The movement to encourage everyone to pull their money out of Bank of America has a compelling populist ring. Among the gang of thieves that wrecked our economy, BofA holds a special place. You see it in the defendant lists in the suits against bankers who lied to sell iffy mortgages as triple-A. If you count their subsidiaries, BofA is number one.
The angry people who #OccupyWallStreet are learning from each other. We all helped the collapse along by our lack of attention to detail and far more than the torches and pitchforks, the banks fear a population that cannot be placated by the half-truths and corporate doublespeak that they’ve become so good at spewing.
Our financial predicament is complicated, and for #ows to really make a difference we need a movement quite unlike what we’ve seen before. We need a crowd that understands a nuanced answer well enough that each person in it can make a nuanced argument.
That’s why a successful movement that pulls all the money out of BofA is a bad idea. This financial crisis is more insurance fraud than knocking over a bank vault. When you steal money that others have pledged to replace, your crime affects far fewer people, and your ability to avoid prosecution for it grows large. That’s why no banksters are in jail today.
Because we don’t want bank failures, we told depositors that no matter what, we’ll cover most of their deposits regardless of what the bank does. So if BofA drives itself into the ditch, the taxpayer has to run in and pay off the debt, and the bankers have proven they don’t mind playing chicken with other people’s assets.
We need to remove money from BofA slowly. It may, in fact, be what they want: now that the government won’t let them soak the poor, they only want the rich as clients. So $5 fees and closing branches in poorer areas only helps them shed the folks that are no longer of any use to them.
That is why we need a nuanced approach: slowly reducing the size of the institution so that they don’t show up with a tin cup at the Fed’s door. It’s also why an audit of the Fed is a dangerous proposition. While we probably ought to know how bad things are, we always need to be mindful that there isn’t enough money to satisfy all the depositors should they show up at the same time.
When you’ve lied for so long, suddenly telling the truth can have some sudden and disastrous results. An understanding of nuance can help us embrace the truth without creating the panic that has driven the bailouts and the lies for so long.