Thursday, November 5, 2009

Time to break out the torches and pitchforks yet?

Look, I'm already hacked off enough about there being shortages of flu vaccines this year. To get the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines for my daughters, I had to wait in line for the bulk of an afternoon a few weeks ago, and then of course while waiting had to contend with the possibility that we'd be turned away (luckily we weren't). My son had already had H1N1 (thankfully a fairly mild case of it). I'm dealing with H1N1 now - I don't quite fall into any of the priority groups (fortunately my case seems pretty mild as well as flu goes). So now I read that a bunch of privileged execs on Wall Street are, not surprisingly, getting privileged access to the same vaccine that the rest of us have dealt with shortages and unnecessary exposure to the feckin' virus. As one blogger puts it:
It should come as no surprise that those at the top of the food chain get preferential treatment on all levels. But this still stinks to high heaven. Employees of the Goldman, the Fed, Citigroup, and other banks are getting H1N1 vaccine allotments out of proportion to what can be justified from a public health standpoint. In particular, Goldman has gotten more than Lenox HIll hospital, which needs it not just for the sick but more important, for workers (not only does the public need to keep front-line health care workers in as good shape as possible, but if they get the infection, they become disease vectors fast, given the number of people they see).
Then again, banks have become parasitic, so why should we expect anything different?


Yves here. Welcome to the class system in action. If you don’t work for a big, influential company, go to the back of the queue. Why should companies be the nexus of distribution for vaccines? I guarantee no Goldman MD gets much of his routine medical treatment from the GS health workers on staff (emergencies or a fast diagnostic like a strep test are different). But if you work for a less privileged employer or are self-employed or between jobs, tough luck, go to the back of the queue, you have to try to get yours (assuming you can) from vaccination centers in New York City. How easy do you think that will be? The difficulty and queuing are certain to be much worse than for any of the big financial players.

And please, it strains credulity to think that someone on the payroll at these companies won’t bend to pressure to make allotments at the margin according to who is most powerful. Do you think if Lloyd Blankfein or another member of the management committee was in a risk category that he would be denied it, assuming the firm did not have enough to go around? (and that is likely). Now given the brouhaha, Goldman may bend over backwards not to abuse this overmuch now that there is media pushback. But this serves to illustrate how the system has been suborned on just about every front. To wit, Goldman is getting 200 doses of the vaccine, the same number as Lenox Hill Hospital.
As if there weren't enough reasons already to be pissed off at Wall Street.

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