Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Good Bankers

Above: A few years ago I saw this billboard near Winchester, Virginia. How sincere it is I don't know, but I thought it was an interesting advertisement given the recent wide-scale fraud practiced by the big financial institutions. In my blog, I frequently criticize bankers and corporate executives who defraud the public. But there are also many bankers and executives who understand that fraud is wrong, and that our nation would be better off if we had a more equitable distribution of income, wealth, and opportunity.

Above: Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Marriner Eccles, 1940. Eccles was a skillful banker who prevented his family banking business from collapsing during the Great Depression. And, unlike many commentators today, he understood that the poor and unemployed should not be blamed for the nation's economic recessions. In 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, he told Congress: "The present condition is not the fault of the unemployed, but that of our business, financial, and political leadership." Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: Leo Crowley, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), 1935. Before he was placed in charge of the FDIC, Crowley had protected the banking system of Wisconsin from the worst harms of the Great Depression. He had a particular aversion to banking incompetence, and once remarked: "It is my belief that bank supervisors [regulators] have erred in failing to keep bankers informed of supervisory policies and procedures, and that bankers, in their turn, have shown a curious lack of interest in the why and the how of bank supervision" (“Crowley Upholds Bank Supervision,” New York Times, September 24, 1937). As chair of the FDIC, Crowley oversaw the near-elimination of bank failures, and also helped to ensure that Americans no longer lost their life saving when their banks did collapse. Today, Americans still benefit greatly from FDIC, even as their Republican and Tea Party representatives tell them that the policies created during the New Deal are bad. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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