Sun. May 26th, 2024

George Bailey, Where Are You When We Need You?

The consequences of the credit meltdown really started hitting

Not a good sign: George Bailey meets a black crow. Photo Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
Not a good sign: George Bailey meets a black crow. Photo Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

me over the weekend.  Yes, I had some clients who were being really slow about paying, but they were being communicative, which always helps.

Imagine my surprise when I got not one but two letters from a major credit card vendor that I will not name, other than to say that part of its name rhymes with “sex-dress”.  This illustrious company, with which I’ve had a rather long relationship and mostly unblemished, basically slashed my credit to the balance on account on both my personal and business cards.  I’d always found them accomodating and even helpful.  Then – poof! – all that goodwill and business trust went out the effin’ window.  I was assured by a helpful supervisor – who I finally got through to after two days of calling and attempting to log in on the account web site – that it was not a reflection on me, or my payment history, or my performance.  It was just that based on a credit report from one of the credit agencies – whose name also strangely rhymes with “sex” – they decided that, for a number of reasons to cut me and millions of other cardholders – business and consumer users alike – off at the knees because the sky was falling.

To redirect my irritation while trying to get through to someone, I did some research.  Apparently this little exercise goes on annually, and in the past about 20 percent of cardholders got an adjustment in their credit line, either up or down.  Every time it’s happened to me, I’ve either gotten increased or left at level.  On some cards, I’ve actually asked them to reduce my credit line, because I had no use for the card but didni’t want to cancel it for fear of ruining my fine FICO score.

These days, however, that percentage of review has gone UP to 50%, and I’m guessing there were damned few who got their credit lines adjusted up.

Despite the kind blandishments of the very earnest supervisor that it was not a reflection on me, but a reflection on the market, I pointed out to him that based on a credit report – and studies have shown that your friendly neighborhood credit reporting agency can have serious errors in your report as much as 79% of the time – his company made a blanket decision that affected millions of individuals like me who were no different the day before we got their poison pen letter than the day after.

Here’s a link to that report, and the percentages of screwups and bonehead goofs will astound you.–security/financial-privacy–security/mistakes-do-happen-a-look-at-errors-in-consumer-credit-reports

In IT’S WONDERFUL LIFE, Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, the head of the local savings and loan in Potterville.  When the fiscal poop hits the fan and there’s a run on the S&L, George has to appeal to the kinder instincts of his long-time customers to not drain the coffers.  When a big deposit goes awry thanks to doddy old Uncle Billie, George contemplates suicide; but a benevolent angel named Clarence shows him the greater loss that would occur, not just to him but to people he cared about, and people he barely knew.

In the end, the money is found, the hometown institution and its customers are saved, and gee, it IS a wonderful life.

I sincerely believe that’s what we’ll come out of this current meltdown believing; because, dammit, this is a magnificent country with good people.  It’s just that there are people, both in and out of government, who have gone to great lengths to poison our faith in the system, sometimes out of greed, sometimes for ideological reasons. 

I’m not talking about capitalism.  I’m talking about something much greater.  I’m talking about the American Experiment, still in progress, where people of all races, colors, creeds, religions and socio-economic backgrounds live together, believe in themselves, in each other, and in our institutions.  In a country that believes in self-reliance, and also believes in giving neighbors, or strangers, or people they’ve never met and will likely never meet, a hand when it’s needed.

I have a friend.  He and I are polar opposites politically, but we are both men of good will.  He, on the eve of his retirement, went back to war.  At the age of 58, he’s working for a contractor “over there” teaching police and militia the principles of winning hearts and minds.  Every other day, I hear of a bombing or an attack not far from him, and I remember him in my prayers.  I am doing my small part, telling stories, running a few small businesses, working for a non-profit and sharing my thoughts on this blog as we run up to the election.  I have little doubt how my friend will vote, but I suspect this time it may stick in his craw a bit.   But that he and I could be friends says something.  As a matter of fact Yakov Smirnoff said it: What a country!

But back to my favorite credit institution.

Some day soon, this will blow over.  In a matter of months or a maybe few years, things will likely go back to something resembling normal.  And when it does, I won’t be taking my business back to the “sex-dress” company.  I’ll be looking for George Bailey.   Because surprisingly, there are a few of them out there, doing business the old fashioned way, tempering fiscal analysis with relationship.  And many of those banks and credit unions are doing well, they have money to lend.  And they will help people.

So, to the top management of Contrarian Sex Dress: you’d better fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride for you even when the storm is over.  People will remember how they were treated.

So, to the top management of the Republican Party: fasten your seatbelts and check the airbags.  Against my better judgement – because I know how adept you are at vote caging, registration deleting and all sorts of other neat tricks – I think you’re going to get your heads handed to you on a platter on November 4.

The British have a child’s poem, commemorating Guy Fawkes, who attempted to blow up Parliament:

Remember, remember the fifth of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot.
I know of no reason gunpowder and treason
Should ever be forgot.

I’m trying to come up with one as good for this November 4th.  In the meantime, remember the big picture, the big story: The people who brought you here, won’t get you out.  And neither will the ones following in their footsteps.

Vote change.  Vote Obama.  Vote Biden.  Vote Democratic in your local and national legislative races.

And may the Higher Power of your choice vet your credit report and watch over your bank account.