Everyone knows the story of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George represents the average, family-oriented, kind-hearted American. He runs a small community bank geared toward helping the average family own their own home and achieve the American dream. Life is wonderful for George until a villainous large bank owner, Mr. Potter, nearly ruins his life and the lives of the residents of Bedford Falls by attempting to monopolize the small town and absorb George’s bank in the process.
As an American consumer, I feel betrayed by our large financial institutions — much like George in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I grimace at the similarities between the attitudes of our bank executives and Mr. Potter. A New York Times report Tuesday revealed that “Bank executives are grappling with a question that exasperates, even infuriates, many recession-weary Americans: Just how big should their paydays be?”
The sickening report continues, “Goldman Sachs is expected to pay employees an average of about $595,000 each for 2009, one of the most profitable years in its 141-year history. Workers in the investment bank of JPMorgan Chase stand to collect about $463,000 on average.”
I understand that because our economy was in such disarray as a result of the Bush administration‘s economic policies of deregulation and free market capitalism, it became necessary to bail out the banks so that credit would be more readily available to consumers.
The thing is, credit isn’t really more available to consumers, and after being in such dire need of taxpayers’ help, these banks clearly rebounded rather quickly — especially when their most pressing moral dilemma revolves around garnering the highest salary possible without raising eyebrows or inciting a social movement.
And it’s not just Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase who are receiving profits disproportionate to the reality of this recession. The Times reports, “During the first nine months of 2009, five of the largest banks that received federal aid — Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley — together set aside about $90 billion for compensation. That figure includes salaries, benefits and bonuses, but at several companies, bonuses make up more than half of compensation.”
It seems that the entire financial system of America is built to penalize the consumer. I was reading about the calculation of credit scores, and I had the impression that simply thinking about my credit score would lower it. Maybe the rationale to bail out the banks was logical according to economics and business, but it seems today that nearly everyone in America has felt the effects of the recession, except for these large financial institutions. I think it’s time that we, as Americans, do something about that.
A simple movement has begun through a Web site called MoveYourMoney.info, which seeks to send a message to banks that were deemed “too big to fail.” The general idea is for people who belong to Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America to move their money and credit cards out of these large financial institutions and into small community banks.
This idea transcends political ideology, empowers the consumer, and supports local communities — and it’s not just an unknown grassroots organization. In the past week, the founders of the site have been on MSNBC and even The Colbert Report.
We can’t rely on our government officials to affect change in our financial institutions because politicians are generally crooked. Instead, we must make the first move to show these licentious financial organizations that if they want our business, they must change their practices. I can assure you that as soon as I decide where I’m going to graduate school, I’m pulling my money out of my current gluttonous, morally decrepit bank, and changing over to the credit union in that city.