The right-wing has a Ronald Reagan fetish. And now, it seems to have found another dead movie star who can rescue us from ourselves and, particularly, the evils of middle-class home ownership. His name is Henry F. Potter, the money-grubbing curmudgeon in one of my guilty-pleasures of a movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. As Potter’s direct descendant, The Simpsons' Montgomery Burns would say: Exxcellent...
The Journal Sentinel’s resident wing-nut, Patrick McIlheran – for whom the shrinking paper still seems to be able to find lots of room, with no progressive counterpart – celebrates the holiday in the Christmas Eve edition of the paper by calling for a revival of Potter’s skinflint ways in the fine art of mortgage lending. "Time for us to find our inner Potter," says Paddy Mac, in one of the most deliciously stupid columns in his decidedly undistinguished oeuvre. On the occasion of a visit by several community bankers to the ivory tower on State St., he puts what I’m sure they would think is unfortunate words in their mouths, "But they were saying, in essence, that when the fictional old grump harrumphed, ‘Ideals without common sense can ruin this town,’ he might have had a point." Hey, presidents of Continental Savings Bank and Johnson Bank, you have just been compared to one of movie history’s greatest villains – Merry Christmas!
Of course, the Potter character had much more on his mind and his agenda than fiscal austerity and vague notions of "common sense". As played by the iconic Lionel Barrymore, he was a maniacal control freak with the goal of owning or at least holding a mortgage on every piece of property in a place that we now know, if not for the accident of George Bailey’s birth, would have been called Potterville. All of his sanctimonious bromides about the Baileys’ more accommodating path to home ownership creating a "discontented lazy rabble rather than a thrifty working class" were just a cover for, as George put it, keeping people in Potter-owned slums. If he could have figured out a way to make more money by handing out loans to the lazy rabble, he would have done that quicker than anyone.
Henry Potter didn’t have high morals about debt-to-assets ratios, adequate down-payments or anything else. He didn’t believe in anything but his own monopoly, power and wealth. That’s why his win-at-all-costs attitude led him to steal money from Uncle Billy so he could eliminate George and get the Building & Loan (a theft, by the way, left unresolved in the movie – did Potter get away with it, while the whole town pitched in to make up the money he stole?). And this is the kind of guy McIlheran thinks we need more of?
I think the elevation of an attractive role model like Mr. Potter is just what the Republican Party needs. Palin/Potter in 2012!