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Straight from the Mike…The end of an era.


It may behoove us to be aware of some changes taking place right before our very eyes. An example for me was the recent announcement of the closing of the last remaining Sears store in America. The store was located in New York.

It sure gave me pause for a couple of reasons. I remember when it was also known as Sears, Roebuck and Co. It had one of the thickest catalog books, together with J. C. Penney, that you could get to peruse at your leisure. Sears’s Craftsman tool line and their appliances exuded such quality that they often got passed through the family.

However, a principal reflection for me and the lesson here is how an American household business can fail. Conversely, the government will not let some well-known entities fail. Look, I won’t deal in generalities. Let me be specific. When was the last big bank in America that bit the dust? Lehman Brothers comes to mind, but they were an investment giant government allowed to go under. It says to me that big banks got a special favor or bailout, at our expense.

Earlier this year, Cobb County lost a giant of a gentleman. His name was Wallace Coopwood. He was affectionately known as ‘Coop’. The nickname he gave folks, who he was fond of, was ‘Doctor’. He shared something with me during lunch at his favorite restaurant, Pappadeax, where we would discuss inequities in our society and government. He opined, “Favor ain’t fair”. I thought about it for a moment and it became abundantly clear, Coop was so right.

The disturbing aspect of it for me is that it so aptly applies to our government in Washington, DC. During the pandemic and even currently, businesses are failing in record numbers. Conversely, big banks ramble on under Uncle Sam’s big safety blanket. The term most used to describe their excuse is ‘Too big too fail’.

My guess is that senior management at Sears had a sense of invincibility and did not change with the marketplace. And so it is, the rest is history. Sears now joins the rows of tombstones of dead retail giants of past times. W.T. Grant, S.S.Kresge, Marshall Fields (now Macy’s), Kmart, Lord and Taylor, Carson Pirie Scott all come to mind. 

How many times have you heard the reference to the point that we need elected officials with business experience? The real point intended is that the reality of failure, the importance of the bottom line, profit and loss, means something in the private sector; not so in the public sector. It is always interesting to observe how things differ when OPM (Other people’s money) is in play, versus one’s own.

It would be my hope that we can progress with the real challenges of governance in Washington. Get away from feeling that big banks deserve special treatment. Why should a bank get bailed out and hesitate to bring down the foreclosure hammer, oftentimes, seemingly without hesitation or second thought. I have long been a proponent of Community Banks with local commitments, which can make a marked difference within the community. 

Moreover, experience clearly suggests that valuable lessons are learned from failures. You get up, dust yourself off and get on with life. A door closes, a window, and sometimes, an even bigger door opens before us.

By the way, you might find it interesting, as I did when I learned of the robust revenue the banking industry receives from overdraft fees. The 2020 figures were close to $30 billion, that’s with a B. The average from recent prior years has been over $20 billion. And one wonders about the importance of financial literacy, especially in our schools. It was impressive to learn of a branch bank operating within one of the Gwinnett County high schools.

As far as the successes and failures of businesses, I support letting the harvest determine whether the crop is a good one or not. Allow the real variables to determine winners and losers. Sears and others sure found out the hard way. 

As it is said in Spanish, “Asi Est LaVida”, such is life.

Special Note:

A prince of a gentleman lies in the Intensive Care unit of WellStar Kennestone Hospital battling for his life from COVID. Howard Koepka, of Noonday Association, personally delivered more foodstuffs to Cobb County families than one could measure. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.


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