirty dealings before thousands of innocent workers lost their jobs as well as retirement benefits.
But seriously, can anyone really be surprised that Enron executives (Chairman Kenneth Lay and co.) had access to heads of the Treasury and Labor departments to give them the heads up and possible want help? After all, Enron has been President Bush's biggest contributor and the company's mammoth political contributions helped bolster many Republicans into office. The Enron debacle is a prime example of money buying access and how the corporation can circumvent laws enabling the legality of white-collar robbery of the lower-classes, while blue-collar masses face severe penalties for defying the corporation (even without a gun), just for slipping a piece of paper to the bank teller.
To make things worse, the Republican administration never offered to provide relief for the employees or suggest solutions (via resolutions) to make corporate behavior like Enron's less likely to occur. An official not telling how a stock price once valued at $83 could plummet to less than a dollar undermines the public trust. With no agenda, yet quiet smiles in the cabinets' public statements, more Americans are realizing that Attorney General John Ashcroft and Interior Secretary Gale Norton are not just conservative anomalies, rather they are part of a wider, greater effort of conservative appointees to provide legislative cover for big business to generate greater profits as the average, working-class American suffers.
Meanwhile, all the flying paper (not from World Trade Center) nearly blinds everyone to the little told plight of indigent, migrant workers who have helped to cleanup Ground Zero. Many of these working-class laborers (who worked alongside firemen and police) were recruited by contractor firms to clean at the site, as well as the streets in downtown New York, but even in the extreme sadness of the tragedy, business continued as normal, with many workers being stiffed in pay and forced to work long hours. Now many of these unsung (and unappreciated) heroes are developing throat and lung ailments due to their exposure.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration has not taken an active step in protecting its most vulnerable workers; but luckily New York State is attempting to accommodate their needs. Apparently the administration is taking a cue from Enron - accept the credit they didn't create and leave the voiceless others holding the bag.
However, the migrant workers are not alone in their plight, many downtown residents, firemen, and police officers are also suffering from ailments due to the smoke and ash that permeated the air as the towers fell. Many of which are now on personal leave unable to work. The EPA declared it safe for residents (and workers) that the area was safe to return in less than a week. Could it be that another government agency spoke to soon in the "Keep America Rolling" campaign (i.e. the Office of Homeland Security with the shoe bomber)? I hope not; there does not need to be more innocent victims post-Sept. 11 besides the Afghan people, and the hundreds of detained Arabic men.
As for the Enron-gate distraction, will there be criminal charges ordered in the wake of the multi-million dollar theft? Maybe. Will the executives still keep most, if not, all of the booty? You 'betcha! The American justice system in inaction for a price!
Yes, folks; it may be sad; but I, for one, am ironically comforted to see that human nature is no different than the system under which we live: be it a rich man doing insider trading or a poor man performing a bank robbery, greed is universal.
Tommy Ates can be contacted at email@example.com
Wednesday, January 16, 2002