GREED AND JAIL DON'T MIX - Is It The American Way?

(07/08/2002)

Bob Weaver

More than 100 billion dollars, an amount of money difficult to visualize by most Americans, has been illegally taken by corporate thieves who undoubtedly are relaxing in the luxury of their crimes, assured of underlings who will take the fall. Much of the rip-off is connected to Enron and WorldCom, and a half-dozen other companies currently in the news.

I think about a neighbor, a few years ago, who went to jail for a considerable time stealing a few chickens for the family table, or another acquaintance, who by his actions and deeds did much for his community, but is now spending most of his lifetime in prison for his cocaine addiction. It is mandatory time. There seems to be a list of popular crimes we detest and vindicate in our society by "putting them away."

White collar crime is alive and well, rarely sermonized upon in our churches. Churches prefer to correct personal sins, with greed surely at the end of the deadly sin list. If you steal a lot of money, it is a collective mistake by devious and weak-witted mid-level managers who didn't understand the rules, or more frequently it is "someone else made me do it." One of the Enron exec's said "It just got out of hand."

The evidence is clear - insider trading, golden parachutes, enormous corporate salaries, public fraud, early stock sell-offs, pathological lying, illegal bookkeeping, turn-coating on investors, retirement programs gone bad, political contributions, government manipulation of oversight, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. If you want to consider ethics or morals, forget it.

For years it seemed the big boys, the 5% who own about 80% of the wealth, rolled over on each other. Now it has become an equal opportunity scam, the investors, workers, small businessmen and peons of America are getting the shaft.

Several governmental documents said Enron should move forward with "fast track" momentum. Enron needs less control and oversight, and would prosper and grow unfettered, they said.

The federal government has a million laws and rules for everything under the sun, products or services. One day I stopped by Ray Holbert's Store in Big Bend and the feds wanted him, and every other rural business, to measure the amount of waste and wastewater from his public rest room, so the could give him a tax rate and control pollution. His relatively new $10,000 septic system was not enough.

With Enron and WorldCom, the politicians and bureaucrats go strark-raving dumb to the multi-billion dollar crimes.

They're all over TV, including President Bush, disallowing their involvement, association or knowledge about corporate greed and stealing, decrying those low-lifes who have taken advantage of the American people, and pledging to pass more laws and rules to catch the thugs, as if we should be comforted by their outrage.

When the Enron story first broke, a Houston Chronicle reporter said he hoped the story would unfold with the names and faces of ordinary, hardworking and honest Americans who got the shaft.


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