Friday, January 22, 2010

A couple of very inspiring things happened on the way to this column. First, a reminder. One year ago this week President Obama was sworn into office. Rather than recap what's been written during the last year within the confines of this column, I'll take the opportunity to plug the website., click on “Straight From Stigall” and you can bone up on some of my thoughts. If you're one of those goofballs that still have the creepy stickers with “Dear Leader's” Warhol-esque picture on your bumper, I'll save you the time. You won't enjoy the reading.
Meanwhile, as this paper goes to print early in the week, the special election in Massachusetts to fill Ted Kennedy's seat is underway. The early stories and polling, it can be said at the very least, have Democrats nervous about the prospects of losing this election to a Republican. Should it happen the “liberal lion” of the Senate godfather of “health care reform” the last living member of Camelot will be put to political rest forever.
No matter a Republican victory or loss, that it's even close is all you need to know about a year of President Obama. Massachusetts created the single biggest political story of a generation.
As the press and the Democrats tie themselves in knots at the prospect of an entirely blue state turning half red. As the country's electorate rages at tea parties, town halls, and protest rallies outside congressional offices to stop government overreach. I couldn't help but smile this week and think, “This is just as our Founding Fathers envisioned our system working.”
This feeling was only reaffirmed when I received a copy of an email this week by a listener to our radio show. This individual works for Commerce Bank, and he wanted me to read and even share the contents of the email with our audience (and Landmark readers, too). The email was an internal communication to all Commerce Bank employees from their CEO David Kemper.
What little I know of Mr. Kemper, I can tell you the email was unusual for its candor and direct message aimed at Washington. In a day and age of political correctness, and at the risk of offending Obama-loyal customers and employees, Mr. Kemper felt it was time to stand up and speak his mind on behalf of his company. The subject of the email addressed President Obama's new plan to levy a tax on financial institutions. Suffice it to say, Mr. Kemper felt this was the last straw. He offered some comments, and 6 points-of-fact he felt his employees needed to know. Some abbreviated highlights:
“I am writing to you to keep you informed concerning the current highly politicized debate in Washington concerning additional taxes and regulation on the banking industry. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Obama Administration has chosen to vilify the banking industry as a politically expedient way of boosting their standing in light of a very difficult economy.…The Obama Administration, the media, and some members of Congress have been making some incorrect and very misleading comments concerning the cost of the financial crisis and governmental losses on the TARP program… saying that the industry "owes" further taxes to the governmenton moral grounds or to make up for losses the government will take on advances to other industries is a very dangerous precedent and further contributes to a populist anti-business feeling that could be very harmful in the long run.
The facts are:
1) Commerce Bancshares luckily did not take any TARP funds because we did not need it, did not want to be beholden to the government and did not want to pay a very expensive rate on the money.
2) $700 billion was appropriated for the fund of which $250 billion was advanced to the banking industry. Nearly 75% of that money advanced to the banks has already been paid back.
3) It is estimated by the US Treasury that the government will make a profit on their TARP advances to commercial banks of around $19 billion. This profit is not being mentioned by politicians who are implying the government will lose money on the bank portion of this program. This is patently incorrect.
4) The government will lose money (perhaps a lot of money) on its TARP advances to AIG, GMAC and the auto companies. The government made aconscious decision to subsidize the auto industry and AIG - that is their choice but has little to nothing to do with main stream commercial banks…
5) The banking industry will pay for the losses of failed banks through the industry's recapitalization of the FDIC fund. Last year we paid $28 million into the FDIC fund, an increase of $24 million over 2008: that $24 million comes directly out of our profits… This is very expensive but the industry (not the government) is paying for the failure of poorly run banks.
6) We welcome higher capital ratios and strong regulation because we do not like paying for the failure of weak banks. We all know we have a tough economy and high unemployment and are working closely with our customers through this challenging period. We also need to communicate that weakening the banking system through unfair taxation and excessive regulation is going to severely damage our industry and economic recovery."
Now that's leadership.
America is being awakened and engaged in their country en masse for the first time in generations. Voters who would traditionally vote party line, or with their union, or with that familiar family name on the ballot know this week's vote is about something much more. The traditional assumptions about blue states and red states are dead this week. Executives and CEOs are standing up, speaking out, and even pushing back when free markets and their very livelihoods come under attack from Washington.
It's truly inspiring to watch. It's just what our Constitution ordered.
(Be inspired by Chris Stigall each week only in The Landmark. And listen to him each morning on 710 KCMO. Email him at

1 comment:

cmblake6 said...

This must go viral. Perhaps not my post, but the stuff in it.