Cronies: How Texas Business Became American Policy-- and Brought Bush to Power Paperback – Jun 15 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Journalist Bryce, whose previous book, Pipe Dreams, chronicled the rise and fall of Enron, now recounts how Texas rose over the past 60 years on a tide of oil to become the pre-eminent focus of American economic and political power. Bryce quickly sketches the emergence of the modern energy industry with the discovery of huge oil deposits in East Texas. He then turns to his central story, how Texas-based business empires like Exxon Mobil, Hunt Oil, Halliburton, and Baker Botts, the firm of James Baker III, have heavily promoted the careers of favored politicians going back to Lyndon Johnson. In return, Bryce shows, the oil industry and its tributaries have received lucrative government contracts, favorable tax treatment and kid-glove regulatory policies. Although Bryce devotes chapters to LBJ and his protégé, Democrat-turned-Republican John Connally, he reserves his special wrath for conservative Republicans like Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, James Baker and especially the Bushes. He contends that the market-shaping power of Texas oil inspired the creation of OPEC, and that generations of politicians, led by the Bushes, have tailored U.S. foreign policy to cater to Arab dictators and the Texas firms that serve them. There's little in Bryce's book that is freshly revelatory, and his prose is sometimes awkward, sometimes clichéd ("lap of luxury," "spending money like a drunken sailor," etc.). But in this election year, partisans looking for evidence of Republican corruption will find plenty of tidbits here.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Through my decades of reading history,I know that what appears on the surface is not indicative of what is really going on. Therefore I feel THIS BOOK SHOULD BE READ BY EVERYONE BEFORE November and THE "DECISION IN 2004". We should all know who and what we are really voting for!
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Bryce has gone back into the history of the Texas awl bidness and shown how, from the beginning, key players in that industry have cultivated their connections with politicians to increase their own wealth and power. Many Texas politicians, from LBJ and Sam Rayburn to Jim Wright, Tom DeLay, and a whole mess of Bushes, have been more than happy to be so cultivated, since it tends to result in floods of cash into their re-election campaigns, foundations, and presidential libraries. Though Bryce is far from the only writer shining a spotlight on Halliburton and Brown & Root these days, his work is among the best charting the complex web of ties between politics, the military, big business, and foreign policy. Combine all this incestuous intermingling with the international entanglements described in Chalmers Johnson's "The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)," and you come up with an especially unsavory look at America's 50-plus year run of hand-over-first mercantilism.
My use of the term "mercantilism" is deliberate, because one complaint I do have about this book -- as I did with Michael Mann's "Incoherent Empire" -- is the author's apparent assumption that what he's describing is "capitalism." Toward the end of the book, he mentions, apparently without irony, "laissez-faire Texas Republicans" like DeLay and President Bush, even though he's just spent the previous 270 pages showing that their economic philosophy is anything *but* "leave us alone." The conscious crafting of government policy that deliberately promotes the interests of a certain sector of the economy has a name, and it ain't capitalism. It's "mercantilism." A little more precision here would have gone a long way in categorizing the true nature of everything he otherwise ties together so well.
As Lind's and other books show, Texas is a sweet target these days. I'm not convinced that the oil business is necessarily unique in the kinds of power and influence it has managed to acquire in government (for example, I recommend Linda Chavez's new "Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics" to show how liberal Democrats have been bought and paid for by Big Labor -- and Bryce should enjoy a use of Scare Caps almost as copious as his own). But even pro-Bush, pro-business Republicans ought to take a good look at the vines that have been growing up around our republic and ask whether this is really the kind of thing the Founders had in mind.
Although it has a fair amount of history that might scare the casual reader, the book largely avoids being a dry academic tome, by including maps, photos, summaries (as well as adequate notes and a bibliography), that help keep the fairly complex relationships clear. Although it is not stated, the book provides evidence that make a powerful argument for greater government transparency, and for greater vigilance on the public's part in monitoring the relations between government and business (we certainly can't trust the politicians to do it). Highly recommended for Texans, Americans, and indeed anyone who is interested in business, government, and the political process. Certainly, the book proves the old adage: when you aren't certain what's going on, just follow the money.
Call me naïve, but I was surprised (okay, shocked) at the conflicts of interest running rampant from top down in the Bush Administration. Of course, not every appearance of impropriety amounts to an actual conflict of interest but, as Bryce points out, the extreme secrecy employed by the Administration to keep We The People from judging whether there is a conflict of interest or not is disturbing. For example, James Baker III is both the "Iraq debt czar" and also deemed exempt by the White House from publicly disclosing the specifics of his business dealings -- known to include vast oil interests. Through well documented research and citing numerous examples, Cronies demonstrates how the lines between Government, Military and Private (Oil) Industry are becoming increasingly blurred... so much so that we're left wondering who really is benefiting from current US foreign/oil policies. But we're not really left wondering... Bryce explains it: this is government by a few for a few.
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