THE BLOG

Wall Street and Health Insurers: The Hubris of Greed

06/26/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Two very recent stories -- one by Frank Rich of the New York Times ("Fight On, Goldman Sachs!") and the other by United States Senator Dianne Feinstein ("Congress Must Plug the Rate Hike Loop!") -- juxtapose two arenas that are concerned more about the bottom line and profit taking than the lives of Americans who look to corporate America for sustenance.

Feinstein hypes her pending Senate bill, calling for a rate hike authority to control run-a-way premium hikes that insurers doling out health insurance policies are charging these days -- no doubt to take advantage of the period before the insurance exchanges created by health care reform bill take effect in four years. She looks to what Wellpoint is doing with its 39% rate hike for Californians as an example and, if you can believe this, the computer program used by Wellpoint that targets women with breast cancer in order to cancel their policies. Such tactics are not uncommon in the health insurance industry, because it makes money from healthy folks that don't need their insurance; not sick ones who need coverage and rely on insurers to pay sky-high medical bills.

Rich similarly details corporate greed, but in the area presently in vogue that we label fashionably as "Wall Street." Just like American insurance companies looking for the last buck, those with Goldman Sachs and its ilk look to make gobs of mullah by betting against financial instruments that, concomitantly, it and its financial brothers and sisters, tell Americans are good investments that will make money. But the irony of this play is that the financial instruments are created just for creation sake -- they serve no purpose other than ways that one industry and its greedy executives can make money. Hell with Main Street. Rich draws a proper analogy to casino gambling, but with wagering on five-card poker or blackjack, the only loser is the gambler himself and not ordinary Americans.

What is the average Joe to do? Well, just as they did with health care reform, grassroots organizations, like HCAN (Health Care for America Now) and Americans For Financial Reform that speak for millions of Americans, and labor organizations, like the AFL-CIO, are mobilizing millions of Main Streeters to combat the greed that drips constantly out of the mouths of those running Wall Street. The mantra for Main Street is an easy one. We should just let big banks fail if they don't take immediate steps to restore jobs, stop fighting financial reform, and ensure that lending takes place in the local communities that drive our economy. After all, recall that these big banking institutions took billions to survive from the $700 billion TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) that came from the 'sweat' of the taxpayer 'brow'. Wall Street must be regulated more so than ever before. Don't forget that lobbyists paid by big banks are seeking ways to insert loopholes into the present financial reform bill in the Senate so that it (Wall Street) can continue to screw average Americans.

If Main Street does not speak up, and do so loudly and constantly like it did for health care reform, it will only have itself to blame for allowing the greed we see demonstrated per Senator Feinstein's call to create a health insurance rate authority and in Frank Rich's words about the greed that has subsumed the financial sector in the U.S. Just keep in mind the phrase, "fool me once shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."