The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, July 30, 2002  

Another Look at a Letter to William Safire

Below I have reprinted a letter I sent to New York Times columnist William Safire on February 21, 2002.

Mr. William Safire
New York Times
New York, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Safire:

In your Feb. 21, 2002 column you wrote, “Enron, which mostly embarrassed Republicans, has been wrung dry in the media; the sight of the tilted ‘E’ symbol elicits yawns from viewers.”

You don’t get out much do you, Mr. Safire?

The demise of Enron Corp. is a very important issue to those who are following it, and I include in that group a surprising number of middle-class and working-class people I have encountered over the last few months who are extremely distressed and concerned about the issues raised by this debacle.

Many people I have talked to -- family, friends, colleagues, and strangers -- know more than you might expect about Enron. Believe it or not, they understand what Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow, and Mike Kopper [A list to which I would now add Tom White.] did and did not do at Enron, and why their actions or inactions were wrong.

They know how much Enron’s executives and board members profited even after it was clear within the Enron Tower that the ship was sinking.

They know how willingly the Street played along with the game for its own benefit.

They know how badly the media failed in its task of watching for wretched excess and holding accountable those responsible for this disaster.

They even knew enough to laugh at the second Mrs. Kenneth Lay’s pathetic, tearful plea for sympathy.

To cite just one example, two weeks ago in Philadelphia a cab driver raised the subject with me for no particular reason. Not because the radio was on and Enron was under discussion at the moment, but because he was genuinely incensed by the rapacious actions of the company’s executives and friends.

And almost every day I watch “ordinary” people on the trains and subways reading stories about Enron in the New York Post, the New York Daily News, Newsday, and the Philadelphia Daily News.

Perhaps you and your colleagues at the Times aren’t perturbed by any of this, but far more people than you think are watching and are well informed.

They are eager to see how politicians, regulators, and the securities industry respond. Rational or not, they may decide to hold their congressional representatives and senators responsible. That’s just the way the system works.

Yours truly,

James M. Capozzola

And this was seven months ago!

As an addendum I would like to add that a New York cab driver not long ago asked me to explain -- in more detail than I would ever have expected -- what WorldCom did wrong when preparing its bogus financial statements.

It's not often that I get the opportunity to discuss capitalized expenses, operating expenses, depreciation, the calculation of earnings per share, and the concept of the price/earnings ratio with foreign-born cabbies, but in this case I was more than happy to spend the quick -- though insufficient -- 20 minutes doing so.

And it was on his tab, as the conversation took place after he had accepted my payment.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |