SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has closed 465 banks. Prior to 2008, only 10 banks had failed. Regulators shuttered another 23 failed banks in 2013 alone. On Wednesday, TFC National Bank said it will close 37 branches inside Jewel stores by March, A day later, still plagued by the fallout from the ruptured housing bubble, Bank of America agreed to pay the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) nearly $132 million in penalties to settle an investigation connected to the sale of two intricately convoluted mortgage securities sold to investors through its Merrill Lynch division. The news has been neither surprising nor welcoming. But the announcement that regulators seized the assets of the famed Bailey Savings and Loan in Bedford Falls -- a privately owned and cherished institution that never received bailouts -- rocked the nation's confidence. This time, however, a corporate banker named Potter, whom the town previously considered a ruthless and malevolent cad, has emerged as a potential savior.
Representatives from the FDIC said the example of George Bailey -- the kind-hearted and altruistic proprietor of Bailey Savings and Loan -- provides glaring proof of how good intentions so often pave the way to Hell.
Town on the Verge of Economic Collapse
For years, the quiet and unassuming town of Bedford Falls has had only one source of contention -- the rivalry between generous lender and lenient collector, George Bailey, and the miserly millionaire banker, Henry Potter. By all accounts, the majority of Bedford Falls' citizens consider Potter an unrepentant villain. Potter himself offers no apologies and openly criticizes Bailey for his immature business acumen and lax lending standards.
"It's cliche, but I'm misunderstood," Potter said. "The bucolic people of this town have no concept of legitimate business or how I'm trying to save their miserable nest eggs. George Bailey is a reckless subprime lender. That's the long and short of it."
As sobering and stark as Potter's opinions might seem, he makes a valid argument in appealing to the town's consumers to reconsider the financial lessons learned over the last ten years, and to stop dwelling on the sentimental.
"I don't even hold George solely accountable," Potter went on. "He learned everything about business from his father. Both men had never attended a college, let alone pursued advanced degrees in finance. Peter Bailey was not a businessman. That's what killed him. Oh, I don't mean any disrespect to him, God rest his soul. He was a man of high ideals, so-called; but ideals without common sense can ruin this town. Now, you take this loan here to Ernie Bishop. You know, that fellow who sits around all day on his brains in his taxi. I happen to know the bank turned down this loan, but he comes to Bailey and they're building him a house. Why?"
When asked about this loan, Bailey responded: "Well, I handled that. Potter has all the papers there. His [Bishop's] salary, insurance. I can personally vouch for his character."
Potter scoffed at the idea that character assessments measured up against real collateral: "You see, if you shoot pool with some employee here, you can come and borrow money. What does that get us? A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class. And all because a few starry-eyed dreamers like Bailey stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas."
Given the absence of sufficient regulatory oversight, a situation that has worsened exponentially since the 1990s, Potter has now emerged as the sole voice of reason in a town perilously close to over-leveraging itself.
The Federal Reserve insinuated that it might be considering Potter for a possible position in the administration. With President Obama's penchant for making compromising deals with the conservative factions in Congress, Potter's seat in the Reserve seems almost assured. A large number of Bedford Falls' residents, many of whom previously ranked among Potter's harshest detractors, have now come out in support of this decision.
Late Thursday morning, local police reported that George Bailey had been taken into protective custody following a botched suicide attempt. Bailey told detectives that with his life insurance policy, he was worth more dead than alive. Unfortunately, and due in large part to his gross mismanagement of funds, his policy's value had depreciated significantly. It is now estimated at around $15,000, barely enough to purchase a decent casket from Walmart.
Interestingly, Bailey seemed in good spirits, telling police, "It's a wonderful life!" He attributed his renewed outlook to an invisible guardian angel named Clarence, whom Bailey described as obsessed with Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." As a result, police have placed Bailey on a 72-hour psychological hold until the state of his mental health can be determined.
2013. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.