Too Big To Get Sick: Vaccine for the Swine

If they are “too big to fail” then they are obviously “too big to get sick.” Guess that’s why Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase are getting doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine from the government ahead of virtually everyone else in the country. The firms are on a special list approved by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, a federal agency. Most doctors here in Los Angeles still can’t obtain the vaccine for their patients.

No doubt someone will argue that sending the scarce vaccine to the Wall Street speculators is just as important as sending them trillions of taxpayer dollars in bailout money right after they hospitalized the American economy. We needed to keep the technically bankrupt firms alive, we were told last October, because if Wall Street collapses so will everything else. So it only makes sense that we have to make sure these financial geniuses don’t catch the flu. I’m waiting for tomorrow’s papers to read how the last thing we can afford now is to endanger all the money we have given them by allowing them to get sick. Giving the fat cats the vaccine first is really just a way to make sure all the rest of us don’t get sick, the logic would be.

I’m not buying the “trickle down” theory of public health, however. Dumping tons of cash into the Money Industry’s coffers hasn’t done much for the rest of the country. Instead, the banks have been hoarding the money we gave them, using it to pay for mergers, buying their own stock (to sell at a profit later), or paying bonuses, rather than lending it to the consumers and small businesses in order to stimulate the economy, which was the original purpose of the bailout. JP Morgan, Wells and Bank of America stashed away $43 billion over the last year. Meanwhile, our economy is flat on its back, with vast numbers of Americans desperate to pay their bills or find a job, and the truth is that without consumer spending, there will be no real recovery.

So it’s hard to see what the downside would be for America if the entire Money Industry had to take a few sick days.

Wall Street’s flu bailout, which Business Week broke today, would be comical if it didn’t seem to confirm what most Americans suspect: that in fact we live in a two-class system in which the financial elite is protected from all form of risks while the rest of the country has to fend for itself.