Win one for the gyppers: Banks' current playoffs eerily like the NFL's

New York's still the champ, Carolina is shaken but remains a strong contender, Pittsburgh's a major player, Cleveland's a major disappointment, and Detroit doesn't even exist — that's not the National Football League we're talking about but the U.S. banking industry standings.

As the country plunges toward the New Depression, there are parallels between the NFL teams' fight for playoff survival and the banks' fight for just plain survival.

Well, not just "plain" survival. The current shakeout and consolidation of the banking industry will leave fewer banks standing, but those that survive these playoffs are sure to get payoffs of billions in bailout money from taxpayers.

Let's get right to the playoff race. Check out the this morning's Wall Street Journal story "Two Cities Lose 'Hometown' Banks: Votes in Cleveland, Charlotte Are Signs of Industry Change." Under that mundane headline, reporter Dan Fitzpatrick makes like NBC football anchor Dan Patrick. This restructuring of the banking industry seems almost exciting in the reporter's play-by-play:

Shareholders in Charlotte, N.C., and Cleveland will vote today on deals to sell hometown banks Wachovia Corp. and National City Corp. to rivals in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, as the industry's traditional geography continues to be reshaped by aggressive, government-encouraged consolidation. ...

Already gone from the nation's top-10 banking centers as measured by assets are Seattle and Calabasas, Calif., formerly headquarters to the vanquished Washington Mutual Inc. and Countrywide Financial Corp. ... Cleveland was the nation's fifth-largest banking center before 2008's turmoil began ... and will drop from the top 10 once the year is over.

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Boston, incidentally, is the country's fifth-largest banking center, which is about where the New England Patriots are in the NFL playoff mix.

Not that the two wealthy industries are exactly parallel. San Francisco is a major banking capital, for instance.

One major difference: The football teams, even the lousy ones, have fans.

Meanwhile, of course, both industries depend heavily on public subsidies while remaining insufferably arrogant.

Hard to believe, but the bankers are even greedier than the team owners. The banks that have already gotten bailouts provide proof. See 'IT'S OUR BILLION$, BANKERS' in this morning's New York Post:

After receiving billions in aid from taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending it. Some won't even talk about it.


"We're choosing not to disclose that," said Kevin Heine, spokesman for Bank of New York Mellon, which received about $3 billion.

Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency money, said that while some of it was lent out, some was not, and the bank has not given any accounting of exactly how the money is being used.

"We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to," Kelly said.

Don't ask questions. Just gimme the money. That's what a bank robbery is.

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