Animals have a keen sense of danger: dogs have been known to predict earthquakes, cats have saved their human owners from fire and death, even birds have been known to call 911 on occasion. Perhaps most interesting is the uncanny ability of rats to jump ship when the vessel faces imminent doom. However, when the good ship Enron started taking on water, the government decided to ignore the vermin’s desperate squeaking.

Enron was once the world’s largest energy dealer, but, after the power fiasco that occurred all through last year, the mighty company started to go under. Chief Rat Kenneth Lay, a top Enron executive, and his underlings made several calls to Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans squealing loudly about their dying company. Enron execs were starting to look bad as they revised their books, revealing some nasty debts kept hidden originally by the company’s complex business ties. The Bush administration did what it does best: smiling and nodding before hanging up the phone.

With the books starting to look worse and worse, and their credit rating swirling ever faster in the toilet bowl, a planned merger with Dynergy fell through, and Enron went belly up.

While Enron was being rocked financially, top executives continually told employees that the company would handle the rough waters without a problem, and that they should continue to invest their money in company stock. Enron shares, however, plummeted from a high of around $84 a share down to less than $1. So, while faithful employees continued to pump their dollars into Enron, higher-ups sold vast amounts of their stock before it nose-dived, making a pretty penny while those at the bottom watched their retirement funds disappear. And, for a four-week period in which the greatest decline in stock was seen, employees were barred from selling.

Some were lucky enough to walk away with a few thousand dollars. Others were just plain screwed.

As usual, big business dropped a fat, steaming load on the little guy.

The government’s decision to remain quiet was immediately questioned; they could’ve sounded the alarm and saved the 21,000 Enron employees and other stockholders from losing so much. O’Neill responded by saying that what happened with Enron was simply capitalism at work and that it happens all the time.

Yes, and when water fills your lungs it’s simply drowning at work. God save us if O’Neill ever decides to become a lifeguard.

For once, President George W. Bush was literally clueless. He was never informed about Enron’s impending doom even though he is friends with Ken Lay, whom he nicknamed “Kenny-boy.” The L.A. Times notes, however, that Bush bestows nicknames on all sorts of things, so they might not be as close as people think. Word has it Dubya named the pretzel that got lodged in his throat “Chokey.”

What makes the whole mess even stickier is that a memo dated Oct. 12 to Andersen LLD, Enron’s accounting firm, calls for the destruction of Enron documents which show that execs were well aware of Enron’s imminent collapse, and that they engaged in unethical business practices.

Government officials claim that this could be considered obstruction of justice, which seems pretty likely. You don’t destroy something unless it can cause you some serious harm. However, the government is hesitant about investigating, and the fact that Enron had its fingers in quite a few political pies, ranging from Joseph Lieberman to John Ashcroft, has made some ask who has the right to cast the first stone. The Bush administration, including Dubya himself, has benefited from Enron contributions, and how deep their ties to Enron run remains unclear.

It’s silly that an issue like this has to get caught up in partisan politics. Now is the time for the government to come clean about its dealings and its mistakes, and to do its job to ensure justice. Enron screwed a lot of people over, and the government helped by not blowing the whistle to make sure that employees and investors knew what was going to happen. A sin of omission is still a sin.

The rats may have jumped ship, but it’s not too late to make sure they drown.

Daily Nexus columnist Steven Ruszczycky claims no pretzels were harmed in the writing of this column, although quite a lot of soda was consumed. Living Without Vowels appears on Tuesdays.