Democratic Underground

Enron - a True Example of Conservative Compassion
January 16, 2002
by J. Carlos Jiacinto

The past week represented the first news cycle since the September 11th attacks that the war on terrorism appeared nowhere in the media. Instead the subject of the week revolved around the collapse of Enron, which has the potential to become the next major Republican "scandal". Out of this company's collapse numerous employees and investors lost their hard earned money.

On a recent "Capital Gang," the two conservative panelists, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne, scoffed at the investors and employees who lost their life savings. They both spoke about how these individuals needed to know how "capitalism works" and that the true response to them should be "tough luck." Novak called them outright "idiots." From these two panelists the true nature of what "compassionate conservativism" emerged. The fact is, "compassionate conservatism" is really "selfish indifference."

The fact that these two panelists lacked any compassion or sympathy for these shareholders reveals their true nature. At best their actions were inconsiderate. At worst they were reprehensible and horrible. The fact that the only emotions that they showed to the public consisted of hostility, ridicule, and indifference revealed how it mattered to none of them whether these investors lost their money.

Enron's employees worked extremely hard for the company's bottom line. They put their life savings in the business's 401(k) plan so that they could live a decent retirement. Numerous shareholders, including myself, bought shares of this company unaware of what was really taking place behind closed doors. Although my loss was small - 15 shares bought at $36.80 - these employees watched their life savings evaporate.

During the period when Enron's shares crashed the company prevented these employees from selling their stock. They were unable to at least take some of their hard earned money back. Instead they watched helplessly as their hard work evaporated. The fact that the Bush administration KNEW perhaps weeks and months in advance that the company's shares were going to lose all their value reveals the true nature of "compassionate" conservatism.

Although O'Beirne and Novak were right in saying that the government had no obligation to tell the shareholders, the fact remains that they could have done so - and that it would have been the right thing to do. Instead they let the executives cash out their shares while Enron's workforce watched their wealth deteriorate into thin air.

This type of "crony capitalism" makes me sick. The right, who glorifies the laissez-faire economy, interefered. They prevented the free market and its forces from acting without undue influence. The employees of Enron lost the ability to save their capital and the system failed. Although I often scoff at some of the far left's economic ideology, this form of capitalism undermines the main foundation of the system.

Crony capitalism prevents each market participant from having an equal chance to improve his well-being and profit from his labor and investments. If this system typifies what these politicians consider to be capitalism, it is rather a form of socialism, one in which nepotism determines who makes profit. The market in which Enron traded was not free, but rather dominated by nepotism.

The Enron crisis reveals how indifferent and how uncompassionate the Republicans can be, especially to their own employees. These employees built Enron into the empire that it became, only to be thanked by losing their livelihoods. The ridicule coming from conservative columnists reveals that they could care less about the employees welfare - all that matters is whether the CEOs take out their money without losing any of their investment and that they do not go to jail.

What a great way to show compassion!

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