Bankster politics in a Christmas classic

Julia Szabo organized a poll of favorite Christmas movies at a Bluffton faculty/staff celebration and my favorite, Elf, won the poll (yea!).  She also passed along some trivia about some of the top movies including this:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” – this movie was mentioned in an FBI file in 1947 when an analyst passed along the concern that the film was an obvious attempt to discredit bankers…a “common trick used by Communists.”

The big banksters are an emotionally fragile lot who have shown remarkable sensitivity to even slight criticism.  I’ll be curious to see how they react to The Big Short movie.  They might like it because the heroes are some scrappy finance guys, but it also reportedly portrays most of mainstream Wall Street as bunch of immoral buffoons.   That is similar to It’s a Wonderful Life which also pits a scrappy banker against the corrupt big money, so the big money guys probably won’t like it.

At the same time, the Wall Street banksters don’t always know when they are being criticized because their morals are so different from mainstreet American values.  For example, they didn’t get that they were the sordid but of the joke in Martin Scorsese’s black comedy,  “Wolf Of Wall Street.”  They cheered at the depictions of moral failures that repulsed ordinary Americans.

So whether or not they like “The Big Short” will probably depend on whether they identify with the scrappy outsiders who predicted the financial crisis and won big on free-market bets or the big investment bankers that lost during the period featured in the movie.  In hindsight, the investment bankers had a Cinderella story later when they returned to big profits with help from government bail outs, so they shouldn’t have much financial regret, but the movie doesn’t depict their financial recovery, and the government is their hero in that story anyhow, so I’m guessing that Wall Street will hate the movie because they probably want to forget about the history of the financial crisis.

Note: I’m not talking about retail bankers here.  Most of the small banks had nothing to do with the financial crisis nor any of the kind of shenanigans in “The Big Short” or “The Wolf of Wall Street.”  The Wall Street investment banks were in a completely different business from the retail “main street” banks. Ninety-nine percent of Americans never do any business with the big investment banks that I am talking about here.  It is too bad that both kinds of institutions are called ‘banks’ because they are very different and the main street bankers quite rightly take umbrage when they feel criticized for the shenanigans of Wall Street.

Posted in Macro

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