El Dorado News-Times

The banks, St. Patrick and the deregulati­on shuffle

- Marc Dion Columnist Marc Munroe Dion’s latest book, a collection of his best columns, is called “Devil’s Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America.” It is available in paperback from Amazon. com, and for Nook, Kindle, and iBooks.

In the olden times, which my mother remembered very well, near the beginning of the last century, Irish Americans celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by going to Mass and wearing a little bit of green, a ribbon on the lapel perhaps.

This was religious and boring.

In response, city government­s, beer companies and makers of plastic green derby hats “deregulate­d” St. Patrick’s Day so that it is now a riot of drunken vomiting, off-key Irish bands and green beer.

Prying St. Patrick’s Day out of the hands of the priests and the ethnic Irish allowed the deregulate­d holiday to become a leering, drunken parody of what it is to be Irish. Essentiall­y St. Patrick’s Day is Passover for Irish Americans, except hardly anyone ever throws up on you at a Passover dinner.

But what the O’Hell! The Chinese companies who make the “Kiss Me I’m Irish” T-shirts are making tons of money, as is everyone else involved in the con, so all is well.

In other words, some things need a little regulation.

Banking used to be one of the most boring businesses imaginable, as were electric companies and gas companies. My mother was hired by a bank in 1962. Her job did not involve handling money, but bank management told her that, if she was ever seen at the local horse track, she’d be fired. The bank didn’t want people to see her and think she was gambling with their money.

It didn’t make much difference to Mom. She didn’t gamble, and Pop bet with a bookie. But it was at least a grab at business sobriety.

Donald Trump, whose endless belief in other rich white people is really quite touching, removed some “excessive regulation­s” from the banking industry, and the expected thing happened.

The bankers loosened their neckties, snorted some lines of credit and took walloping big risks with other people’s money. Normally a timid species, bankers get very brave when it’s not their money.

If you’re 25 and you throw a party, you get up the next afternoon, and you have to pick up all the half-empty beer bottles in the living room, and there’s a broken widow, and you have to wake up the girl who’s asleep in the bathtub. The whole thing probably costs you $400, and that includes replacing the window and cab fare for the girl in the bathtub.

If you’re a 60-year-old banker, and you throw a party, you get up the next day, and you spent all the reserves on crypto, and old people can’t get at their savings, and Barney Frank is asleep in the bathtub.

A lot of people are making much of the fact that former Massachuse­tts State Rep. Frank was on the board of directors of Silicon Valley Bank, the first of two banks to fail this last week.

I’m not surprised at all. I live in a part of Massachuse­tts once represente­d by Barney Frank, and I covered him as a reporter. Frank can’t be bribed, but he can be bought, which are two hugely different things. One involves an envelope full of illegal cash, while the other involves a gentle nudge toward a job you don’t deserve. The first is illegal. The second is merely repulsive.

Deregulati­on is the biggest Reagan-esque piece of policy junk ever sold to the American people.

The sales pitch is always the same.

“Deregulati­on creates competitio­n, and that leads to better service and lower prices,” the pitch goes. “Deregulati­on will let business people run their own businesses instead of spending all their time dealing with crippling regulation­s.”

I am an electric company customer because I have to be. In that industry, deregulati­on meant that electricit­y in my part of the country has been provided by three different companies in the last 20 years, and the price has only gone up, while the service varies from indifferen­t to insulting.

What deregulati­on does is allow the people at the top to start throwing parties with someone else’s money.

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