There's a new movement afoot that is quickly gaining ground, called Move Your Money, www.MoveYourMoney.info, started by a handful of people who were tired of supporting failing institutions with taxpayer money.
Their idea is to go local and move your money from a large bank to a small, community-run bank, where you can know the owners, and the profits support local endeavors. There's even a place at the site to put in a zip code and receive a list of local banks with at least a B rating.
It's a great example of how it's possible to create change by banning together and taking small actions that impact the people and places right around you. It's also got the nod from both liberals and conservatives, which is a minor miracle.
The movement is a response to the growing deficit and further calls for more bailouts. No one at the top of the political or financial food chain seems to get how frustrating it is to work long hours for a middle-class income and then be told part of it was given away to overpaid executives who got themselves into trouble.
Recently, AIG, the company that started the whole "too big to fail" craze has reported a larger-than-expected, fourth-quarter loss of $8.87 billion dollars. The CEO, Robert Benmosche tried to calm frazzled nerves by leaving a statement on the company's web site that said in part, "Nothing in life is guaranteed." It's a dazzling amount of irony, or perhaps honesty, considering the company's job is to guarantee others against loss.
The recent mortgage debacle seems to have left them with the idea that even insurance is no guarantee against loss. Wall Street has warned of a downgrade for AIG while Benmosche went on touting how the new figures were still a recovery from the previous year's fourth-quarter loss of $62 billion dollars. While it's true that someone would rather lose a hundred dollars through the hole in their pocket than a thousand, they'd rather fix the hole and not lose anything.
Just in case you're not following the entire metaphor, the pants belong to AIG and the money belongs to the taxpayer. Since this is the AIG who took government money and then a nice vacation at a spa to soothe their frazzled nerves, and then, kept giving themselves bonuses, it's also important to keep in mind that the American taxpayer and AIG may be speaking two different languages, so here's a little translation.
They are still bleeding red ink.
Normally, when a household loses a large part of its household budget, the members cut back on the frills, and no one gets large cash advances. Benmosche, however, was reported to have received $3 million in cash and $4 million in AIG stock. His compatriot at Bank of America, Ken Lewis, was setting a different example by going without his 2009 bonus and his salary as well. It's no wonder that the Tea Party movement is gaining ground. However, that movement is merely gathering and protesting while the MoveYourMoney.info is asking all of us to take an action that may finally give the average voter a large enough platform to be heard.
Take your money elsewhere. Not only will this send a cold shudder down through a lot of politicians and CEO's, but it will remind all of us that when we work together for our common good, we are an effective force.
Here's one more translation to help clear up a misconception being perpetrated on voters. There is no company so large that it can hold sway over the middle class for long, because, eventually, the average taxpayer remembers the basic premise of America. A company can fail, but democracy carries on every time groups of people, regardless of the size of their paychecks, work in unison to improve the lives of their community.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.