Ellen Brown: The public banking revolution is upon us

Money in our hands

Photo courtesy Truthdig


Which state will be the first to declare its independence from Wall Street — California or Washington? PBI Chair Ellen Brown writes in Truthdig that the race is on. Policymakers and public banking advocates in both California and Washington State have passed their initial legislative hurdles to forming the nation's second state-owned bank. Ellen writes:

“The first hearing on [Senator Ben] Hueso’s Senate Bill 528 was held in Sacramento last week before the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, where it passed. The bill goes next to the Banking Committee. With momentum growing, California could be the first state in the 21st century to form its own bank; but it is getting heavy competition in that race from Washington State.”

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Virginia’s public banking effort is rapidly gaining steam

Front Royal, Virginia

Front Royal, Virginia. Photo by Fancycrave.


Virginia's effort to establish a public bank for the state, called The Bank of Virginia Act,  is rapidly gaining supporters, reaching 10 candidate endorsements last week. Yesterday, April 17, advocates held a public banking “community conversation” on the issue. Over the weekend, Tiffany Potter, Waynesboro Democratic Committee chair, published a column in the Daily Progress supporting public banking, in which she described its benefits like this:

“Public banks can be chartered and managed so they support local lending within the jurisdiction in which they operate. This directly benefits the community rather than maximizing profit through investment of the depositors capital (as private banks do).”

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Public banking can fund the zero-carbon economy without raising taxes or increasing debt

Climate action NYC

Climate action NYC. Photo by Erik McGregor.


The Divest movement continues to fuel momentum for public banking as climate-conscious cities face the need for alternatives to big out-of-state and multinational banks, which have persisted in funneling $1.9 trillion in loans since 2016 toward expanding fossil fuel extraction. As observed in a recent article for In These Times, Aaron Fernando describes how public banking could enable needed financing for renewables.

“Public banking has already been implemented to great success in Germany, where the third-largest bank is state-owned and has underwritten energy efficiency upgrades for more than 3.5 million homes. … In New York City, ‘financing is a big barrier’ for solar conversions, says Noah Ginsburg, director of the Here Comes Solar program at Solar One, a nonprofit provider of technical assistance for local solar projects. This is because of the ‘shortage of mission-aligned financial institutions.’ Transitioning a multi-family building to solar can still cost as much as $100,000, Ginsburg says, more than an affordable housing provider may be able to finance, even if the system pays for itself in five years.”

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Candidate for Philadelphia’s City Council makes public banking “the centerpiece of my legislative agenda”

Beth Finn Philadelphia

Beth Finn, candidate for mayor of Philadelphia. Background photo by Kelly Kiernan.


In another high-profile race in a major US city, a candidate for the Philadelphia City Council has made public banking her campaign centerpiece, demonstrating that the idea is rapidly gaining prominence as a funding solution. Beth Finn, candidate for Philly City Council, states in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

“I will make public banking the centerpiece of my legislative agenda. Every year, our city loses millions of dollars in bank fees and interest payments to big corporate banks that also use that money to invest in ventures that go directly against my values. A public bank maximizes our limited funds for investment by recapturing that money and loaning it to ourselves. A public bank is for the public good. Once established, I also want our public bank to offer basic checking account services to the underbanked and unbanked.”

[Read the full article]

Video spotlight: Why is public banking important for social change?

Thomas Marois, Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at the University of London and recent guest on It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown, argues that until people regain control of money and credit, we will not be able to stop economic and ecological crises.

“There’s really no option. We can’t simply relegate the question of money and finance and credit … We can’t do anything until we have control of money. And to leave that to the private sector is a strategic mistake because then they control that agenda. They control credit. They control access to credit.”

[Watch the video]

Public banking advocates storm the Capitol in support of California’s #AB857

CPBA Lobby Day Sacramento

CPBA Lobby Day Sacramento. Front Row L-R: Sushil Jacob, Trinity Tran, Mel Liu, Judy Young, Larry Cohen, Irene Montantes, Nassim Nouri, Margie Lewis, Lou Rigali, Jake Tonkel, Lee Clark, Rick Girling, Nick Cortez, Madeline Kelly Merritt, Jeff Olsen, Dan Shook, Victor Casas, Luca Barton, Brenda Gutierrez, Ben Gordon, Miguel Molina, Erica Stanojevic, Shelly Browning, Susan Harman. Photo courtesy California Public Banking Alliance.


Monday April 8 was an action-packed day of citizens' lobbying for #AB857 in Sacramento. The California Public Banking Alliance gathered advocates from all corners of California to talk public banking with legislators.

As posted by the Alliance: “Wall Street banks have proven that their interests are not aligned with California's communities. It's time for a solution.” Advocate Madeline Kelly Merritt posted the group received an incredible response.

CPBA is urging advocates of public banking to sign this letter of support for #AB857 to be sent to CA Assembly and Senate legislators. 

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Ellen Brown OpEd: Why is the Fed paying so much interest to banks?

Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve. Photo courtesy Truthdig / creative commons.


While we receive virtually nothing on our deposit accounts in interest payments, which currently average a mere one-tenth of 1% per year, banks themselves are earning 2.4% on their deposits at the Federal Reserve. Why are the banks getting all this money while taking absolutely no risk?

As PBI Chair Ellen Brown explains in her latest article in Truthdig:

“That means we, the taxpayers, are paying $36 billion annually to private banks for the privilege of parking their excess reserves at one of the most secure banks in the world—parking them, rather than lending them out.”

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Marc Armstrong returns to PBI

Marc Armstrong

Marc Armstrong


The Public Banking Institute is pleased to announce that Marc Armstrong has returned to PBI as its newly named Development Director, after doing public banking outreach for five years in the divestment and cannabis legalization movements. Marc will be responsible for developing educational programs that identify ways for the public banking movement to address regenerative economics, financial inclusion, and wealth / income inequality, applying different kinds of public banking models and tools. Outreach will be made to organizations particularly that serve the public by prioritizing environmental and economic justice.

New It’s Our Money podcast: Global validation of the public option

The City of London

The City of London. Photo by Ed Robertson.


The latest episode of It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown looks at the global picture of public banking with London expert Thomas Marois. Co-host Walt McRee describes the episode:

Global Proof of the Public Option

The success of publicly-owned banks around the world should give broad encouragement to US state and local governments looking for some financing relief on their growing debt loads. Today’s guest, Thomas Marois, a Senior Lecturer at the University of London, is an expert on the impact that public banks have on economies and societies. His study of public banks shows both the efficiencies and stability these banks provide, as well as the important role democratic participation plays in bank operations. Our lone US public bank, the Bank of North Dakota, is celebrating its first 100 years and reflects the same values and benefits as its global siblings. But its birth years were anything but stable and make a colorful story of politics, personalities and pushback from the banking industry. We take a third visit on BND’s historical trail with author and historian Mike Jacobs.

[Listen to the podcast]

International News: UK Labour Party proposes a new public banking ecosystem

Last RBS bank closed

Last bank in Kilwinning, Scotland closed June 11th, 2018 despite local support for it to remain open. Photo by Ian Rainey.


Like the US economy, the UK economy is grappling with rapidly accelerating inequality and a collapse in investment in the main street economy as the financial sector dominates. In response, the Labour Party has issued a major new report proposing a “new public banking ecosystem” that includes postal banks.

Christine Berry, one of the report’s authors, describes the proposal in The Independent:

“The first pillar of this ecosystem is the proposed National Investment Bank, supported by a network of 12 Regional Development Banks. … We recommend that the bank’s activities should initially be focused around three “missions”: greening the economy, regional rebalancing and economic democracy. Together, these missions address the real crises of our time … : an economy skewed towards unaccountable elites that is failing to provide good lives for most of its citizens, and the real and present dangers posed by climate change.

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