Deregulation was supposed to help community banks, but instead it's helping to kill them. Public Banks could save them.
The bank-deregulation bill that passed the House yesterday — despite public and regulator outcries — was sold as something rural community banks desperately needed to relieve overwhelming paperwork burdens and survive Wall Street's rapacious crush.
It does reduce reporting requirements and red tape, but according to David Dayen in The Intercept, the main effect of Congress's lobbyist-written bill to loosen the regulations on "mid-sized" banks has been to greenlight — well before the bill even passed into law — a new rush of consolidation that is already swallowing up many of the community banks left standing. This was indeed predicted by industry observers. The Crapo bill, oddly, did not look to the only state in the country with thriving community banks — North Dakota — to build upon their successful model: their Public Bank.
Dayen explains in his recent sobering article:
“Indeed, the past 30 years have witnessed a dramatic reduction in chartered banks, from 14,500 to fewer than 5,600. ‘If this pattern continues, we’ll only have Wall Street banks left,’ said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to Politico. ‘And Wall Street banks won’t serve rural America, they won’t serve Montana. … So, what will rural America do?’ ...
Matt Stannard’s latest article in his series on Public Banking reflects on what it will take to put the movement across the finish line and have new Public Banks up and running. He concludes the path to success will require coordinating broad public demand from a wide array of public interest groups.
In Santa Fe, for example, roughly half of the citizen task force was affiliated with private financial business, and only one officially represented the Public Banking movement.
Stannard wonders “what would have happened if even only a few thousand people had demanded a Public Bank of Santa Fe, instead of a few hundred.”
In Los Angeles, Stannard talks to Trinity Tran and Phoenix Goodman of Public Bank LA. ...Read more
Zac Townsend writes emphatically in the San Francisco Examiner that “San Franciscans deserve a public bank, one that invests The City’s money into local projects that reflect our values. San Francisco has nearly $10 billion we store on the balance sheet of big banks that could go to capitalizing a public bank.”
For those in the area, Public Bank SF is asking folks to come out to the Municipal Bank Task Force meeting next Thursday, May 31, 3:00 - 5:00 at City Hall to “make sure the task force stays on task to create a public bank that is focused on equity, social, racial, economic and environmental justice.” Facebook event here.Read more
From Portland to Los Angeles, Public Bank advocates bring the message of the benefits of Public Banks to the people and to their city representatives.
Portland Public Banking Alliance hosted PBI Chair Ellen Brown for two public events in Portland last week. And in Los Angeles, a great show of people power took place on Monday when a wide intersection of Public Banking activists and advocates visited LA City Council to present the benefits of a city-owned bank.
If you are planning similar events in your own state or city — or would like any support doing so — please let us know! Email email@example.com.
Santa Fe, New Mexico has been on the forefront of the Public Bank movement and, as often is the case, trailblazers become daunted by the task of being trailblazers. So, while the Santa Fe Task Force validated and acknowledged all the many benefits of Public Banking — including keeping public money invested locally, lowering costs for borrowing and lending, and using internal money to finance infrastructure — their final report recommends the task of setting one up would be tackled more appropriately at the state level, rather than city level.
The Santa Fe cause gained many supporters who are now well acquainted with the benefits of a Public Bank, including Glenn Schiffbauer, executive director of the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce, who said in a related Albuquerque Journal article:
“I think it’s a great start and since we do a lot of lobbying (at the state Legislature) we are willing to help in any way we can.”
Former PBI Chair Walt McRee interviews Stockton University Distinguished Professor of Economics, Dr. Deborah Figart to discuss her recent study on the impact of a Public Bank for New Jersey. Dr. Figart also penned a related opinion piece this week for the NJ Star-Ledger.
Dr. Figart's basic message: a Public Bank gets NEW money into the economy; it doesn't just shift money from one pocket to another. She brings up that NJ has a great deal of money in various accounts in Wells Fargo, being used for loans that are not going to NJ. She says for every $1 spent on infrastructure, $2 in Gross State Product is created — it’s a standard econ formula.
“A Public Bank would contribute enormously to funding economic development needs throughout America and in the state of New Jersey. … It’s very difficult to borrow money for infrastructure and if states and municipalities could find a way to raise funds through a public bank and to borrow at lower interest rates than typically what Wall Street lends money for, I think that we could do a lot to generate state economic growth and municipal economic growth and redevelopment in the U.S.”
The American Samoa Public Bank story continues to fascinate journalists, resulting in some excellent articles, the latest from Andrew Van Dam in the Washington Post:
“It would be an oversimplification to trace all the islands’ woes to a lack of credit and banking services, but it’s a convenient place to start.” …
“How do you operate an economy without a bank?” asked Phil Ware.
When [consultant] Drew Roberts first arrived in the territory and drove past an ANZ branch, he saw cars parked at the drive-through and a line of customers stretching far out the door.
“The first thing we thought was that it was a run on the bank,” Roberts said. Only it wasn’t an old-school bank run. It was just payday, when everybody scrambled to turn their paychecks into cash before the bank ran out of bills.
American Samoans, Roberts and Ware found, had no access to credit cards, loans or the other financial tools that other Americans take for granted. Islanders living on the mainland faced wire-transfer fees over $150 to send money home.
When Ware agreed to become the first chief executive of the Territorial Bank of American Samoa, he thought it would be a “piece of cake.”
“I had no idea,” he says now.
San Francisco Chronicle editorial agrees: San Francisco should have a Public Bank to leverage the power of its own money
San Francisco’s Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force comes under pressure to provide a truly ethical and full-powered alternative — a Public Bank — in an article by Zac Townsend in the San Francisco Chronicle. He calls on the public to take a stand:
“There already are indications from presentations and conversations that the task force is backpedaling from a public bank structure and instead considering half measures, such as a revolving loan fund. Such a fund — instead of a public bank — wouldn’t begin to leverage the power of San Francisco’s public funds. It would just leave them at big banks. …
"San Francisco has an obligation to manage public funds to prioritize environmental responsibility, fair labor practices, and affordable housing, among other principles. …
Ireland is well underway in its examination of Public Banking. The departments of Finance and Rural and Community Development have been working with Public Banking advocates Irish Rural Link and the international development wing of the Sparkassen German Public Banking group, Savings Bank Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC). The report is likely to be published in the coming weeks.
In Germany, Sparkassen are public bodies under municipal trusteeship. They make up the largest banking group and are the market leader in Germany. In an article in The Journal, Harald Felzen, European project manager for SPFIC explained:
“The salary agreements with Sparkassen staff are basically identically equal to the civil servant agreements. Bonuses for staff are not common practice.”
The journey to eventual success for American Samoa’s new Public Bank was a long and painstaking one to which any Public Banking advocate can relate. Three and a half years of work brought about a triumph on Oct 3, 2016, when the Territorial Bank of American Samoa opened its doors for business. But the Federal Reserve put the bank in limbo for almost 2 years before they provided the new Public Bank a routing number allowing them access to the U.S payment system — a step that usually takes a couple of weeks according to a new article in the Washington Post.
American Samoa Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga said in 2016:
“Today is a day our people will remember for a very, very long time, not because we dared to challenge the status quo or that we endeavored to find a banking solution for our people, our businesses and our economy, but more so because the leaders of our Territory have come together to find a common solution and an answer to the crippling challenges affecting the quality of life of the people of American Samoa.”
Now that TBAS is off and running, Washington Post’s Andrew Van Dam says the next one won’t be far behind:
“After TBAS, it appears unlikely the United States will have to wait another century to get its next public bank. The post-recession anti-bank backlash continues, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and others have pushed for public banks to help revive marginal rural and urban areas.”
Last year, Rob Blackwell at American Banker covered in detail how American Samoa came to the Public Bank solution: …Read more