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