Tag Archives: wall street

Turning the Tables on Banks

forclosuresSome interesting stories have been coming out recently about how citizens and municipalities are trying to flip the script on banks and financial institutions, and I thought I’d share.

First, a Russian man who wrote his own credit card rules is now in the middle of suing the bank that signed off on his altered terms.

Second, and perhaps more interesting: this story about how a California town is using eminent domain as a way of helping residents who are in danger of losing their homes.

These stories break the mold of the financial industries/private citizen narrative; the California situation goes a step further and shows how the government can use regulations to help its citizens in times of need.

Will other municipalities take the opportunity to examine their relationships to banks? Will citizens of Richmond and other Californian towns have this reading of a law that’s generally used to kick people out of their homes as a resource going forward? I don’t really understand how the vaguely-termed “Wall Street” – the banks, I would assume? — can sue the government for exercising its right to eminent domain – after all, corporations are people, aren’t they? Are individuals allowed to sue when the government takes over their home to build a highway?

These two cases show individuals dissatisfied with the status quo fighting back on their own terms. In the case of the Russian man and the credit card terms, he used the inflexibility of the corporate system against them: he knew that nobody was actually going to read the terms he altered and sent back (and I don’t get why the bank in question thinks he’s guilty of fraud; it’s not as if he tried to hide what he was doing), and now it appears he may stand to make a profit from his strategy.

In Richmond’s case, the idea that a municipality can use eminent domain for the public good in ways that alleviate stress on an entire community is a very attractive one. What if cities took the approach that a stable neighborhood with homes owned by individuals was better for the community than one where homeowners were drowning under debt, and what if they acted on that notion?

It’s worth keeping these cases on your radar while they’re debated and decided; depending on how they’re resolved, there could be some extremely interesting repercussions in the future.

THEATER REVIEW: “Righteous Money” at the Kraine Theater

As a latter day Jim Cramer, CJ (Michael Yates Crowley) hosts “Righteous Money,” a blinged-up version of Cramer’s own Mad Money. The audience sits amidst the trappings of a TV studio (a monitor, a camera, and references to an off-stage producer), but the events taking place on stage would have any TV show cut off within minutes. The conceit falls through almost immediately, and from there on out Righteous Money (also the title of the play) is hard to take seriously.

There’s no throughline of sociopathy in Crowley’s character, thanks to a bizarre breakdown that includes his confessing to an one-night-stand-with-some-meaning-thrown-in with one of the interns. Not for a moment did I believe any of CJ’s confessions regarding having true feelings for “Nathan,” the intern, and given the enormous dose of self-confidence Crowley has given his character, there were times when director Michael Rau could have brought greater depth to the material – for example (and not that I was hankering for nudity), after CJ spends time bragging about his physical appearance and noting the fact that he sleeps naked, why does he only strip to his boxers when spanking himself for the camera? This lack of logic extends to things like CJ’s producer allowing him to remain on the air, and even to the sort of things he says while railing against his assistant. His “freakout” may be realistic, but it fails at providing a cogent dramatic through-line to the play.

CJ’s philosophy of money is entertaining – he wants his audience to have access to what he calls “righteous” money – money they deserve, and money beyond what they dream possible – but his repeated references to a non-present “woman guest” Suze Orman soon grow tired.

Righteous Money features a rich topic, perfect (metatextual) timing, and a lead performer who we very much want to like. In the end, though, it never quite achieves liftoff.