Monday, December 22, 2008

Where's the Beef, Banks?

Remember toothpaste commercials in the 50’s and 60’s?
Actually, most all commercials in the golden days of Radio and TV advertising were creative masterpieces, especially the one’s with jingles.

There was an ad for an engine oil additive called
B-4, which is one of the earliest commercials I can recall: “You’ll be for B-4 before you drive six city-blocks.” The verse was spoken, instead of sun, over a snappy, scat percussion rhythm in the background. It was the kind of jazzy, beatnik pat-a-pat, stick-in-your-brain pattern that went along with the phrase, repeated as a cartoon character in a car drove down the street, the car gasping and wheezing and lurching as it belched clouds of noxious smoke.

One can of B-4 in the gas tank later, the car was humming smoothly down the road…the percussion pattern tapping in rhythm with all 32-valves of that hungry V-8 engine.

The best commercial jingles back then seemed to come from the cigarette companies, and the most-memorable for me was the Winston commercial: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”

There was the classic McDonald’s theme, “You deserve a break today…” and Brylcream’s “ A little Dab’ll do ya.”

Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” could enjoy a bit of a retooled renaissance as “Where’re the Bucks?” in response to the bank bailout.
The trouble is, the banks aren’t saying.

According to some investigation by the Associated Press, after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money, or they simply refuse to discuss it.
I think it's time to name names.

JP Morgan Chase got $25-billion in emergency bailout money.
They lent some of it.
They didn’t lend some of it.
They’ve not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it.'
Their spokesperson told the AP, "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."

In fact, the Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions:
  • How much has been spent?
  • What was it spent on?
  • How much is being held in savings?
  • What's the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers.

Where's the bucks?

SunTrust Banks Inc., which got $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars, isn't providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking?
Why not--your abacus broke?

Regions Financial Corp received $3.5-billion.
They’re not tracking how they’re spending their bailout-bucks, either.

Citibank and Bank of America are two of the largest recipients of bailout money. Their answers read like a PR-101 homework exercise: carefully-worded generic public relations statements, explaining that “the money was being used to strengthen balance sheets and continue making loans to ease the credit crisis.”

Co-Merica Bank is not only not telling what they did with the $2.25-billion it received, the bank isn’t telling why it’s not telling what.

New York Mellon received $3-billion, and said it was declining to disclose what it did with the money, insisted upon anonymity, and finally said in an e-mail to the AP it the bank “would just would prefer if you wouldn't say that we're not going to discuss those details."

$700-billion dollars—an amount of money equivalent to the economy of The Netherlands—up in smoke, or just clouded by more of the smoke and mirrors accounting that got the US financial sector into the mess we’re in in the first place?

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., a House Financial Services Committee member, made the observation that, a year or two ago, when we talked about spending $100 million for a bridge to nowhere, that was considered a scandal."
What do you call this?

Here’s an experiment you can try today at your favorite local bank branch—but I would recommend you try it at a branch of BankAmerica, Citi, Regions, Co-Merica, or Sun Trust: Walk into the lobby, and ask to see a loan officer. Tell him/her that you need $10,000 just to strengthen your personal balance sheet, and that you’re not sure what you’re going to use the money for, and you’re not going to tell them what for if they ask.

See if you can get six city blocks on that kind of fuel.

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