Lessons for Congress from George Bailey

James Stewart in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life

Growing up, part of the annual holiday tradition was watching the classic Frank Capra film, It’s a Wonderful Life. I can’t help but pause for a moment now to wonder how George Bailey would counsel us in how to get out of this financial conundrum we find ourselves in. Allow me to speculate on what good ol’ George might say to Congress if asked:

  1. Do the right thing for the people, after all it is their money that you are dealing with.
  2. Know the people who you are giving a mortgages to. At the Bailey Building & Loan, we know everyone we make a loan to. That is how we can minimize risk. I look across the table and ask them how they plan to pay the loan back.
  3. Don’t give in to the Mr. Potters of the world. They are out there and they will do whatever and say whatever to take advantage of someone when they are down. They are roaming the halls here in Congress like flies on sh&t. Shoo them away or swat ’em.
  4. The bank examiner is one of the good people. He is my way of checking to see that my business is healthy and I have enough assets to cover my liabilities. We all make mistakes, like the time my Uncle Billy lost $8,000 dollars, but knowing that the bank examiner was coming kept me focused on doing the right thing for my business.
  5. Bankers have a sacred trust with the community. They enable the local economy to thrive and grow. It seems that they forgot that the only way they can make money and sustain it, is by helping the community grow and sustain. Selling mortgages to people that can not pay it off in the long run doesn’t help either party.
  6. Keep it local and simple. I make loans to people I know. They pay me back. What has happened here is that the owner of the loan is now so disconnected from the borrower that neither could ever know if the other was in trouble until it is too late. In my business, if someone doesn’t make their payment, I go to their house and talk about it over coffee.

Congress should keep these words of wisdom from George Bailey in mind as they start to dole out $1 trillion of taxpayer money that we don’t have. Maybe, and just maybe, if they do, we may all find a way to have our own wonderful lives again. – Glenn

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