George Bailey vs The Big Short

You got several choices for Christmas movies this year. You can turn on your TV and find Jimmy Stewart once again showing there was a reason for George Bailey living in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” a movie as traditional and heart warming and heroic as Christmas itself or you can trot yourself down to your local cinema and find the American dream in the 21st century has become one big Pottersville where greed rules the day  in “The Big Short.” They’re not making heroes like George Bailey, anymore.

Here’s the bank run scene where George’s customers are fearful and want to withdraw their money from Bailey Brothers Savings and Loan. Listen to Jimmy Stewart:

If we reset this scene to 2007, where George Bailey is now the manager of a Countrywide Savings and Loan, his speech would be a little different. It’d go like this:

“Y-y-y-you’re looking at this all wrong, folks. I don’t have the money in the vault. We sold your mortgage, Joe, to a financial entity that packaged it into a Mortgaged Back Security with a bunch of other mortgages, some fixed like the Kennedy house, some variable rate like Ed’s house and sold them to a pension fund. It’s likely the firm that packaged them mixed into the package some sub-prime loans that might be riskier B type or Triple Bs. You got to understand, Joe.”

“I’m afraid I don’t, George. But it sounds like the mortgage on my home might be owned by some shady outfit who don’t know else they got,” Joe says.

“W-w-w-well, you could be right, Joe. There could be tranches of lower quality loans mixed in – real crappy stuff, Joe. Your loan may have ended up in a C-c-c-collateralized Debt Obligation that’s really dog feces but fraudulently labeled AAA because a few better mortgages lie in the group. You got to understand, Joe.”

“I think I do, George. You don’t have my money and we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, aren’t we?”

“W-w-well, I wouldn’t say that, Joe. More like in a paper bag.”

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