Public Banking Activists Should Take Note of Seattle Council's Resolution Opposing TPP Fast-Track Authority
On Monday, March 30, the Seattle City Council adopted a resolution opposing Trade Promotion Authority, or "fast track" authority, of the President of the United States to implement U.S. agreement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP, a regional trade pact between the U.S. and 11 other nations.
Arguments have emerged from all sections of the banking spectrum concerning the causes of community banks' decline. Many observers argue that Dodd Frank's regulations disproportionately impact community banks. But there is no consensus on this. In this morning's American Banker, banking industry consultant and investor J.V. Rizzi takes the opposite view. "There are many things to dislike about the Dodd-Frank Act," he writes. "Causing the demise of community banks, however, is not one of them." Rizzi correctly points out that "the number of community banks with assets under $100 million dropped from 13,000 in 1995 to 2,625 in 2010--before Dodd-Frank was enacted. The number of small community banks had dropped under 1,900 by 2014."Read more
Public Banking Institute founder Ellen Brown was recently a guest on the Global Research News Hour podcast, where she discussed "The Student Debt Time Bomb." As producers of the podcast point out, at "the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2014, student loan debt stood at a colossal $1.16 trillion dollars. According to CNN, this debt applies to 40 million Americans."Read more
2014 found the movement for public banking growing throughout the nation. Discouraged by foot-dragging and reversals on national banking reform, and alarmed over continuing municipal budgetary shortfalls, groups in New Mexico, Washington state and elsewhere stepped up efforts to put public banks on their cities' and states' agendas. These local groups were emboldened by news that the Bank of North Dakota, the nation's only public bank, continues to outperform big private banks.
2015 promises at least as much momentum. In Maine, Illinois, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Hawaii, state legislatures are debating public bank legislation. The Santa Fe City Council passed a feasibility study, Coloradans are pushing for a referendum, and local candidates in Madison, Wisconsin and Spokane, Washington are waving the public bank flag.Read more
A bill providing that Illinois state funds be deposited into a public bank, to be called the Community Bank of Illinois, had its first reading on January 14, 2015, then went to the Financial Institutions on March 10 where, after hearings featuring well-known Chicago activist Amara Enyia and others, the bill moved forward to the Illinois General Assembly.Read more
Public banking is not an end in itself. Some supporters see it as an engine of traditional economic growth. The Bank of North Dakota, for example, facilitated infrastructure development for that state's oil boom. Not everyone loves oil economies, but BND was there when the state needed to accommodate rapid development of transportation and build a full-service economy for the impending activity to follow. In this way, a public bank can serve a very traditional economic purpose.
Other supporters, including a few who've published valuable articles early this year, see public banks as engines of a new kind of economy--and as tools for the transition from the old economy to the new. Because big, private banks are beholden to shareholders and tied to traditional notions of "profit," those banks may not see the long-term potential of projects like renewable energy, worker-owned cooperatives, clean/green mass transit, or other projects that aim for long-term sustainability (although these projects do facilitate long-term sustainable growth and are economically smarter than the systems they replace).Read more
Big Banking Interests Push Back, Part Two: Wall Street Interests Deceive the People about Public Banks
At the beginning of March, responding to the impressive wave of state-level public banking movements in the news, Mark Calabria of the Cato Institute wrote a template that became two different published OpEds. The Denver Post titled Calabria’s piece “Colorado would be wise to reject state-owned banking,” while American Banker titled the piece “Promises of Public Banks Don't Match Reality.” The wording differs in the two pieces, but the message points are the same. In the course of delivering those points, Mr. Calabria distorts other scholars’ published research, gets some historical anecdotes wrong, and plays on tired old fears of “government control” while glossing over the rampant, widespread corruption of Wall Street banking.Read more
Last week, Occupy published my essay on the disastrous effects--and fiscal causes--of water privatization. The cause of water shut-offs in Detroit and elsewhere, water contamination, and other hurdles to universal access to H2O, I argued, were not found in some "natural" level of resource scarcity. Rather, water crises result "from local governments going broke – in debt to big banks, regulated by unfunded mandates from an aloof and cronyist federal government, unable to finance their own control over water, or raise the capital to design and implement their own sustainable water systems. Space only allowed me to make a cursory mention of public banking as a means to avoid the privatization debacle. The argument is simple, but important to lay out explicitly: Governments turn to privatization when they perceive their budgets as irredeemable.Read more