Hell's Bells, everything's for sale nowadays. The money grubbers get their fingers into everything they can, and after a while they own it outright or they kill it outright to extract a few dollars from the corpse.
Curious, that. Banks still present themselves as job creators and benefactors to the local business community but actually that all died in the last year of the last century, when Glass-Steagall died. For thirteen years now there have only been vulture banks, turned loose on the savings and checking accounts of every citizen and business in the land, too big to fail and too big to jail and too big to care.
At least we still have some independent credit unions that are owned by their depositors, credit unions whose bylaws limit them to investing directly in their communities.
I got a telemarketing call this morning from Wells Fargo informing me that my small business has been pre-approved for an unsecured $100,000 line of credit for as low as prime plus 1.75% and all we need to do this morning Mister Richtoffen is confirm your mailing address so we can shoot that credit card right out to you . . .
I asked her if she was with the money-laundering department.
She didn't understand, and tried to return to her script: "so many small businesses struggle to make ends meet at month's end --"
I had to interrupt her twice more and ask if she was with the money laundering unit before she said no, she wasn't.
I asked her if she knew who in her bank laundered the drug money for the Mexican cartels. And could I speak to them?
She said she didn't know anything about that, she was only calling to tell me about my pre-approved --
Right, I said. No one knows anything about that except the Justice Department, which fined Wells Fargo about 1% of their illegal drug profits and then failed to prosecute anyone at all for laundering $378 million for the Mexican cartels a couple years ago.
I asked her if she was aware that $378 million is a full third of Mexico's GDP.
This was all news to her, she said.
I told her Wells Fargo admitted to doing it in open court. Why doesn't someone in Wells Fargo stand up and say, "Hi, my name's Bob, and I launder all the drug money for Wells Fargo. That's a picture of my wife and kids on my desk there." Does Wells Fargo really think anyone believes they've stopped laundering drug money for Los Zetas? No bank could lose an account that large and still be in business.
She hadn't heard about any of that. I said read the newspaper some time.
She again returned to her script about my enormous new line of credit that would help me meet payroll on time and invest in new equipment and employees and I said I gotta tell you, I already have all the capital I'll ever need and then some. What possible use would I have for a line of credit?
Instantly she morphed into an investment counselor and asked if I'd given any thought to investing some of that money with Wells Fargo. We offer a variety of --
I said I do invest it -- in productive small companies that produce or provide useful things for people right here in America. I told her I bought a $2,000 lawnmower and a $500 weed whacker for a Mexican man I met outside Home Depot a few months ago. I'd hired him for the day to help me fix the sagging wheelchair ramp at my house, he had lunch with us, and we got to know him. He has his heart set on starting a lawn care service but it will be a long, hard road to save up the money doing day labor as it comes along. He has three kids and shares a crowded apartment with another immigrant family.
So I went back a week later to find him, waiting with other day laborers outside Home Depot. I took him inside and got him what he needed to mow lawns around town. We went around and got gloves, shears, shovels, rakes, gas cans, a pruning saw and even a big broom. I gave him the receipt and we watched the Home Depot crew load it in his old Chevy truck. He's a poor immigrant who barely speaks English and I don't even know where he lives, but I know he will pay me back every penny because he's a man of honor. To not repay a debt is unthinkable in his culture.
That's a handshake deal based on trust and respect. The kind of deal Americans used to be able to make with their community banker. No derivatives, no fine print, no option to change the terms at will.
I see Carlos and his bright red lawnmower around town sometimes. And he shops at stores in my community, so they prosper, and his kids go to school with good clothes and all their pencils and books and a good breakfast, so they prosper as they learn, all because of his hard work gifted to them. My community is a better place because we shook hands and agreed to each do what we can to make it better.
I told him he can decide if I get back more than I gave him. He can decide my profit. I trust him to do that and will accept whatever he offers. We are two hombres building our village for our families, I told him. That's way more valuable than money. He's from Chiapas, so he well understands what a safe and prosperous village means to human beings. What is money compared to that?
I told this woman from Wells Fargo that all her bank will do with my capital is pour it into speculation and derivatives gambles on top of gambles running amok all over the world that will ruin working people's lives and impoverish people and communities. We've had thirteen years of solid proof that proves the truth of this. And whenever they feel like it, Wells Fargo will simply steal my investment from me, one way or another. You should have read the Prospectus, my friend.
She said that wouldn't happen.
I asked her if she knew that Wells Fargo has foreclosed on dozens of homes that didn't even have a mortgage. With any bank. With anyone. Fully paid for homes seized and sold without any legal recourse.
She didn't know anything about that, either.
I asked her who in her bank fabricates the documents Wells Fargo takes to court to steal someone's paid-for home? Could I please speak with them?
She'd had enough, wished me a very pleasant day and was gone. Back into the shadow banking system, a predator looking elsewhere for someone to steal money from.
Gosh, I certainly wish I had all the capital I'll ever need and then some. That must be a nice place to be. Then I wouldn't have trouble making ends meet at the end of some months. But I wouldn't want to get there by stealing and trickery. How do you even hold money earned that way in your hand? Prosperity is not piles of money. Prosperity is something shared freely among honest, productive people.
A bank line of credit sure isn't the way to get there. It's more like being bitten by a snake.
These teaser loans and lines of credit from Wells Fargo and other banks are just ways to get a hook into your small business, charging you a monthly fee just for having the $100,000 credit line sitting there. Interest rates on it will surely go up at some point, especially if you're a day late with a payment, or just because. Even if you do nothing with the $100,000 for an entire year, you will owe Wells Fargo a few thousand for the privilege of not using their money. How does that profit a small business?
And that whole "unsecured loan" line is an absolute lie. Wells Fargo will take you to Small Claims or Superior Court in a heartbeat if you get behind on fees or payments, and get a lien on your business and business property from the judge without a problem. Really, it's loan sharking made legal. Your only way out is to sell your business, declare bankruptcy, and start over if you can from the smoking wreckage of what you once had.
Wells Fargo made a few bucks on the whole mess and the ruined lives. That's all that mattered to them all the way through the process. If it harmed a community or took bread from a child's mouth that is no concern of a banker. A community is something to harvest, not build.
And no one's ever responsible. There's no one to speak with. Everybody just works here, innocent as spring lambs, just doing their job.
There is a monster at the heart of the whole operation that never quite show its face.
Only its teeth, when the time comes to bite.