My nomination for the most callous clod of the year award goes to George Bush's secretary of the treasury, Paul O'Neill.
Asked last weekend whether he was surprised by the downfall of Enron, he responded he was not.
"Companies come and go," he huffed. "It's part of the genius of capitalism."
Most certainly, the genius of capitalism.
It's apparently part of the genius of capitalism that thousands of working people lose virtually their entire pensions and life savings while their bosses, primarily because of their insider knowledge, cash in to the tune of millions of dollars.
It's part of the genius of capitalism that unsuspecting small-time investors, egged on by their interest-conflicted Wall Street analysts, wind up losing their little nest eggs.
It's part of the genius of capitalism that a giant accounting conglomerate, which is supposed to provide at least a semblance of oversight, conveniently destroys thousands of documents that might provide some insight into what happened in this capitalistic scandal.
But O'Neill's callousness is only representative of the kind of pro-big business attitude that permeates the federal government since George W. Bush became president.
While Americans are distracted by a war on terrorism, this administration is terrorizing working people with fewer safeguards for their health and welfare while advancing proposals for huge multinational corporate tax breaks - all aimed, presumably, at further enhancing the "genius of capitalism."
If the House Republican "incentive" plan for the economy ever becomes law, Americans will be surprised to find out the scandal-driven Enron stands to reap about $20 million in a tax rebate for the minimum corporate tax that it had to pay under the previous administration.
Indeed, capitalism has worked to drive the engines of the American economy, but it has worked only when it also had proper government oversight and enforceable regulations.
If Paul O'Neill thinks that capitalism means that hard-working people can be economically trampled by uncaring millionaires, then capitalism is living on borrowed time. The people won't long stand for it.
In a country like America, the "genius of capitalism" must apply to all, not a privileged few.
Copyright 2002 The Capital Times