Investigative reporter Bryce, who made mincemeat of Enron executives’ perfidy in Pipe Dreams (2002), gives an equal shellacking to the old-boy, business-government network long established in Texas.
“Texas dominates America because energy—Texas energy—dominates America. And the men who have dominated Texas energy have been extraordinarily successful at putting their politicians into power.” That’s the nutshell, and Bryce proceeds to prize every bit of rotten meat from the nut for readers to gaze upon. Cronyism isn’t exclusive to Texas, he admits, but Texas cronyism is Texas-sized, and its principals sound like a law firm: Bush Bush Cheney Baker Lay and Hunt, with satellite offices of Halliburton and Brown & Root. To and fro between Texas and Washington flow the goods; as former Texas senator Phil Gramm said, “I'm carrying so much pork, I’m beginning to get trichinosis.” From legal mechanisms like oil depletion allowances and import quotas to egregious sleaze like the S&L scandal, Texas reaps the profits. Bryce makes all the connections with the clarity of a simple mathematical equation, aided and abetted by the baldness of the brash Texas petro-political clique. His use of graphs, snapshot explanations, and timelines is especially helpful in unraveling the web of associations that bind every energy personage and corporation into a creepily incestuous, collaborative, and coercive band of pillagers. Bryce also draws the shameful picture of Texas’s social stratification: energy and business generate huge private profits for the few, while Texas can also boast first place in the number of its citizens incarcerated and executed, the percentage without health insurance, the overall number of deaths by firearms, and the amount of toxic dumping. It’s virtually a plague state, and the author sees no cure, so entrenched are the vested interests.
A well-told tale whose sheer, documented scope of corruption and backslapping in a pernicious and virulent strain of cronyism will have readers agog—until the steam starts shooting from their ears.