October 4, 2013

Can We Trust Our Banks?

This isn't a post about my bank. It isn't an analysis of our financial system's problems or shortcomings. This isn't even a rant about the widening gap between the rich and the rest of us.  It is about what seems to be our society's attitude of choice at the moment: distrust, and its effect on our satisfying retirement.

There have been plenty of actions and events that make distrust a seemingly legitimate choice. I don't have to list all the times we have been disappointed over the last decade or so by the people and institutions that are charged with doing what is best for us. I get as angry and frustrated as anyone at the greed or simple stupidity of what has been going on for far too long.

Importantly the "us" means the country as a whole. It doesn't mean us versus them. It doesn't mean left versus right. It doesn't mean angling for a short term gain at the risk of a long term decline.

As a society we have lost the concept of compromise and shared community. Battle lines have been drawn in politics, in religion, in neighborhoods, in ethnic origin.....seemingly everywhere. But, a democracy can't function without a basic level of trust and compromise. If there is no desire to compromise there is no democracy possible.

Wikipedia gives this definition of democracy:  a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws.

A minority attempting to change the mind of the majority is a good thing. That is part of democracy. Without that women still wouldn't be able to vote, and legal slavery would still be part of our culture. There would be no protection of children in the work place, and no minimum wage.

A minority attempting to force its will on the majority with threats ignores that key element of our form of government: compromise. Make no mistake: standing up for one's principals is crucial. Making one's views clear on an issue is our duty as a citizen of this country and the world. We must work through the system to attempt to change those things that are against our core beliefs. But, taking the position that it's either my way or no way is not how democracy works. In fact, it can't work. We can't legislate through threats or decide which laws we like and which laws we refuse to follow.

Heavens, without compromise marriages don't work, raising children doesn't work....relating to another person doesn't work....nothing works without some form of compromise. Nothing.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and eliminate the distrust and bad feelings that seems to be washing over our country. That isn't going to happen, so the only "bully pulpit" I have is my behavior and my writings here.

Do I trust my bank? I trust that my bank is in business to maximize its profits. I trust that my bank will be required to follow certain regulations to protect me from the worst of its actions. I accept that status when I use their services. I trust that the benefits to me are worth what I give up to them.

That's called a compromise.


  1. Here comes a history lesson :)
    Compromise is the settlement of a dispute by each side making concessions.
    These are major issues. I would prefer we slug it out and go back to moving, then do this every year. In a representative democracy civil disobedience is normal. It happened in the '60's with a knock down fight at the Democratic convention. It happened in the 1860's with caning of a Republican congressman who was standing up agaInst slavery during the Kansas compromise. Just because the drama is playing out in public media, does not change the idea that compromise happens after lots of heat and a few people standing up to the whole group.
    How are we a great country? We fight it out, in public, and continue without a change in type of government. Sometimes that comes at a price. My daughter gets it- even though her family is not being paid. She and I both agree with universal health care, but we have to figure it out!
    But we are talking about banks, right?

    1. Well, the bank reference was really just an attention-getting headline to attract readers and commenters! I know banks are designed to maximize their profits and do everything they can within legal limits (some of the time!) to enrich themselves. I know that going in so I act accordingly. I make compromises because I like the convenience of a checking account and home line of equity.

      But, the central issue, that you have reiterated, is compromise. After all the heat and light, after all the standing one's ground for a principal, and after a law or regulation is duly passed, whether you agree with it or not, you follow it. Our government isn't supposed to be set up so if you disagree with a law you shut everything down. No, you obey the law (read the Constitution, please) and work within the system to change it.

      I'd rather not pay taxes for several of the things I am helping to support. But, I can't simply refuse to pay because I disagree unless I am willing to suffer the consequences. The present mess only has consequences for those of us who are actually trying to live day by day. The folks who have engineered a shutdown don't have costs; heavens they are still getting paid by the government they shut down. That must be the height of irony, though probably lost of those who it affects.

    2. I agree with Bob on this. This is not about compromise. this is about a very small group who is upset about an Law. I'll say it again. the majority of people in this country voted to endorse the law when they chose the President over the candidate who wanted to repeal it. The supreme court has upheld the law, and the majority in congress voted for it.

      I am an activist of the sixties in the fullest sense, from marching to demonstrating. If you are the minority and think a law is wrong you can demonstrate, you can write, you can sit in, you can visit your congressman every day, as a citizen you can attempt a class action in order to appeal the law again to the supreme court. The problem is that in this case, NONE OF THOSE choices would succeed most likely. So since the tea party knows this, they've settled for attempting to hold a nation hostage. Not only that, but they have never come up with an idea to amend it, or change what they don't like about the law. It's "off with her head". Without offending anyone, that hasn't work with Roe V Wade or many other laws.

      And without hijacking bobs thread, I would make two other obervations. First, it's not about Janette's daughter who doesn't get paid. It's about the day care provider who also is probably not getting paid. It's about the movie she might have gone to this week, and will miss. It's about the lunch she's not buying at work, the parking attendant who may not be getting a tip....the list goes on.

      Finally, if Bob hasn't cut me off by now-three million people attempted to sign on to the ACA in the first week. What would those folks who support the tea party say to them. Go hang?? We'll come up with a new law in a few years that may cover you?? I have insurance so it's not my problem? Almost all of those folks probably had a partner or a family of four who have no insurance or insurance that is worth poop.

      Just sayin'

    3. Just saying that my daughter's family, a one income family who chose to continue their support of the nation by continuing national security work after being medically discharged from the military, is less then the day care worker ( Dod day care workers are considered essential personnel.

      So you know what is being discussed? It is the exceptions that the President made from the law that you want us to follow. Your argument does not follow what you state Bob. Why are businesses, the unions and the Congress exempt from the laws?

      Good news sources? BBC, NPR, and the Harold are my three major sources. As a person who has lived through a few news stories- CNN is so busy trying to fill their news time they often make it up as they go along.

    4. Janeete, not every federal employee gets to use a dod day care-speaking as a famiy day care provider in Washington DC. I'm glad that your daughter gets to do something constructive. Most of my friends (who by the way consider themselves essential) are sitting around twiddling their thumbs knowing that important work is being left on done and that when they get back to doing it the delay will cost the taxpayers almost double.

      I have seen absolutely no evidence that the tea party is willing to drop the issue of defunding the government. But thats not the point.

      This is not about compromise. compromise is about working together to a common goal, occasionally knowing when you are beat. Compromise is not "well, you did not give me what I wanted and so I'm gonna close everything down and make the whole nation miserable in the process-and increase the cost to the taxpayers to boot".

    5. @@

      I want universal health care- as I have been living for the last 30 years and my mother enjoys now. THIS is not it! But then, I compromise is not in the language right now....it means give and take not just do as I say not as I do.

      Missing having a blog that is not political :(

  2. Right on Bob. Couldn't have said it better myself. I am constantly in search of where all this bickering and worse originated that has spread throughout our society. Haven't found it yet but maybe have a few clues. But of course that is form my blog not yours. ;)

    1. We'd still be genuflecting to the King of England if our Founding Fathers hadn't compromised.

  3. America is a republic. Not a democracy:

    "Many people are under the false impression our form of government is a democracy, or representative democracy. This is of course completely untrue. The Founders were extremely knowledgeable about the issue of democracy and feared a democracy as much as a monarchy. They understood that the only entity that can take away the people's freedom is their own government, either by being too weak to protect them from external threats or by becoming too powerful and taking over every aspect of life."

    If your going to give a history lesson, learn the facts.

    If you think your money is 'safe' in a bank, it is not. It can be taken from you at any time.

    1. A couple of points:

      - Isn't it easy to sling opinions when under the auspices of "Anonymous". Also, just because it is on the web, doesn't mean that it is true, accurate, and/or complete.

      - The Founders, above all else, feared misuse of power, in ANY form. The balance of balance governance is extremely difficult, especially with a feisty population full of self-interest.

      - Government's duty IS to regulate and protect the population. Hence the regulatory actions re: business monopolies, product misrepresentations, and bank regulations, e.g. Again, whether or not it is overstepping its bounds all depends on your point of view of what is fair (e.g. a store owner watering down the product while quietly claiming "caveat emptor," can easily protest "governmental over-regulation").

      - Nothing is truly "safe". There are all sorts of forces out there that are able to take one's money from you. Nothing is assured. But it sure helps to feel/hope that an involved government, though imperfect, is watching the backs of the regular citizenry.

    2. In "discussions" like this I am very leary of Anonymous comments. If someone has a firm opinion he or she should feel strongly enough to attach a name to that comment.

      I let this one go because, in the spirit of compromise, I would like to encourage a variety of opinions. I don't agree with Anonymous but I allow his thoughts to be make public. Too bad some people believe in shutting things down rather than have a meaningful and respectful discussion.

      Thanks, Steve

  4. This is the definition of a republic: re·pub·lic

    a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.
    a group with a certain equality between its members.
    Definition of a domcracy: 1.

    a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

    synonyms: representative government, elective government;

    supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives....vs a system of government by the whole population... typically through elected representatives.

    A democracy is through elected representatives not by. I only bring this up because this lack of understanding, word play and semantics is what has brought us to this very sad state.

    We all love our country. It's not a matter of who loves it most--though since 1995 it feels like it's been a constant "we know what's best for you and we will have our way."

    Kids born in 1995 are college freshman now if they're lucky enough to afford it or smart enough to get scholarships. An entire generation has grown up in a divided country--and we wonder why they're so cynical.

    Actually an account up to $250,000 per depositor is insured by the FDIC. To think that guarantee won't hold true is the ultimate in disbelief in our government--and I chose to believe. I'm not sure about banks but I know most brokerage houses have more insurance so you can leave more money and securities in an account and sleep at night. The insurance ensures that our money won't be taken from us at anytime

    I don't know the answer to the current crisis. I just know this is our country and wouldn't be it be wonderful if we could all work together? I know--I sound naive. I'm far from naive. Just a person who has been trying to understand how we reached this point.

    Bob I didn't mean to once again hijack the comments to your wonderful post--but people who write such incendiary comments should have the common decency to leave a name.

    1. I have nothing to add to your thoughts that would make them any stronger or better. Well said, Pia.

  5. I am not sure our institutions such as government and banks are any less trustworthy than the past (anyone think that Tammany Hall in NYC, or the obvious gaming of the stock market in the1800s, were better than what we have today?) One of the problems with perception, though, is the instantaneous spreading of news that at times appears to be for no other purpose than inciting one group over or against another. Granted, people seem to be wound more tightly than a few decades ago, but our institutions oftentimes appear to be in place for no other reason than the foster FUD. Not sure how we change it; perhaps each of us refusing to be played by those institutions, and choosing instead to foster more civility, will start a snowballing effect towards more trust. No matter what, we are definitely in more unhappy times than the past judging by the civil discord out there.

    1. I grew up with only 3 major TV news networks, each attempting to present the news, not opinions unless so labeled.

      Now, "news" channels have staked out clear positions on the left and right, purely for financial reasons. A Fox viewer will tend to watch only Fox and have a certain perception of reality as defined by that organization. The same holds true for MSNBC users. CNN is probably as close to balanced as we have, but even they have a more liberal slant than a good chuck of the country.

      The media's pandering to extremes is driven by money, not firm beliefs. "If it bleeds, it leads" applies to local TV news, as well as the big boys.

      If people would make the effort to listen to all sides of a discussion and then make up their mind, we would be in much better shape as a society.

  6. I have come to the conclusion that "True Believers" are always the most dangerous and "My way or the highway" becomes an article of faith that cannot be questioned – in fact if you do question then you are either a heretic or a traitor to be run out of town and that's no way to run a society or anything else.

    1. The statement that I find most unnerving is the one that runs something like," if you don't agree with me you are a traitor. Go back where you came from."

      Out west I know of several million Native Americans who have every right to say that to those of us who stole their land and stuck them on reservations, a code word for land no one else wanted.

  7. How can you compromise when the Affordable Care Act is the law, passed by Congress, signed by the President, upheld by the Supreme Court, and validated by the rejection of the presidential candidate who pledged to repeal it? If you want to change it, vote in candidates who will change it but don't hold the nation hostage because you didn't get your way.
    My daughter is one of those essential federal employees who are at work without pay today to keep us all safe.

    1. I don't think it is legal to change a law by refusing to accept it as legitimate. And, to follow up on Barb's point above, as of this afternoon 8.6 million folks have gone to the Affordable Health Care Act web site...so many in fact it must be partly shut down this weekend to fix some of the problems caused when so many millions tried to get information and sign up in the first 4 days.

      Anyone is perfectly within their rights to not like the law, not participate, not sign up, and work like the devil to repeal it. But, there are going to be somewhere around 30 million citizens who are likely to tell you to leave it alone.

  8. The things being discussed at this point are the exceptions to the rule by executive order.

  9. Good treatment of a hot topic, Bob. You have ventured where many fear to tread. My opinion is that a small group of radicals is thwarting the will of the majority of Americans. That would be evil in a democracy or a republic, thus the plays on words by various commentators are meaningless.

    1. If it were conservatives being held hostage, they would be hollering and using the tword I expect.

    2. I really want to keep the central point of this post in mind: compromise. Our society will not last if a minority feels they can refuse all compromise and tear down everything in the name of philosophical purity.

      Forget the health care law for a moment. If this tactic has any success at all, don't you think any law...any law a group disagrees with won't be used to blackmail the rest of us into accepting whatever that group feels is the only way if they can get away with it?

      The ramifications of this way of governing are nothing less than the destruction of democracy.

  10. Almost all polls have shown that the majority of people in this country have never (and do not now) favor the Affordable Care Act. Has nothing to do with who they voted for. Most of us are not one issue voters and some voters are totally uninformed on any issue.. However most people do not support the shutdown. It is a very poor way to attempt to fix a law that, while needed, is very poorly structured. Also changing laws by executive order is a dangerous thing and probably unconstitutional. We have not yet had a real discussion involving both parties on health care reform. Not sure that we are capable of that... unfortunately. I am in that growing group that is fed up with both parties.

    1. I saw a poll conducted a few days ago where the strong majority said they didn't like Obamacare but did voice solid support for the Affordable Care Act.Since those are the same thing it really shows that too few Americans have taken the time to educate themselves about this particular issue. It is much easier to listen to someone else, accept their opinion, and repeat it as your own.

  11. A good example of exceptions to a law: Congress did not participate in or have wages withheld for Social Security until 1985. For the first 50 years Congress exempted itself from a law that every other working American must participate in. How far to do you think you'd get if you decided you thought Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and tried to not contribute to the system?

    When I hear someone say Obamacare (I hate that name...do we call Social Security FDR's folly?)) is the first time citizens have been forced to participate in a law, I simply remind them of Social Security and Medicare deductions from income. Or, the draft that was in place for many years. My draft number was 65 so I am impacted big time. In both case the government used its legitimate power to enforce the law. There were exemptions and exceptions, but no one shut down the entire government because they disagreed with those laws.

  12. Well, I believe the difference is that Congress wrote their exemption into the SS Act so it was unfair but at least it was legal. In the Affordable Care Act it explicitly says that it will cover congress (so as to avoid a repeat of the SS problem). But someone said that if they did not get the exemption, they would be left with no insurance at all. That would be unfortunate and not something I would want, but we're supposed to "get over it" and accept a faulty law until future elections.... so maybe congress should have to do that, too. Wow, I normally check the news and let it go for the rest of the day. Actually I don't care what congress gets. I'm just feeling cranky and they are so easy to hate. Did you read Galen Pearl's last blog? Maybe Congress is Jesus in disguise. Oh My!!!

    1. We agree on one very important point: I am feeing cranky, too. I will go check good friend Galen's blog right now. I need to go to my happy place.

  13. About twice a year I find myself compelled to take on a more meaty subject. With the government shutdown and looming debt ceiling mess I had reached the point where my satisfying retirement felt threatened even more than normal, so this post was written.

    Rest assured, the non-political posts you have come to expect from me return tomorrow. If the past three and half years are a good barometer, don't expect another rant like this for half a year.

    I am closing comments on this post effective immediately. The points have been made and now things are degenerating a bit as is usually the case with politics or religion.

    Tomorrow: the first few days of our California dreaming RV trip...and no controversy in sight!