Posted by Lisa Graves on December 01, 2009

The Center for Media and Democracy's BanksterUSA campaign released a new video today, "It's NOT Such a Wonderful Life," saluting the classic film by Frank Capra. Our short video takes footage from the 1946 black and white film to make a point about today's financial crisis and the need for Congress to step up efforts to regulate banks so that this type of catastrophic financial meltdown never happens again. You can view our video at our BanksterUSA website or on our new YouTube channel. We hope you'll share the video with your friends.

Time is of the essence because U.S. House Finance Committee Chair Barney Frank has announced that he will bring a package of banking reform bills to the House floor for votes next week, starting December 9th. BanksterUSA is featuring a new action that concerned citizens can take to weigh in on this issue, which you can participate in by simply clicking here. According to Huffington Post, just the top three bailout banks have spent $71 million in lobbying money to weaken these bills. The banks may have the big bucks, but the people have the big numbers! Now is a critical time for citizens to weigh in to strengthen these bills.

The film is about the trials of a small Building and Loan run by George Bailey, when its deposit is misplaced and hidden by the town's big banker, Mr. Potter (no relation to CMD's own Mr. Potter, Wendell that is). Bailey managed the Building and Loan, but it was owned by its depositors and its mission was to build homes for veterans returning from the war and for immigrant families who could not get loans from the big banker. For generations Mr. Potter has been the iconic "bad banker" pushing to foreclose on families and undercutting the little guy.

Mr. Potter now faces stiff competition from some of today's CEOs who are doing little to modify loans and keep families in their homes even after being given billions in bailout dollars by the American taxpayer. The federal government just announced that Bank of America was one of the worst on its list. (That's BofA's Ken Lewis laughing all the way to the bank, on the right, and the famously greedy Mr. Potter to the left of him.)

Greedy Mr. Potter (left) and BofA's Ken Lewis (right)The film's message that family, friendship, and virtue are the true definitions of wealth has resonated through the ages and made it an American classic. However, at the time of its release, the FBI's Director, J. Edgar Hoover, investigated the film, its writers and director because of criticism the movie was too tough on bankers and might turn Americans against the capitalist system. (This institutional penchant for witchhunts of dissenters is yet another reason why we need strong controls on the FBI. The redacted FBI memo to Hoover about the film is attached at the end of this blog.)

CMD owes a big thank you to our neighbor and colleague Justin Bomberg at Story Me This Productions, Inc. in Madison, Wisconsin who put the video together for us!


Lisa Graves is the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy based in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is CMD's Executive Director. She has served as a senior advisor in all three branches of the federal government and other posts.