-By Leo Gerard
December 27, 2011- In the iconic Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” an angel offers the beleaguered main character, George Bailey, the stark choice between a hometown named for a cruel banker or one created by and for the middle class.
The banker’s town, Pottersville, is filled with bars, gambling dens and despair. The people’s town of Bedford Falls is made of hope, hard working middle class families, and their homes financed by the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan.
The film’s happy ending is the people of Bedford Falls banding together to rescue George Bailey and the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan that had given so many of them a leg up over the years. Republicans seek a different conclusion. They find middle class cooperation and community intolerable. They want the banker, Henry Potter, with his “every man for himself” philosophy to triumph. In the spirit of their self-centered mentor Ayn Rand, Republicans are trying to disfigure America so she resembles Pottersville.
A building and loan association, like the Bailey Brothers’, uses the savings of its members to provide mortgages to the depositors. Members essentially pool their money to give each other the opportunity to buy cars and homes. At one point in the film, George Bailey explains this concept to frightened depositors who are trying to withdraw their savings during the panic that led to bank runs in 1929.
Bailey urges the townspeople who had crowded into the building and loan office to withdraw only what they need, not empty their accounts. “We have got to stick together,” he tells them, “We have to do this together.” A building and loan doesn’t function without trust and cooperation.
It works well for Bedford Falls. The mortgages it provides help working people move out of the Potters Field slums and into Bailey Park, where homes well kept by their owners increase in value. Despite the success, Potter condemned this practice, saying it was based on “high ideals without common sense.” He criticized the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan for granting a taxi driver a mortgage after Potter’s bank had rejected his application. Potter scoffed at such practices, asking if the building and loan was a “business or a charity ward.”
This is exactly what Republicans do. They describe beloved American programs like Medicare and Social Security as charities – using the euphemism “entitlements.” Like mortgages from the Bailey Building & Loan, Medicare and Social Security are not charities. They’re the American people depositing and pooling their money for the benefit of the American community.
The GOP tries to destroy programs like these that aid the middle class, the vast majority of Americans – the 99 percent – while Republicans protect tax breaks and special perks for the rich – the one percent, the Henry Potters.
This time last year, Republicans demanded extension of tax breaks for the 1 percent, contending tax breaks stimulate the economy.