January 28, 2011

Here's a synopsis of what happened to banking and the economy in the past three years, but only if you're looking from a window seat on flight AAxxxx from Boston to Dallas where the skies are crystal clear, as the umpteenth blizzard cripples the Northeast.

1. The bad guys in banking (make your own estimate but the familiar 20/80 rule might just apply here) made some mistakes by stretching the boundaries of traditional banking. Greed, stupidity, herd-like mentality, and even regulators seem to be the reasons for the mistakes. "If it feels good, do it" seemed the only justification to go for it.

It's clear they never met my mother who warned, "Beware of the feel-good things in life."

2. The bad guys were as far apart mentally as Nebraska and Wall Street.

3. The Congress steps in and over-regulates to destroy the 20%, and in the process, the 80% as well. Adjectives were ignored; "banker" was interpreted as teller.

4. The public (Joe Sixpack) views that action of Congress as a good thing just like it does going to war, shoot to kill, and damn the torpedos. Don't bother me with the facts, just do something. Congress likes to be reelected so it did.

5. For a bureaucracy (any government agency and any bank) that has been known to be turtle-like, the reform is instantaneous.

6. The result is good bankers and good borrowers suffer the consequences.

7. On Tuesday night a very decent president boiled it down to education, innovation, investment, competitiveness and positive fight-back. The speech would have applied nicely in the locker rooms of February 6.

8. And we all go to bed hoping the tooth fairy will visit our pillow. The trouble is a lot of us still have our own teeth and we want to keep them. Our answer is floss and brush every day because there ain't no tooth fairy.

Disclaimer: I chose Nebraska as the model of Main Street Banking because many of my clients come from there and they talk back to me. But even though I speak my piece freely, I have not achieved the level yet of a Bill Maher to tell you what they tell me.

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