The democratic republic of Enron

By Greg Ellis

“I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.”

– George W. Bush

In the winter of 2000 President Bush said he intended to run the government like a business. I thought he was striking a chord of rhetorical convenience rather than actually forecasting his performance. I must say there is no shortage of case studies in Bush’s business paradigm: Enron, Adelphia, Worldcom, Global Crossing, Health South, and Bre-X are a few that come to mind. Five years later, it should come as no surprise the 10 year federal budget projection has changed from a $5.6 trillion surplus to a $4 trillion deficit. For that matter, the war in Iraq was sold to the public in the manner of corporate banditry, as a well-promoted initial public offering. Because the Bush administration’s methods resemble that of a corrupt monopoly (publicly owned yet privately managed), much of its management can be understood in terms of the hidden fee and the dishonest annual report.

Mr. Bush is not just a businessman but a bad one. His cock-eyed smile gives way to the optimism of a door to door vacuum salesmen–that big sale is just around the corner, failure is not an option and always disguise high prices and poor performance by mentioning the “vision thing.” Over the last 40 years the reconfiguration of power has surely landed in the hands of the corporations and without buying the one way ticket to the anti-globalization parade it must be realized that corporations are running the show. The government has become the ineffectual gaffer controlling the lighting. It makes sense–Bush is about the bottom line and big business. The CEO is the country’s new hero, so it’s perfectly natural for him or her to earn 500 times that of a regular employee ($15 million vs. $30,000). One dare not resent his or her hefty paycheck because new found wealth could be at the peak of that bubble or just around the corner. Nobody needs to win the lottery when they can feed ceaselessly off the most American of all principles: capitalizing on the misfortune of others. The examples aren’t scarce: in 1992 George Soros made $1 billion on a single currency speculation predicating the demise of the British Pound, and venture capitalists bought up real estate in New Orleans.

The question is not so much whether the United States has turned into a fascist regime or not. The question is to what degree will they adopt fascism. Corporate fascism makes for good synergy and the cross-marketing potential is endless. The direct correlation is seen on the horizon and the irony is as poignant as the number of dead troops in Iraq–which have doubled in correlation to the share price of Haliburton. Merge militarism with big business and you can collectively throw growth predictions out the window. The US is rich in profit potential and anyone will tell you the most lucrative is not the minerals, resources or market share but the government contract, usually a no-bid process reserved to captains of industry assuring your money grows on trees.

Of course, America Inc. does have citizen shareholders and every once in a while the P/E ratio skyrockets to the heavens and quaint quarterly questions arise about the impending meltdown. Ask about the unsustainable spending, question the imperial conquest, question the federal debt, look into the budget swindle; respond by talking about family values. The administration accustomed to dealing with dire consequences and pessimistic predictions can’t be bothered to audit its own morality. Accounting principles do not measure visionary thinking, so the units of production become incomprehensible.

When the Bush organization talks about war it could just as easily be talking about peace, like the perplexing Oracle at Dephi. Speeches and slogans are the political equivalent of junk bonds. The message may be lost on the airwaves or in the blogosphere but the false advertising is not regulated enough to bring any semblance of accuracy to its proceedings. The administration may make inaccurate forward looking statements, or preemptively launch a marketing campaign in a desert land without a proper proxy vote but in the post 9/11 marketplace no one has time for procedure or bartering. Maybe President Bush can bring America out of the forest of isolationism and into the hordes of gold waiting over the sandbar where the Magi bring the gifts of the government contract.


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