Even though a recession is on, there is at least one industry that is booming – the excuse industry. Excuse factories are working overtime, combining and recombining excuses like strands of DNA.

Bucky “Limited” Lie-ability, chairman of ExcuseSpin Inc., told stock market analysts that his company is selling excuses to both old and new markets in record numbers, and plans to launch an aggressive expansion effort in wholesale excuse production and in the excuse futures market.

“We are taking some tried and true products and mixing and matching them in totally new ways, using the latest technology,” Lieability said.

The causes of this excuse bonanza can be directly traced to the Enron scandal. Everyone connected, from Resident Bush on up, is desperate for a new-sounding, or at least somewhat rational-sounding, spin to distance themselves from the sinkhole that is Enron.

Let’s look at some of those excuses. They fall into several categories, each with a logical flaw.

“The other guy did it too.”

Republicans are busy claiming that they did nothing wrong, because Democrats took money from Enron too.

“Why single me out – only did what everybody was doing.”

Try that argument out on a patrolman the next time you are stopped for speeding; he’ll explain that just because someone else breaks the law,that doesn’t mean you can, too. That almost everyone took money from Enron testifies to the corruption inherent in our current political system.

A variation of this was the early spin from the White House that Kenneth Lay, former Enron chairman, was a supporter of Ann Richards, Bush’s opponent for Governor of Texas.

That sounded good until a closer look at campaign disclosure reports revealed that, while Lay gave a substantial contribution to Richards’ campaign, he gave about four times as much to the Bush campaign. So they both did it, Bush did it more, and they both were wrong.

“It wasn’t illegal.”

This excuse begs the question, “Why not?” Donating huge bundles of money is definitely not illegal, but the Enron scandal proves, yet again, that it should be!

“We used standard accounting practices.”

Again, this excuse leads to deeper questions about the system – if this is what standard accounting practices lead to, should the standard accounting practices be changed?

The “good risk” excuse

There are two main variants of this: “We bought Enron stock because they looked like a good risk.” And “We lent Enron money because they looked like a good risk.”

Looked like a good risk to whom? Who was creating the atmosphere that made Enron look like such an “aggressive, promising company”? Evidently, it was the public relations office of Enron!

“We put Ken Lay on our front cover because he looked like a great businessman”

See previous question.

“I lost money, too”

Otherwise known as the Phil Gramm defense. Just because Phil Gramm and his wife, who was an Enron board member, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Enron implosion, that doesn’t absolve them of responsibility for bilking employees, stockholders, pension plans and the general public. Phil, not everybody has a few hundred thou to lose!

The “not yet” obfuscation

“Thus far, the Enron bankruptcy hasn’t resulted in any defaults on taxpayer-guaranteed loans.” Thus far? A ringing endorsement. What excuse will they use when that happens, as looks extremely likely?

Both Democrats and Republicans, both politicians and career bureaucrats, both federal and state officials – all of them helped Enron buy energy companies, encouraged federal agencies to guarantee huge loans to help Enron stay afloat.

“I was just doing my job” ploy

This goes something like this:

“I (read Vice-President Dick Cheney, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin or the heads of various regulatory agencies and campaign committees) was just doing my job when I (insert the appropriate phrase: (a.) talked to the government of India to let an Enron construction project proceed; (b.) talked to the Commerce Department to try and get more loan guarantees for Enron; (c.) took that gigantic Enron contribution).” Isn’t that an admission that these jobs are to do the bidding of the transnational corporations?

“I’m protecting presidential prerogative” smokescreen

Both Bush and Cheney are using this one to try to avoid turning over notes and other documents about meetings Cheney and his staff members had with Kenneth Lay and other Enron executives.

They had to admit that Lay had convinced them to oust members of regulatory boards and substitute Enron’s choices, but by god, they are going to protect their notes, or else how can they be sure of the privacy of conversations?

The flaw in this lies in the Watergate precedent – Nixon wanted his tapes kept private, too. But once you conspire with others to do major damage to the country, you don’t have any privilege left.

These are just some of the variations on a theme we’ve been hearing over the last few months. Some of these will no doubt start to sound the way hit songs do – fine the first time or three, but exceedingly tiring after being played over and over again.

These “oldies and moldies” already have the ring of Nixon’s classic, “I am not a crook.”

As a result of this in-depth analysis, we can predict that, like Enron’s ascent to Number Seven on the Fortune 500, the current boomlet in excuses will result in a crash, sooner or later, in the confidence of the people in government and business – a healthy, self-protective reaction.

Marc Brodine is the chair of the Communist Party of Washington State.

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