Bush insider Ken Lay's face sagged like he'd gotten a cold look at himself in the Hereafter. Guilty on all counts. He and Jeff Skilling will spend the rest of their lives in jail. Most of their crimes will go unpunished, however, or at least unjudged by a court. As one commentator put it, it was like when they nailed Capone .... it was for tax evasion, not for gangland murders or racketeering.
The enormous damage Enron did to Western states in the energy market manipulations, the devastating impact on employees and investors, the corruption of the political process and the offices of government, these crimes are so immense that they make the punishment a joke for being no more than that for a repeated armed robber or drug dealer.
Sadly, not all of the Enron criminals will be judged or punished. I am not referring to the few who turned state's evidence for reduced sentences, but to the hundreds more who participated in the looting party, many of whom took big bonuses at the end, like the crew taking to lifeboats while the ship with all passengers aboard sinks behind them.
And to, of course, the major co-conspirators in Enron's crimes who will not face charges. Dick Cheney and George Bush aided and abetted the rise of Lay and Enron, and vice versa. Lay was the single largest contributor to the Bush political machine. His Enron money machine bought him a position on the board of El Presidente, Inc. It gave him the opportunity to set energy policy with Dick Cheney. Down came the regulations. Into the void stepped the Enron racketeers. (It's reported that Lay sat down with Cheney to mark up an oil map of Iraq -- pre-9/11.)
Bush made millions in Enron-style cheating, as we pointed out in a previous post (info courtesy of Paul Krugman's The Great Unravelling)
But is the current Medicare drug policy really any different? Let the Pharmaceuticals write the policy and then watch them feed on the sick and elderly and the taxpayer. It is identical to the way Enron fed on the energy markets. This corruption is a way of life. It's disgusting. It's not even well hidden, clearly visible behind a flimsy fence of ridiculous lies and FoxNews attacks.
It's similar to the Lay-Skilling defense itself. "We were doing a good and honorable job. A couple of our subordinants flim-flammed us and the rest was just bad luck. Anyone who says otherwise is a lying son of a bitch." That's a defense?
When the Feds got Skilling and Lay, they did good. But this is not netting a whale. It's just picking off one of the sharks. The others are still feeding.
PS: The one to hang for the Medicare drug fiasco is Doc Hastings of our own 4th District. (Yes, the same Doc Hastings who as chair of the Ethics Committee stonewalled investigation of Tom DeLay.) The one to fix the problem is the guy who is running against him -- Richard Wright. Check out our recent Q&A with Wright.