A Run on the Bank

Mon, Oct 21, 2013 - 9:26am

I have a confession to make: there is something that most people consider an American classic that, every time I see it, sets my teeth on edge. Where others find heartwarming inspiration, a mere glimpse of it provokes an intense dislike on my part that I freely admit probably borders on the irrational. So here is my confession: I truly loath the classic holiday movie It’s A Wonderful Life.

What? But Pining, don’t you know that It's a Wonderful Life is one of the most critically acclaimed films ever made? Don’t you care that it was nominated for five Oscars and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the best American films of all time, placing number 11 on its initial 1998 greatest movie list? Don’t you care that the film ranks number one on the Film Institutes’ list of the most inspirational American films of all time?

Sorry, but no. I don’t care about any of these things. I view this film as the single greatest piece of propaganda for fractional reserve bank fraud ever created. It irritates me that this sappy, gauzy schlock has become the mental touchstone for generations of people whenever they think about banking or the concept of a bank run. Most of all, I deeply resent the cultural 'cover' that this film has provided for a predatory and largely parasitic industry through the fact that it has successfully implanted into the American consciousness the pernicious fiction that banks, at their core, are essentially “just all of us working together and supporting each other” by sharing and lending the value we earn. In explaining why his and other behemoth financial firms should be bailed out by taxpayers in the wake of their greed-fueled mortgage fraud and derivative implosion, Lloyd Blankfein could never have argued with a straight face “We are doing God’s work” without having the mental battle-space prepared for him well ahead of time by the generations of brainwashing done by It’s a Wonderful Life. What an interesting Christmas miracle it would have been if George Bailey had told the truth about the bankstering classes:

So get that propagandistic “holiday classic” crapola out of your heads, because we are going to talk about bank runs.

Everyone knows that a bank run is when people start to question the solvency of a bank, and they all try to get their money out at once. Because the bank has loaned out more money than they have on hand in deposits, this means they cannot pay everyone(and usually cannot pay even 1 customer in 20) so when the public begins to question the solvency of the firm there is a “run” on the bank as depositors all rush in to try to get their money out before the bank goes belly-up.

This is more or less accurate, but I would point out one thing- what people are panicked about isn’t quite that they may lose their money. At the core of it all, what they are really terrified of is that they might lose the value they have stored in the bank, in the form of money. A carpenter in Loveland, Colorado in February of 1930 wasn’t sprinting off from his job site upon hearing a rumor to try and withdraw the $293 he had on deposit with the local Savings and Loan because he was worried about the actual dollars. What he was terrified of losing was the thousands of hours of his labor, all of his diligent scrimping and saving, and the (to him) precious value of his earned productivity that those 293 dollars represented. He stored his hard-earned value in dollars, then stored those dollars in a bank… and that underlying value those dollars represented was what he was so panicked to preserve.

Much like our carpenter and his worries about his local bank, at this moment in time China has 1.2 trillion dollars of stored value, on-deposit with “The Bank of the Dollar” in the form of Treasury bonds. Japan also 1.1 trillion of their hard-earned wealth on deposit in the same bank. The rest of the world has an additional 3.3 trillion combined on deposit with “The Bank of the Dollar”, as the total US Treasury debt outstanding that is held by foreign entities is a whopping 5.6 trillion dollars.


I hate to break the news to you, but there is a run on this bank going on right now. Oh, it's still quiet and there is nothing approaching panic just yet, but make no mistake- these countries are just as worried as our fictional carpenter about getting their stored value out of that bank before everyone else tries to do the same thing. You see, the board of directors of the “Bank of the Dollar” (already on thin-ice amongst their depositors for repeatedly issuing themselves I.O.U. withdrawals and spending them at an alarming rate) just raised the “debt-ceiling” level for this practice that they had set in place to reassure their depositors. In fact, since 1960 they have raised, extended, or changed the definition of this limit 79 times, understandably calling into question their very comprehension of the word “limit”. Not only that, but they now appear to have just done away with the concept entirely, recently granting the CEO permission to withdraw literally un-limited amounts, in perpetuity.

The first sign of an incipient run on the “Bank of the Dollar” is that the major customers are no longer depositing their hard-earned value in this bank. They have ceased making the normal deposits that buying Treasuries represents, which tells us that they are already nervous, and are unwilling to put more of their hard-earned value at risk in this bank:

Indeed, the quiet selling of this chart can be compared to the townsfolk stealthily making their way into the bank, attempting to appear nonchalant while they withdraw small amounts that will not draw attention and thus not panic the other customers. At some point, everyone will look around at everyone else, their eyes will narrow, and somebody will make a mad-dash for the teller's window and demand all their cash, instantly spooking everyone else into doing the same. The result will be, predictably, chaos.

At that point, woe be to him who still has his value stored at the Bank of the Dollar when the customers bolt and break for the tellers window. There will be no heartwarming ending when the townsfolk rally around poor George Bailey, saving him from his fractional reserve shenanigans and poor risk management.

There is one other thing I would like to mention about bank runs, and it provides a peculiar connection to the Federal Reserve. In the early 20th-century, there was a banker in Utah named Marriner Eccles. He was the son of a polygamist lumber magnate named David Eccles, who made his fortune illegally cutting timber on huge swaths of western Federal lands, then bribing local officials to produce the proper signatures and paperwork when questions arose. When this failed, he bribed Federal Judges to throw trials. Anyway, son Marriner used his inherited wealth to purchase numerous banks in Colorado and Utah, and in the aftermath of the great stock market crash of 1929, he built his reputation based on his methods of dealing with bank runs. When Marriner sniffed a run coming, he would arrange for large bundles of cash (in small denominations, so there were many bundles) to be delivered and he would deliberately truck this cash straight through the waiting crowd in the lobby just prior to the bank opening. Marriner would then stand in the lobby making a great show, grandly announcing that the bank had plentiful reserves of cash, and that anyone who wanted their money would get their money even if he had to keep the bank open late into the night. On the second day, he would do the same thing but would instruct his tellers to count out each customer’s cash as slowly as possible, dragging out each transaction and minimizing the number of customers who could withdraw their money. On the third day, he would arrange for “plants” to stand in the Deposit line, so that when customers entered the bank they would see people cued-up to deposit, not withdraw, cash.

Please note that each and every one of these techniques was a deliberate deception- a psychological ploy to fool people into thinking that the bank really did have all their money, which of course it did not. These tricks were nothing more than a ploy to hide the dismaying truth that the bank had lent out their money long ago, but the grand show would fool people into thinking that the carefully saved value of a lifetime of hard work was far less at-risk than it actually was. Marriner Eccles gained a national reputation during this time, and in a few years would be named Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Today, the people who go to work at the Federal Reserve Headquarters in Washington D.C walk through the doors of the Marriner Eccles building, a grand structure named for a man whose reputation was built on tricking and deceiving people about the genuine risk of losing their hard-earned life savings... and the greater the risk, the more elaborate was his deception to hide it. Somehow fitting, don’t you think?

When the run on the “Bank of the Dollar” begins in earnest, I expect that the people in this building will fully live-up to its namesake’s legacy, and that no deception will be beyond the pale to protect the interests of their firm. Indeed, one could argue that, from interventions in the Treasury and currency markets to the suppression of precious metals prices, they are already heavily engaged in the practices that made Marriner Eccles reputation. I seriously doubt, however, that the Chinese or others will be fooled by their parlor tricks.

You shouldn’t be either.

Keep stacking.


* A quiet thank you and respectful farewell to the anonymous and utterly brilliant blogger who created the now defunct site Finem Respice. Internet legend has it that this person was the original Marla Singer of the early days of Zero Hedge, and between spinning tunes at RadioZero back in those days, she wrote some of the earliest and best analysis of the true goings-on behind the scenes of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Whether this is really who this person was or not, the posts at Finem Respice were simply genius and will be missed. The section on Marriner Eccles in this piece was inspired by a post she did that is no longer available online, so because I could not link to her original work, I hope this heartfelt thank you will suffice.

About the Author


Oct 21, 2013 - 9:27am



(Btw, Pining, the George Bailey thingee is fantastic! Made me laugh out loud)

Oct 21, 2013 - 9:35am

Thanks Turd!

Seriously, I hate that damn movie. And nice "First", BTW!

Oct 21, 2013 - 9:41am

Yup smashing, but I

Yup smashing, but I particularly like the last few seconds of this track - call me old fashioned ;)

Rage Against The Machine: Killing In The Name

Oct 21, 2013 - 9:41am

I never knew that about the

I never knew that about the Fed's Marriner Eccles building.

It's name is incredibly ironic. Thanks Pining.

Oct 21, 2013 - 9:42am

Umpteenth 3rd

Gotta quit reading the articles first. Nice job Pining.

Oct 21, 2013 - 9:49am

second yahoo! i accept it.

second yahoo! i accept it.

edit. finished reading and posting coment and refreshing i lost my position. great

Mr. Fix
Oct 21, 2013 - 9:51am

Okay, I will take the fifth today:

 Although I am not opposed too making statements that can be used against me in the court of public opinion, today, there is much to do, and it needs to be done quietly and with focus.

So off to work I go,

wishing all of you a fabulous day. " The end of the great Keynesian experiment" will simply have to wait until I come home from work.smiley


 Okay, I took the time to read the post.

 Excellent work Pining!

 It's only a little bit more recently in life that I recognized “it's a wonderful life” as a pure propaganda show,

 but then again, most of our greatest entertainment is.

 I just love the thought provoking stuff I get here every day.enlightened

Oct 21, 2013 - 9:59am


I've been a lurker since this site started. In honor of my first post fifth is pretty good ! =- )

Thought I had a thurd lol. BTW every time a bell rings does somebody get "bailed in" or does the witch give one of her evil monkies a pair of wings? 

Oct 21, 2013 - 10:01am

or put it another way 

or put it another way 

New Order - Turn (Official Video)
Oct 21, 2013 - 10:02am

Nice work Pining!

Pro banker movie: It’s A Wonderful Life. Blue Pill Anti banker movie: The Wizard of Oz. Red Pill

Oct 21, 2013 - 10:02am

The Hong Kong "peg"

Oct. 20, 2013, 10:35 p.m. EDT

How many more birthdays for Hong Kong dollar peg?

Commentary: Deep-rooted strains too hard to ignore (500×250)

By Craig Stephen

HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Hong Kong’s currency peg to the U.S. dollar celebrated its 30th birthday last week. But how many more anniversaries will it have? Local officials say it will be around for many years to come, but two key developments suggest change is a question of when not if.

Firstly, there is China’s accelerating push to internationalize the yuan. Well before this month’s launch of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, efforts to increase the yuan’s global circulation are bearing fruit.

Last month, the Bank of International Settlements announced trading in yuan had surpassed that of Hong Kong dollar for the first time. If China continues on this path to make the yuan a convertible currency, it removes the key justification for Hong Kong not having some form of peg to the money used on the Chinese mainland, which is the territory’s largest source of trade.

The other, often overlooked factor is looming political change in Hong Kong. With a timetable set for a democratically elected chief executive in 2017, the next government will need to get used to demonstrating the merits of policies to the wider public. And it will need to justify retaining a colonial-era currency peg.

Exchange rates are highly political, and when officials need to be re-elected, continuing to outsource monetary policy to the U.S. Federal Reserve looks to be a hard sell. The budget stand-off in Congress and the ongoing uncertainty over Fed tapering have been the latest reminders of the risks of tying your fortunes to the U.S.

So far, however, the turmoil in Washington doesn’t appear to be causing any pause for thought — or any new thoughts at all by Hong Kong officials.

Last week, both Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) chief Norman Chan and Financial Secretary John Tsang, were in local newspapers extolling the virtues of the peg as a bedrock of financial stability and reiterating they see no reason to change. Their hymn sheet might not have changed, but increasingly the merits of the peg are being questioned.

For one, the pressures from importing ultra-loose U.S. monetary policy continue to exacerbate key problems of unaffordable property prices and escalating income inequality.

But perhaps the potentially most politically charged development in the peg debate is the impact of the rising yuan, which continues to squeeze Hong Kong by importing inflation. Last week, there was a reminder as the yuanUSDCNY -0.10% hit a fresh 20-year high against the U.S. dollar.

To many in Hong Kong, the dwindling value of the local dollar USDHKD -0.01% in their pocket versus the yuan is a daily reminder that the peg is hurting them. Only a handful of years ago, you got a 110 yuan for every 100 Hong Kong dollars. Now you get around 80. This matters as Hong Kong imports the majority of its food from the Chinese mainland.

And while Hong Kong people feel poorer, their city has become a shoppers’ paradise for tens of millions of mainland Chinese tourists who now find their currency goes much further. This shopper influx has been a growing source of tension locally. But how much of this apparent divergence in fortunes comes down to a divided currency system?

There are some influential voices acknowledging the problems of the peg.

Earlier this month, Bank of East Asia HK:23 +0.30% BKEAF -1.18% Chairman Sir David Li was quoted as saying many of Hong Kong’s problems such as inflation and lower living standards could be attributed to the exchange-rate policy, and ultimately, the local currency should be tied to the yuan.

Such comments go further than those made in June last year by former HKMA chief Joseph Yam, who said the currency peg should be reviewed to see if it served the public interest of Hong Kong.

That is a debate that still needs to take place. Behind the blind official support of the peg from serving government ministers, are — as usual — vested interests who benefit from the three-decades-old linked exchange rate.

One obvious beneficiary from rock-bottom interest rates is the property-developer cartel, as real-estate prices have skyrocketed. This cheap and plentiful liquidity has also helped stoke Hong Kong’s finance industry.

The big losers have been savers, who have been getting close to zero on deposits since 2008, as well as non-property owners. This might explain the phenomenon where Hong Kong’s dominant bank HSBC HK:5 +0.24% HBC +0.60% can make a third of its global profits before tax from a territory of just 7 million people. The other winners from the current regime are retailers and property investors, as the suppressed currency sucks in tourists.

Expect a greater debate on the peg as Hong Kong inches toward a more democratic government and as China seeks a more international currency. It is an issue that is too important to leave to Hong Kong’s colonial-era bureaucrats. 


Oct 21, 2013 - 10:35am

Thank you

I admit I haven't been very gracious to our very talented writers here on TFMR. It's not anything that I wrote, but it's what I did not write--Thank you!

Pining, argentus, and the others (not trying to slight anyone here): you guys (and gal) are terrific writers and I enjoy reading your takes on a variety of subjects important to us. The article above is a great example. Even though I am a "gold" member here at TFMR (aren't I special), I really do appreciate the efforts by the writers on the free side of the site. I know it is not always easy to come up with intriguing subject matter but you all are doing a fantastic job. Congrats to Turd for recognizing such great talent. Keep it up...and Thanks!

And no, I haven't been drinking this morning...surprise

Oct 21, 2013 - 10:39am

Why not?

"And no, I haven't been drinking this morning...surprise"

Sometimes a little Sauvignon Blanc before 10:00 can change the course of your whole day...

sierra skier
Oct 21, 2013 - 10:40am

Hollywood Propaganda

Hollywood Propaganda Is nothing new, I have been boycotting Hollywood productions for years. Why support something that comes in and pulls the rug out from under the natural and constitutional rights indicated by our forefathers.

It's a Wonderful Life is another fine example of Hollywood's and the MSM's pushing the message that the bankers, politicians and corporate leaders wish to bamboozle us with so we don't see the reality of their manipulations.

As much as I would very much enjoy the entertainment provided by the movie industry over the years I refuse to give my hard earned cash to those who support the stealing of our rights and wealth.

The US has been exporting inflation world wide through our reserve currency for years and I do believe we are at the point where it is ready to come back to haunt us. We cannot blame the rest of the world for attempting to sidestep the dollar and transacting with their trading partners directly.

Great post Pining and an excellent way to bring these issues to light.

winemaker TF
Oct 21, 2013 - 10:42am

Didn't mean there was

Didn't mean there was anything wrong with it, just that I haven't done it. 

Sauvignon blanc: it's not just for breakfast anymore!

Oct 21, 2013 - 10:42am


One should never underestimate the power or propaganda to shape the minds of people. Even those who know better usually succumb to sheer repetition of a message. Toss in some normalcy bias, cognitive dissonance, and outright deception by respectable looking chaps in suits and truth is hard pressed to survive.

Oct 21, 2013 - 10:44am

wonderful life

Haven't seen that movie for years certainly not since I was hard wired into the matrix myself. Maybe i should give it another viewing sometime..

Mary Poppins had a bank run too, don't remember if that had a pro or anti banker slant to it.

Oct 21, 2013 - 11:00am

Not sure it's part of "the matrix"

However, it does provide an excellent explanation of fractional reserve banking. Watch this:

Oct 21, 2013 - 11:05am

This is Interesting

Preparedness Against Both War and Inflation by Marriner S. Eccles


Oct 21, 2013 - 11:09am

Damn, Pining...

...another comfortable illusion smashed to smithereens by your erudition.

Oh well. :-(

arch stanton
Oct 21, 2013 - 11:15am


I have always hated this movie as well, but could never put my finger on why. Also the public hated it at the time as it was a box office flop and put Liberty Pictures out of business (their one and only film). I gotta say Donna Reed was a major babe.

Oct 21, 2013 - 11:23am

Count Down T- minus ten days

To Mass Silver buy-in on Oct 31

John Galt
Oct 21, 2013 - 11:24am

Thanks Pining re: Bank Run

Thanks Pining. What you have posted is yet another example of what kind of brilliant talent Turd has assembled here with the various contributors to TFMR.

Marriner Eccles I had never heard of before, and what you say makes complete sense in terms of a bank run already being under way.

One of my own moments of epiphany came in Sept. 2008 when there were seemingly inconsequential radio reports of restrictions being placed on the ability to draw funds from money market accounts. At that moment I was convinced a bank run was happening, and as you can see from the following interview (made months later) a bank run WAS happening that day, and the size and speed of it is far beyond anything experienced in the 1930s.

Rep. Kanjorski Admits $550 Billion Disappeared in Electronic Run On the Banks
Oct 21, 2013 - 11:25am


My wife loves that old movie and I have to ( not get to) watch it every season. There are more than just banking stories within the classic movie. The story was not centered on "banking" but on what the outcome of the end of one's life will be "if" they make the incorrect choices. We were able to see the effects on the town, the businesses, the basic economy and the inner relationship among the people. (The love or lack of "loving" thy neighbor). 

I like your statement "I hate to break the news to you, but there is a run on the bank going on right now". How true! I would add that George Bailey has failed in America and Mr. Potter has apparently won. In the film, add the corruption of a degenerative society invading the town because there was not a "George Bailey" to stand in the gap, one to make a stand for what is the antidote to greed. Extract that moral force of early America and you gain a Pottersville. In the film, George was allowed to see his town, his home, without the effects of his moral input. That is America today.

I better stop before my "rant" starts and please do not write an article on "Pollyanna" which will push me over the top into rantism. Thanks for your post. 

Oct 21, 2013 - 11:37am

Yes, from just that brief

Yes, from just that brief clip I can see why Pining describes it as banker propoganda.

Might have been more accurate if the actor had said something like the following;

"We don't have your money, theres no safe back there, we create the money out of thin air and we hold your asset and your debt, your asses belong to us in fact"

"You see by a subtle conjuring trick we persuaded you to give us the asset and we'd give you money to buy it, plus interest of course. Don't worry if you don't understand you're not meant to. Sign here. Don't worry that theres no signature from me on that document. hehehe"

Oct 21, 2013 - 11:38am

Good post, Pining . . . but,

I still like the movie!! 

And, Marriner Eccles building is located in Washington, D.C.

Nick Elway
Oct 21, 2013 - 11:47am

Finem Respice

Thanks Pining, I'll be sending your post out.

I visited the wayback machine to see what it had on finemrespice.com, lots of good writing there (I didn't find the inspiration for your post yet)

From the December 2012 crawl:


Dyna mo hum
Oct 21, 2013 - 11:51am
Oct 21, 2013 - 12:01pm

The picture made me lol too...

Good thoughts Pining, and great picture as always!

My eyes were first opened up about the dour economic/banking messages about this film from Gary North(yes, that Gary North. Despite his feud with Turdland star Jim Willie, North is a very prolific writer).

He first pointed out to me what should've been obvious: that Mr. Potter(like Mister Scrooge), though guilty of being a thief and an angry, impish man, did actually make some good points. It was better for a hard working man to save 20%(or more) first to pay down at the time of the signing. It was good to rent until he could become "his own landlord", to help ensure his future success in such an endeavor.

A few thoughts on the film(aside from the economic points, which you've astutely shown, are deeply flawed).

Call me a sentimental sheep, but I give the film a pass. angel The reason I feel I can do that in good conscience(even though the fractional reserve lending emotionalism gets on my nerves) is a crucial difference in the way the bank run is handled by George. And this is key to the film's not being a total loss: George Bailey used his own honeymoon cash and life savings to bail out his own business. He took a personal(heartbreaking) haircut to make sure his hometown friends and business remained a going concern. Could I live in a world where such bad business models existed, if the only bail-outs that ever came were sourced from the coffers of the business owners themselves? Yes.

But, apart from that, the film touches upon several other themes that keep the entire life story of George Bailey from being a loss: themes like redemption/forgiveness and individual worth, and another theme that nearly no one sees in it....

This theme was also made aware to me through Gary North. It's a Wonderful Life is actually a story about "Home". Where is home? How do you know if you've found it? What does it feel like? In the end, the film gives some of those answers too. Here's a great quote from North on the film:

Seasonal movies aside, two other movies serve as prime-time national celebrations: The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone With the Wind (1939). They always draw an audience.

I believe that It’s a Wonderful Life, The Wizard of Oz, and Gone With the Wind are united by one theme: "There’s no place like home." Each tells a different version of the story. Each conveys this truth in a unique way. But it’s the same theme.

Dorothy runs away from home for the sake of her dog, Toto, and because nobody seems to appreciate her on the Kansas farm. A broken-down showman in a broken-down rig on the road convinces her to go home. She heads home. Then the tornado intervenes. The movie’s move from black & white to Technicolor shows the discontinuous nature of the movie. "We aren’t in Kansas any more, Toto." She still wants to go home. All of the miracles and spells, and all of the Wizard’s theatrics, can’t get her home. But clicking the slippers three times does. Message: "Home is where your family is."

For Scarlett, not being hungry again is her stated goal, but the lesson she learns is that there’s no place like home. Money, travel, and Rhett are temporary substitutes for home. She finally goes back to Tara when everything else turns sour. The movie’s theme song is "Tara’s Theme." Message: "Home is where your land is."

In It’s a Wonderful Life, George never leaves home. But he wants out. From the beginning to the end, the story is about a man who struggles with finding home. He wants to travel and do great things. He doesn’t travel, nor does he do great things. But at the end, he discovers that he did do a great thing. It is this discovery that is the heart of his redemption. He discovers a world of miracles at the margin. But he discovers it in his drafty home. The movie conveys a fundamental message: "Home is where your mortgage is."

If anyone wants to read his piece on the film, you can find it here. Totally understand though why others can't stomach it. I respect those opinions.

Oct 21, 2013 - 12:01pm

unplugging from the matrix

This is the one that really started opening my eyes

Money As Debt
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