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Hello Dr Matt,
My name is Bill, I'm 46 years old and married with children. I live in Boston Massachusetts.
My wife and I were watching the Glenn Beck Program and he raised the issue of Big Banks and Wall Street Fat Cats. Ever since, I been having a debate with my wife about Big Bank Bashing: She's on one side of the issue and I'm on the other. We're wondering where you stand?
There is a campaign called "Move Your Money" that encourages people to withdraw their money from Big Banks, and move that money to local Credit Unions. This action is taken to send a message of disapproval to Big Banks — disapproval for paying out obscene bonuses to bank executives during tough economic times, when so many people struggle to survive.
Do Americans have a right to condemn Big Banks for acting irresponsibly, because they received billions of dollars from the Federal Government to survive the economic down-turn? Should they be held accountable for the way they used "Our-Money"? Thanks for weighing in on this issue.
Up front, I'm not an advocate for Credit Unions, neither am I an advocate for BIG Banks — I am an advocate for evidence and honesty.
Duck Hunting and Firing Flock Shots
When I was young, my dad used to take me duck hunting. We would stroll through fields near a local lake, ready to shoot down a duck or two that would suddenly surge into the air, when flushed out of their hiding places. I remember the laugher among those in the hunting party, when anyone would hurriedly raise a shotgun and quickly shoot without first taking aim.
When a shotgun is fired in the general direction of the flock, this is called a "Flock Shot." Most always, this kind of shot was ineffective. With that in mind, let's look at the beef of the "Move Your Money" campaign:
"Take the pledge to Move Your Money! People fed up with the nation's biggest banks, whose casino-style investment practices are partly responsible for the financial crisis, are pledging to move their money to small community banks and credit unions. They're taking the power into their own hands and voting with their dollars to help put an end to predatory lending, outrageous fees and impersonal service."
First of all: "Saying it doesn't make it so!" Here are GENERAL Assertions un-supported by SPECIFIC Evidence:
* casino-style investment practices
We are deluged with forwarded emails that simply ASSERT some slander, sans any evidence; and typically these emails are written by NOBODY (author un-identified). To counter such unsupported assertions written by ANONYMOUS, I created this page at my website: Five 5 Rules for Intelligent Email Forwarding.
Each of the previous accusations could apply to any financial institution, of any size — not just Big Banks. Here's a good rule of thumb, a moral grounding point, in light of no SPECIFIC evidence to support GENERAL assertions: People are Innocent, until Proven Guilty.
Truth is, conscientious consumers will naturally take their business elsewhere, when faced with "outrageous fees" and "impersonal service." And where will they naturally take their business? To Institutions that offer a competitive product, with reasonable fees and friendly service — with the size of that Institution being a less significant factor.
The Difference between GENERAL Rhetoric vs. SPECIFIC Reality
Sorting through this issue to find moral ground, we begin by discerning the Difference between GENERAL Rhetoric vs. SPECIFIC Reality. This difference is effectively illustrated by what I'm calling the "Terrorist Mentality."
Terrorists aim a GENERAL complaint toward a GENERAL entity called "America." Their complaint is that Americans are: loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, egocentric, basking in luxury and extravagant excess — at the same time millions are starving. Hence, America is the Great Satan — at least this is the GENERALIZATION that dwells in the mind of a Terrorist.
You can quickly see the problem: While some SPECIFIC Americans fit with description, the vast majority of Americans do not. Nevertheless, the Terrorist Mentality calls for firing Flock Shots at the GENERAL entity called America. And the tragic result is this: Average and Innocent Americans are caught in the condemning cross-fire.
FIRING FLOCK SHOTS at 6 BIG BANKS
The Move Your Money Initiative targets 6 Big Banks:
"JP Morgan/Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs may be "too big to fail" -- but they are not too big to feel the impact of hundreds of thousands of people taking action to change a broken financial and political system. Let them gamble with their own money, not yours."
Because a majority of Americans care more about the people on Main Street than those on Wall Street, Bank Bashing is widely accepted. But here's the problem: Wall Street generates jobs for the people on Main Street. Thus, as the Move-Your-Money Campaign tries to punish culpable "fat cats" on Wall Street by firing GENERAL Flock Shots at Big Banks, they risk hurting many innocent employees on Main Street, who work for the "fat cats."
The Move-Your-Money initiative is a good campaign in concept: It seems "irresponsible" for SPECIFIC individuals to receive huge bonuses while millions of Americans endure economic hardship. But to be consistent, there should also be an outcry against professional athletes, hollywood stars, and all other people who are making enormous profits (e.g., the creators of Avatar) -- during tough economic times when so many Americans struggle to survive.
I acknowledge that the "Our-Money" factor may not apply to the Athletes, Stars, and Avatar Producers -- So, is Capitalism "OK" as long as a person is not receiving Government subsidies or loans? Do students who receive Pell Grants need to make an everlasting oath to refrain from Capitalism?
Because Big Banks on Wall Street were loaned Federal T.A.R.P. Money, they survived economic collapse -- this saved thousands of jobs for the people on Main Street. Saving jobs on Main Street was precisely why the Federal Government provided T.A.R.P. Money to numerous Banks in the first place. Plus, the Government wanted to avoid a disastrous "domino effect" further crippling the US Economy.
But why were so many banks on the verge of collapse in the first place. What part did Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play? Who were the people in positions to keep Mac & Mae away from mistakes? Is it fair to hold them accountable too, along with culpable Fat Cats on Wall Street?
REALITY: Protesting irresponsible actions by culpable fat cats, Move-Your-Money lodges a GENERAL complaint against 6 Big Banks -- 3 of whom have returned the T.A.R.P. money, Our Money, according to CNN; and 2 more Banks that want to return T.A.R.P. Money, but the Government has not allowed it yet, as reported by the Huffington Post.
Huffington Post & CNN are good sources for reporting this issue, because "Move-Your-Money" is a LEFT leaning initiative and CNN and Huffington Post are both LEFT leaning media outlets -- thus, the report itself argues against CNN and Huffington Post's political tendencies. Reporting that goes against one's own position, is an indication of objectivity.
GENERAL Rhetoric vs. SPECIFIC Realities Re-Visited
There is an error in the way I just worded the previous paragraph. The GENERAL entities called CNN and Huffington Post DO NOT do any reporting, rather particular people that work for CNN and the Huffington Post do the reporting. Hence, each report authored by SPECIFIC individuals reflects the journalistic integrity of that particular reporter.
While the Move-Your-Money campaign appears GOOD in concept, the campaign is BAD in action. Why so? Because their solution to the problem of "irresponsible" financial practices, is to fire Flock Shots at any of 6 Big Banks.
Truth is, Banks cannot act "irresponsibly," only particular people who work for Banks can act "irresponsibly." Curiously, firing GENERAL Flock Shots at any of 6 BIG BANKS is parallel to the kind of action that Terrorists take. How so?
Terrorists have GENERAL complaints against Ugly Americans — loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, egocentric, basking in luxury and extravagant excess. But instead of aiming their anger at SPECIFIC "irresponsible" Americans, they fire GENERAL Flock Shots at the GENERAL entity called "America" — and end up injuring innocent Americans in the process.
Terrorists don't apologize for killing innocents, because their belief-system advocates that the "end justify the means." Killing for the greater good, according to radical Islamist philosophy, is not only acceptable, it is holy and blessed work.
This explains why radicals often cry “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is Great) just before they commit acts of Jihad; which is exactly what Army Psychiatrist, Nidal Malik Hasan, shouted before he fired Flock Shots at supposed Ugly Americans and murdered 13 at Fort Hood. However, these 13 were not Ugly Americans, but just average Americans.
The Wall Street Fat Cat is assumed to be a kind of Ugly American — basking in luxury and excess, while millions go hungry. With Bank Bashing on the rise, it is evident that average Americans on Main Street GENERALLY dislike the Ugly Americans on Wall Street — yet are thankful to be employed by them.
Sometimes a Fat Cat is admired when he has "star power" via a television show -- Donald Trumps "The Apprentice." By objective standards, is Donald Trump one of the Ugly Americans too? So does it make sense to fire Flock Shots at all the Businesses he owns?
Finding Moral Ground to Stand On
Because firing Flock Shots at GENERAL entities results in mindless collateral damage upon innocents, this is precisely why responsible Americans will put a SPECIFIC "face" upon this Big Bank issue: What are the SPECIFIC names of the culpable Fat Cats and where is the SPECIFIC evidence of their irresponsibility? In America, Everyone Should Be Innocent, Until Proven Guilty.
You and I act responsibly as we aim this issue directly at SPECIFIC "irresponsible" Bankers; instead of firing GENERAL Flock Shots at any of 6 Banks.
Firing GENERAL Flock Shots is an activity taken up by Ideologues steeped in Prejudice — steeped in Pre-Judgment. Guilt by association is their GENERAL Rule of Thumb: Their GENERALIZING logic goes like this: ALL Democrats are Idiots . . . ALL Republicans are Insane . . . ALL Mormons are Polygamists . . . ALL Idahoans are Potato Farmers . . . ALL Jews are Bankers . . . ALL Bankers are Fat Cats who bask in luxury and excess.
I vividly remember one of my College Professors teaching me about the ONE Indian experience: He said "All Indians walk in a straight line . . . at least the ONE I saw, did."
The SPECIFIC is Terrific!
So, whenever we have a GENERAL beef about a GENERAL Entity: Is it really reasonable to fire GENERAL Flock Shots in that GENERAL direction? Flock Shots that might not hurt SPECIFIC Culpable Characters directly responsible for our beef, but will at least hurt a few innocent people caught in the condemning cross-fire. This IS the Terrorist's mentality of Flock Shot Retribution — a mentality to be shunned and avoided.
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