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Banana Republicans Attack
August 26, 2003
By Cliff Schecter

Just when you thought the reigning powers that be could not make this country look any more like a Banana Republic, the lights went out on Broadway. And the rest of New York State, as well as much of Ohio, New Jersey and Michigan.

Now I am not going to sit here and blame the Republicans for all that has gone wrong (I am not Anne Coulter, after all, and do understand what the word "nuance" means). And I also won't claim to be an energy expert. But it is certainly worth exploring the systematic corruption of the relationship between "Big Energy," and our politicians since the regressive Texan Brady Bunch invaded Pennsylvania Avenue.

Since the "selection" of our President by a blindly partisan Supreme Court, we have seen a marriage of corporate and government power not witnessed since the Robber Baron days. Upon entering the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney, himself a multimillionaire product of big energy, met with power providing giants in secret to discuss administration policy towards these large contributors. Corporate scandal then exploded onto the scene in the summer of 2002, highlighted by energy giant Enron's numerous accounting lapses. But all was forgotten by our diligent media during its obsession with the march to Baghdad.

To this day, if I am correct, not a single executive from Enron has served time in the local penitentiary. Now I could be wrong, but maybe this has something to do with the fact that former RNC Chairman Marc Racicot was Enron's Washington lobbyist, former Secretary of the Army Thomas White was a former Enron Executive who sold off $12 million in stock after Bush appointed him and George W. Bush's biggest contributor in 2000 was, you guessed it, Enron. (Please see Public Citizen at www.citizen.org for more on these coincidental connections).

In the last week, we again have seen the affects of a White House in bed with energy providers. The inevitable result of the GOP deregulation of an industry, for which the updating of transmission lines and other important infrastructure investments are crucial to preventing mishaps and mischief, is that the Northeasters and Midwesterners found themselves in a similar position to many Republican policymakers last week. Completely in the dark.

Shockingly, FirstEnergy, a company whose CEO hosted a fundraiser for Bush in June that raised over 600,000, and who had one of its executives who raised $100,000 for Bush-Cheney and donated another $100,000 sit on the Energy Department transition team in 2000-2001, seems to be at the epicenter of this crisis for not updating transmission lines in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Yeah, those are three states you really want to piss off for during your reelection campaign next year.

But this does not even begin to tell the entire story of our slippery path into the myopia of venal and unaccountable behavior by the corporate/government Bush cabal.

Whether or not we went to war for oil with Iraq, we certainly made sure our energy companies made out like bandits when it was over. Halliburton, Dick Cheney's former fiefdom, was awarded lucrative contracts to put out oil well fires in Iraq. Yes, the same Halliburton that under Cheney's leadership sold equipment to Iraq and opposed our oil embargo against them. And Whitewater was a scandal, huh?

The benefits energy companies reaped from George W. Bush's heavily skewed tax cuts would take too long to enumerate hear. But many already had large enough loopholes for their accountants to lambada through, so one can only wonder if we are now paying them to be opulent and corrupt while their workers lose their pensions.

And how does all of this affect policy, or politics as they call it in this White House? No matter what President Bush said during his recent state of the union address about a "billion dollar investment" in hydrogen fuel cells, his administration still spends more time and effort questioning the science behind Global Warming than searching for ways to slow it down. Apparently, just as the Earth is flat, it is now clear to the Bush team that Global Warming is a myth.

And don't expect their to be any change in direction because of the blackout. In June of 2001, Bush opposed and the congressional GOP rejected legislation to provide $350 million in loans to modernize the nation's power grid to repair known weaknesses in reliability and capacity. Supporters of the amendment pointed to studies by the Energy Department, showing that the grid was in critical need of upgrades, as proof that the legislation should pass. But Bush wanted to drill in ANWR, and he was going to get his white whale no matter what it took. Even rejecting this much needed funding.

The Bush Administration responded to Congress' failure to allow drilling in this pristine part of Alaska by lobbying against the bill and House Republicans voted it down three separate times: First, on a straight party line in the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, then on a straight party line the U.S. House Rules Committee and finally on a party line on the floor of the full House [Roll Call Vote #169, 6/20/01].

Again, for only $350 million, or a little over four times the amount Bill Gates will bank from the Bush dividend tax cut, we might have avoided this crisis. But we are still susceptible, because the Bush Administration's position has not changed, in regard to ANWR.

And deregulation will continue, because this phrase fills conservatives with glee like possibly no other, outside of "missile defense" or "Second Amendment rights." Just let corporations do as they wish. They will of course always do the right thing.

So as millions of Americans had to sleep on the streets because New York City, Detroit, Cleveland and numerous localities lost their power, the question we should be asking is not whether we are better off than we were four years ago, but how in four short years we have gone from the most prosperous nation to one experiencing the same problems as the people of Basra?


Cliff Schecter is a Democratic Consultant and political columnist for UPI.

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