Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!

“Just remember this, Mr. Potter – that this rabble you’re talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community,” George Bailey said.  “Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?  Anyway, my father didn’t think so.  People were human beings to him.”

We live in a time when vehemence has displaced substance.  If a politician or a bank claims something loud enough and long enough, public scrutiny will eventually fade.

By the end of this year, the United States Congress will vote to extend tax breaks for the millionaires and billionaires who already possess most of our country’s wealth.  And across the nation, banks continue to sign off on foreclosures they haven’t even examined – kicking countless families out of their homes without verifying their legal right to do so.

“You sit around here and you spin your little webs, and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money.  Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter.”

Jimmy Stewart had a way of finding the thing we like about ourselves, usually when it was idle, and jarring it to life.

His seminal character, It’s a Wonderful Life’s George Bailey, wasn’t a perfect man.  He thought of abandoning Uncle Billy, felt envy for his brother Harry, and yelled at dear Zuzu in a moment of desperation.  But through it all, that basic thread of human decency endured.  When he acted, it was with the belief that he was serving a greater good.

The Bailey Bros. Building and Loan is an artifact of a dead system.  In one of the film’s most famous scenes, the depositors make a run on the bank.  George desperately explains to them: “You’re thinking of this place all wrong, as if I had the money back in the safe.  The money’s not here.  Your money’s in Joe’s house – that’s right next to yours.  And in the Kennedy house and Mrs. Macklin’s house and a hundred others.”

Nowadays, those loans would have been cut up and sold, each piece packaged together with pieces from other people’s loans to form a mortgage-backed security.  Today, George wouldn’t have a clue where their money was.

And we certainly wouldn’t hear these words coming out of a banker’s mouth in 2010: “Ed, remember last year, when things weren’t going so well – you couldn’t make your payments?  Well, you didn’t lose your house, did you?  We can get through this thing all right.  But we’ve gotta stick together.”


For too long now, our political and economic institutions have forsaken the two things most basic to the American psychology: fairness and compassion.  As noted on our blog in September, we have banks across the country – many of whom accepted federal bailout money – removing families from their homes at a rate of one foreclosure per minute.  What this means practically is that families’ cases aren’t even being reviewed.  Their lives are being ripped away from them, and banks won’t even bother reading the responsible documents.

And as social safety-nets continue to decay, denying homeless and poor people vital services, Congress is about to give the Mr. Potters of the nation a Christmas bonus: $82 billion in tax cuts.  The mere suggestion deserves our contempt.  If the last ten years taught us anything, it’s that kick-backs for the rich do nothing for our economy, but ebb away at the American ideals Frank Capra once captured.

People experiencing poverty and homelessness are getting a raw deal in this country.  And if George Bailey were around, I’m betting he’d scrunch up his face and agree with me.

– Andy Beres, Grant Writer & Communications Assistant

Photo credit: Julie Falk
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2 Responses to Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!

  1. J. Rivera says:

    The sad thing is that most people think that homeless people must have done something wrong to become homeless. In all fairness, there are people who have made very poor decisions in their lives, most others who are homeless have done the right thing all their lives, ie, work, become educated, owned businesses, etc. I have seen nurses, lawyers, computer experts, small business owners become homeless in a matter of days.

    Social Services is a farce. So are all other “services” including the local Department of Labor. Thank God for the churches and individuals who have opened their hearts and pockets to help. However, even then, there’s a limit to this much needed help.

    The American Dream has certainly become the American Nightmare.

    God help us all.

  2. Trish House says:

    Joblessnes­­­s leads to Homelessne­­­­ss: Law requires the General Services Administra­­­­­­­tion­, which acts as the government­­­­­­­­’s property manager, to offer unwanted property to states, local government­­­­­­­­s and nonprofit organizati­­­­­­­­ons­, at discounts of up to 100%, before auctioning the property.

    In addition, surplus government buildings must be offered up as housing for the homeless before being sold. ” (This must include land) http://mon­­­­­­­­ey.­c­n­n­.­c­­o­­m­­/2­0­1­1­/­0­1­­/­1­­9­/n­­e­ws­­/­ec­­­o­no­­­m­y/e­­­x­ce­s­­­s­_f­e­­d­e­ra­l­­­_­l­an­d­­­­/in­de­x­­­­­.ht­m

    Talk to our government officials and insist that these options are created for people so that there are not children, the elderly or adults living in cars and under bridges and in dispair of ever having a viable life again. Instead have folks use land, provide them with the tools and seeds and materials that will allow them to create their own communitie­­­­­­­s.

    As well as being economical­­­­­­­­ly sound this will also be environmen­­­­­­­­tal­l­y beneficial and will improve the health of the citizens so they require less medical assistance because they are well fed and are getting daily exercise in caring for the food supply and grounds. If education in trades and small business practices is also made available then they will be valuable members of the work force when ready to move on.

    This is the website for the United States General Services Administra­­­­­­­­tio­n http://www­­­­­­­­.gs­a­.­g­o­v­­/­­p­­or­t­a­l­/­c­a­­t­e­­g­or­­y­/1­­0­00­­­0­0 If you wish to take action to help jobless and homeless people in your area you can contact this office and make it happen

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