"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
-Oscar Wilde
Brilliant at Breakfast title banner "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
"...you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly. I know what I am, what are you?" -- Steve Gilliard, 1964 - 2007

"For straight up monster-stomping goodness, nothing makes smoke shoot out my ears like Brilliant@Breakfast" -- Tata

"...the best bleacher bum since Pete Axthelm" -- Randy K.

"I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." -- "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (1954-2015), They Live
Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Big Casino

I thought I’d heard it all when I first read of Wal-Mart taking out life insurance policies on employees, a despicable practice now largely illegal. The policies were privately called “dead peasant’s insurance.” They’re life insurance policies that companies like Wal-Mart take out on employees if and when the employee is killed on the job, say, and the company and not the employee’s family, is the sole beneficiary and reaps the rewards. Not so oddly, Wal-Mart’s lawsuits against the insurers who’d sold them these claims on the grounds that they did not warn them of the tax risks involved were recently reinstated by the Delaware State Supreme Court. Wal-Mart, as with virtually all corporations, has papers of incorporation filed in Delaware. Essentially, we’re seeing one financial giant trying to screw another one over who gets to reap the payouts of employees who make little more than minimum wage.

Then from Greg Palast I heard about vulture fund managers who buy up national debts at a greatly reduced rate then pervert these IMF and World Bank solutions to alleviate Third World nations of their debt by then taking them to court and suing them for the full amount of the debt. And you would think that bloated scumbags like Michael Sheehan and Paul Singer, for deliberately bankrupting Third World nations who’d earmarked that extra revenue for educational and AIDs prevention programs, would represent the very bottom of the barrel.

However, pure human evil always has the resourcefulness to surprise even the most cynical and jaded, to spelunk to new levels of moral putrescence. Just when you think you’re heard the ultimate in corporate sociopathic greed, you read about something like this.

A reader today sent me a link to a story on Alternet that, believe it or not, completely blows out of the water the inherent evil of companies such as Wal-Mart buying “dead peasant” insurance policies on low-wage employees often without their knowledge. Mark Ames wrote a hyperventilating but still-frightening story today about a giant casino that spans all of Wall Street and the next big bonanza on the horizon is betting on when the terminally ill and elderly will die. And in the years to come the payout could run in the trillions.

As his primary source, Ames links to a story that came out 5 days ago in the New York Times. This is how the scam works and it’s all perfectly legal:

Certain Wall Street firms are planning on buying up hundreds of thousands of life insurance policies at greatly reduced rates (much like the vulture fundies) from the elderly and terminally ill. With skyrocketing US health care costs already the highest in the world, many sick people would be visited at the side of their deathbeds vulnerable to pitches from corporate shills who wave money in front of their faces. Since people have had to sell their homes just to pay their health care costs, they sign away their life insurance so it can then get shoveled back into the bottomless coffers of HMO’s and they’re lucky if they have enough left over for something better than a Potter’s Field funeral.

These life insurance policies are then bundled together by the thousands into bonds. Then the new policy holder continues paying the premiums on the life insurance until the original policyholder dies. What this means, essentially, is that the sooner the patient dies, the more money the new policyholder makes. The longer it takes the patient to die, the more money they stand to lose.

This is despicable enough as it is but there are two corollary issues that need to be addressed before we can assign to this scam the full-throated loathing that it truly deserves. This practice within a $26 trillion industry could actually increase premiums for those who already own or are about to buy life insurance policies if these Wall Street bloodsuckers make enough money from the payouts. This would contribute to present and future policyholders not being able to afford to insure their lives and protect their families.

The second and more despicable issue is that those who are pressing for this last Great Frontier of Profiteering are also the same ones who are trying to prevent any kind of meaningful health care reform bill from being passed. Health care reform, even the watery, co-opted boondoggle that we’ll surely be saddled with and forced to sign on to, could still theoretically mean longer lifespans.

And this new generation of vulture fundies absolutely does not want that. They want us to die as soon as possible after they grab our policies for pennies on the dollar. And when, not if, when they succeed in killing any meaningful health care reform, next in their crosshairs will be Obama’s proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would be put in place to keep these monsters’ hands off our life insurance policies.

Among those who are pushing the hardest for this bonanza (that’s been euphemistically renamed “life settlements” and the practice called “securitization”) is the “nonpartisan” US Chamber of Commerce, which, square inch for square inch, harbors more pure, unadulterated, condensed evil anywhere in the galaxy outside of Dick Cheney’s heart. The CoC is led by a crook named Thomas Donohue, who is described by Ames thusly:
The head of the Chamber, Thomas Donohue, is the perfect man to play the role of Dracula's Assistant: his resume includes serving on the board of directors at Qwest during the period when Qwest was accused of one of the worst fraud scandals in corporate history, resulting in billions in overstated revenues, and criminal and civil charges against the CEO (who was sentenced to 10 years in prison) and eight others; the board of directors of Union Pacific Corp, when as head of the compensation committee Donohue approved some of the highest CEO compensation packages in history, including tens of millions to former CEO Richard Davidson, along with his $2.7 million annual pension when he retired in 2006; the board of directors of XM Radio, which is currently almost bankrupt and facing delisting; and the board of directors of a nursing home monolith, Sunrise Senior Living, which is being investigated by the SEC for fraud, and which today faces possible bankruptcy. (Not surprisingly, one of Donohue's longest-running goal is to protect billionaires from lawsuits.)

Bottom line: Everywhere Donohue has been, scandal, fraud, lawsuits and bankruptcies are left in his wake, the perfect embodiment of the scorched earth, rabidly tort reform movement that has further enriched billionaires and have plunged millions into debt, bankruptcy, homelessness and unemployment. In other words, Tom Donahue is to American Big Business that Bill Donohue is to American Catholics.

Donahue’s Chamber had recently launched a two million campaign to Hindenburg Obama’s CFPA before it even clears the mooring ropes. Doing so is what’s known in financial circles and elsewhere as “hedging your bets.”

So there we are. We’re finally seeing the realization of Soylent Green and The Matrix, in which the dead were freeze-dried or liquified to feed the living. Wall Street is eagerly lining up to bet on our deaths and flock to our hospice bedsides hoping to buy up our life insurance policies for pennies on the dollar and hoping that we croak before they have to be burdened with paying our premiums for too long.

And the effort is being spearheaded by the very same robber barons (such as Goldman Sachs) who’ve benefited from trillions in taxpayer handouts that we didn’t voluntarily hand out. We paid Wall Street trillions so we could help them make trillions more on our deaths to cover the money they lost due to their heartless, reckless greed in the first place.

The New York Times got the ball rolling and started a very necessary dialogue about this. So why isn’t this getting more airtime or more play in the blogosphere?
Bookmark and Share
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Can't find the Google account info, so I'm anon.
No one in msm wants to get into the topic of money is far more important than human life. A lot of the msms were gung ho for the Iraq war. They didn't give a hoot about what would happen to people.
Some people are so separated from any sense of humanity. They are entitled and so far superior than the peons.
It's a scary country when it is seen as normal to dismiss large swaths of the population as "rabble."

Blogger Maude said...
Oh, and am I dumb or what? the Google account shows my name account.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'm sure Lawrence "Blow" Kudlow and John Stoessel can justify this practice and explain why it is absolutely necessary to the smooth functioning of our economy.

It would be more enlightening to know how this method or practice would help our economy function smoothly

Anonymous Ted said...
Do I hear "death panels", anyone?

But I ask again: Just exactly what is it that "Wall Street" DOES? As Gitangsu asks, how does this aid our economy?

More interestingly, exactly WHO profited enough that what's-his-name at Citi "earned" his $100,000,000 bonus? Did "the economy" increase wealth by the billions necessary to make that reasonable? Wasn't Citi bankrupt -- both morally and financially -- at the time? Aren't they still?