Thursday, March 26, 2009

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...

[Note: I totally misreported on this post. Go here to check out my mistakes. But there are a few interesting points about Mr. Beef and TARP that I think are worth checking out so I'm going to keep this up.]

So I hop off the #6 at Jackson (sorry New Yorkers, we're talking about a real city here), cross Michigan Ave on my way to work. And as I'm walking west on Jackson I notice something different.

An empty store front--an empty bank.

For months I walked by the Midwest Bank on Jackson and often thought, "I wonder if I'd be any good at banking..." but then dismiss the thought about a block later... but last week I didn't even get to ponder my banking prospects. Instead I was left wondering what happened.

Everything was gone--the computers, the paper, the waste baskets, all of it. All I saw was a big empty room with a few desks. Gone were the people I'd look at while I walked by, gone was the manger who had her own desk and who I'd see talking to the people she managed. Like a Gob magic trick, those employees of Midwest Bank were gone.

Two thoughts quickly came to my mind:
1) What happened to Midwest Bank? Did it go under? Were all those employees laid off?
2) This was the first tell-tale sign of the recession (well other than my classmates and my own struggles finding a good job even with graduate degrees).

I'll tackle the second half of everything first. I like to say that the exception doesn't prove the rule, but in this case it seemed like it did. The recession was real because Midwest Bank closed one of its branches.

Sudden the recession had a face. And that face was the empty Midwest Bank.

I didn't know those people at Midwest Bank, but I was seriously bummed out walking by the empty bank. I assume (probably incorrectly) that they were all laid off (I'm sure some were relocated and the rest let go). And while I know a few people who have struggled to find work, this felt more real. My daily routine had some how changed even though none of it effected me personally.

Over the years I've seen empty store fronts and I've seen a business close. But this is some how different. This is a bank, and banks don't close. Banks get bigger or they get bought out. LaSalle Bank becomes Bank of America. That's how banks work.

But there I was walking by an empty bank front.

So what happened to Midwest Bank? They've taken TARP money and want to close down Mr. Beef (the Mr. Beef story is actually very interesting). However, the CEO of Midwest Bank believes the bank is in a strong position even if it is taking TARP money. The CEO above is new, and the old CEO isn't going to receive a golden parachute because of the stimulus. And here is more on the Mr. Beef story. (the owner of Mr. Beef went to Congress to say that the big bad bank was screwing over the little guy, of course the big bad bank is a pretty small bank, and who knows if Mr. Beef was paying his bills... but hey, he wants some of that TARP money).

Nothing on Midwest Bank layoffs or closing branches. If I was a real reporter, I'd give them a call, but alas, something tells me that if I did give 'em a ring and say "Hey, it's the Policy Boy from" they would give me the old Chicago run around.

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