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The www.FedPrimeRate.com Personal Finance Blog and Magazine

Monday, September 07, 2009

Money In Motion

The other night, I was both bored and restless, and feeling a bit burned out. So I decided to take a long walk with my camera and see if I could find interesting things and/or people to photograph.

Danny: Homeless but productive, cleaning drains keeping the bootyI was one block away from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia when I came across a group of homeless folks sitting on the sidewalk. One guy was very busy, working very hard scraping dirt from coins and other metallic objects. I stopped and asked him what he was doing. He introduced himself as Danny (pic to the left), and told me that he was recently homeless. He said that he made an arrangements with a friend of his who owns a local laundromat. Danny explained that his friend lets him stop by the laundromat every once in a while and collect whatever he can from the numerous washing machine drains, and Danny can keep whatever he finds. Danny told me that he finds tons of coins, from pennies to quarters, and often finds jewelry and other valuable items. He showed me a clutch of gold necklaces. He let me keep a very worn out penny.

Worn Out PennyAt this point, a small crowd formed around Danny, attracted by the bright flashes from my camera. One passerby asked Danny why he didn't simply wash all the items at once with water. Danny explained that he liked scrapping the coins on the ground. Kept him busy.

After chatting with Danny for a few minutes, I thanked him for his time and for letting me take a few pictures. I then walked over to the Philly Federal Reserve Bank. The bank was advertising a "Money in Motion" exhibit from a large banner at the corner of Arch and 7TH streets. Admission was free.

I was embarrassed for the Bank.

Here we have the most powerful central bank in the world, a bank that has been printing money out of thin air in an effort to "save the American economy," a bank that wants the world to believe that giving money away to people who have amassed much of their obscene wealth by figuring out ways to get very rich without providing useful goods or services, is the best way to extricate America from the Great Recession. I see "Money in Motion" and I think, "Hmmm, our central bank actually wants to show off how it helps the masters of greed who caused the financial crisis get even richer by sucking untold billions from taxpayers pockets. Hmmm...."

Many Americans know that the federal government spent hundreds of billions of dollars to bailout the insurance giant AIG. What many don't know -- because most mainstream media outlets don't want to go there -- is that the investment bank Goldman Sachs got about $12.9 billion from AIG's bailout bundle. Don't believe me? Read about it here. Just as sickening: foreign banks got billions of that bailout cash as well, including Barclays PLC, Societe Generale, and Deutsche Bank. Money in Motion, baby.

The AIG bailout was a crony capitalism, plain and simple. Goldman has never been a vital part of the American financial landscape. Without AIG's bailout money, Goldman would have taken a huge loss, but would have survived. Meanwhile, countless commercial banks, the ones that lend money to businesses and consumers and help keep Americans employed, are still failing at an alarming rate.

A laundromat owner -- someone who makes money by providing a useful service to her community -- lets a homeless guy clean out washing machine drains and keep whatever he finds: that's my idea of money in motion. It's honorable, civilized and far more American than any multi-billion dollar crony bailout.

Here's an idea: why doesn't the Philly Fed Bank open a small office that's open to the street where people like Danny can connect with business owners who are looking for simple services like cleaning laundromat drains or sweeping floors. They could call it the Informal Services Marketplace. Could help a lot of people who can't find work in the formal economy, or people with mental issues who aren't mentally fit enough to hold down a solid job. Criminal background checks would be mandatory, of course.

Homeless in Philadelphia
I'm glad I bumped into Danny that night. It's so easy to feel overwhelmed by an anemic and dwindling income, healthcare inflation and child support payments. It's good to get some real perspective every once in a while. Helps to rejuvenate the entrepreneurial spirit.

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