Still “Me” First

doctor_narrowweb__300x356,2New Orleans Last evening I was being interviewed by Diego Mulligan for his talk and comment show on KSFR in Santa Fe, New Mexico about Citizen Wealth. He raised the point about a news report that $30 billion went out in bonuses to executives and traders at nine of the banks that received gazillions in federal bailout dollars, so we found ourselves talking about the equity gap that still persists in America today.   What have we learned from the meltdown really?

The “me first” policy in Wall Street which is confounding citizens and politicians is leading to a systemic breakdown and thwarting more than one public policy initiative it now seems.  I don’t know if this is a “crisis of the commons,” or something more atavistic and dog-eat-dog that puts individual interests so far above the common good that these folks can’t even see us down here any longer.

Wall Street’s excess is beyond the imagination.  The fact that these firms were paying out over $30 billion in bonuses while getting federal bailout dollars of over $80 billion is a fundamental breach with reality. This money is fungible.  These bonuses should never have been paid.  Who was running these shops, and why are they not all unemployed now?!?

The same problem seems to have sat down smack in the middle of the health care debate on finally achieving national relief.  As a recent article in the New York Times detailed, we can’t get there as long as we are paying doctors on a “fee for service” basis, rather than on salary – even a high salary!  Some hospitals and clinics have tried this model, and, what a surprise, it works!  But, this means getting doctors to agree that they are employees dedicated to patient health rather than private businessmen with a scalpel and stethoscope.  We’ve already talked about the earlier article in the New Yorker that nailed the wild cost differentials in Harlingen, Texas based on doctors driving the truck through their own hospital.

Mulligan was right to be agitated about this issue.

We’re coming to a “mad as hell and won’t take it any longer” moment in this country.  Some of these folks whether or Main Street or Wall Street are going to have to start looking past their own nose at what’s best for their fellow citizens and the whole country.

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