Monday, October 30, 2006

The Crimes of Greed vs. the Crimes of Government

I'll take greed anyday...

Justice demands that we be always on guard against a prosecutor's case. However, the devastation wrought by fraud committed by a few at the top of Enron seems real. Thousands of employees lost jobs and pensions, and shareholders took a large hit.

We now know that fraud on the part of the Bush administration launched the ill-fated Iraqi war. The war's financial and human cost dwarf the Enron catastrophe. The out-of-pocket cost of the war to date is $337 billion, with steep future costs for veterans' care and replacement of military equipment. Approximately 3,000 US troops have been killed, and Department of Veterans Affairs documents show that 100,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been granted disability compensation. Estimates of Iraqi civilian "collateral damage" range from 30,000 to 655,000 deaths. America's reputation has been shattered, and the prospects for terrorist "blow-back" are higher.

The most important difference between these two fraud cases, however, is in accountability. The Enron executives have been brought to justice with prison sentences, multi-million dollar fines, and, in one case, by death from a heart attack brought on, perhaps, by the stress of prosecution.

The disparities in accountability and punishment for misdeeds in government and private sectors are striking.