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Stephen Gyllenhaal Headshot

Wall Street -- Death Profits

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On Saturday the New York Times dropped the strangest bombshell. It was the leading article on the front page. Wall Street is back into the bundling business and this time they believe they've got it right. They're buying up billions of dollars worth of the insurance policies of the sick and elderly, gambling as the New York Times article notes serenely, that "the earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return -- though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money."

Wow! I mean wow! I mean, I know I may be naïve in asking this, but what the hell are these guys thinking? No, scratch that -- what are they feeling? Is there no place they won't go? I mean I truly want to move beyond the concept of killing the bastards, but really -- it's enough to make you...

But wait. I don't want to get a heart attack over this and prove them right. I need to take the kind of breath one learns from yoga.

Let's note that Goldman Sachs is at the center of this, having "developed a tradable index of life settlements, enabling investors to bet on whether people will live longer than expected or die sooner than planned. The index is similar to tradable stock market indices that allow investors to bet on the overall direction of the market without buying stocks."

Goldman Sachs -- they're everywhere. Smartest guys on the block, say most of the media. Record profits last quarter. But of course it's also emerging that they've been getting mountains of inside information for years. Well, they are the inside, so...

But frankly what kind of inside information do you need to figure this one out?

We aren't going to get decent health care so of course more people are going to die. Our health care may even get worse. After all, who knows what deals are being struck behind closed door? Goldman Sachs knows.

Then there's one further nasty thought. I try to push it away. Why even say it out loud? I mean betting that bad health care will kill a lot of extra people is one thing -- but what about all those guns and bullets that have been purchased since the NRA spent tens of millions of dollars carrying on about Obama taking away all our weapons...

I know, I know, what the hell am I talking about? This is way off point. I agree, but if you're a dazzling statistician at Goldman Sachs don't you want to factor in every thing? For instance, Lawrence Keane's statement to the LA Times on August 30th, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc., which represents the largest ammo suppliers in the country. ''Nobody has ever seen this kind of demand before (for bullets). Right now, the plants are operating full-bore to get the product on the shelf." The foundation estimates that there will be about 2 billion more American-made bullets produced this year over last year's 7.5 billion.

But I won't go there. I won't. These are just my personal fears. They have no logic. 9.5 billion new bullets sitting on shelves need not mean anything, but it certainly gives me pause. And maybe it gives Goldman Sachs something else.

Obama was elected on a platform of hope. Hope was the word most attached to his name and yet highly trained professionals on Wall Street who use everything at their disposal to peer into the future in the hope of making fortunes seem to be banking on anything but hope. They are banking on the premature deaths of millions of American citizens. I hope they are as dead wrong about this "product" as they were about banking and housing. From a certain perspective, of course, it will be shame to watch another trillion or two disappear down the drain (even as places like Goldman Sachs get richer on the transaction fees alone). Still, it'd be better to lose what money of ours we haven't yet lost because of them, than to lose our lives before it's time.