This page is the new repository for all Public Banking Institute press releases. Some will end up on our blog, but whatever we specifically release to media entities will also end up here. If you would like to receive these press releases in your email, contact Matt [at] publicbankinginstitute.org.
February 26, 2015
Several Exciting Public Banking Leads
(1) public banks work;
(2) popular progressive Rep. in Maine, Diane Russell, gives moving speech indicative of the passion in at least 7 state/local movements currently;
(3) anti-austerity movement and public banking go hand in hand; and
(4) Dodd-Frank bad, public banks good.
1. Public banks out-perform private banks. Even the Wall Street Journal pointed this out last year. Ellen Brown's most recent analysis points out that the Bank of North Dakota "turns a tidy profit year after year" because of lower costs and risks than commercial banks (she also answers the WSJ's assertion that the oil boom propped up the BND--the causal arrow goes both ways, and many other states had oil booms but still ran out of money). "It engages in old-fashioned conservative banking," she writes, "and does not speculate in derivatives." That data matches data from Germany about the public Sparkassen, which has a return on capital several times greater than the German private sector, and pays "substantially more to local and federal governments in taxes."
Two recent changes in banking regulations are of particular concern to the Public Banking Institute: First: the “bail-in” policies adopted at the recent meeting of G20 leaders of the most developed nations threaten to confiscate individual and municipal bank deposits in the event of a Wall Street collapse similar to the one that triggered the Great Recession in 2008. Second: the recent decision of federal regulators to exclude municipal bonds from High Quality Liquid Assets, or HQLAs, that large banks must hold to meet another banking crisis threatens to shrink the market for municipal bonds and drive up the interest that must be paid on the financing of public projects--interest that will be paid by taxpayers, on loans that will have to be financed by too-big-to-fail banks.
2. Recent events concerning Greece and the European Union have drawn attention to anti-austerity politics. Public banks have been promoted as an anti-austerity measure since PBI was formed in 2011. Along these lines, PBI's work was recently featured in a piece by Rosalinda Sanquiche in The Guardian.
3. The crisis in community banking draws attention to the fact that the BND helps community banks. Regulations, capital requirements, and unequal treatment by the federal government (sweet deals and deregulation for big banks, regulatory burdens for the small ones) have hurt community banks, causing some observers to speculate that in the next several years, the number of community banks might shrink from 7000 to a few hundred. Community banks are essential to local economies. The BND helps community banks in North Dakota in numerous ways, and in general public banks can help with collateralization of deposits, protection from big banks' poaching of customers, regulatory compliance, and deposit and capital support programs. (See supplementary release below for ready-made arguments about community banks and public banks.)
The local movements:
1. Maine: This one is pretty amazing, great for media--because of this popular progressive Democrat in Maine, Diane Russell, who The Nation put on the map a few years ago for when it named her "Most Valuable State Representative in the country. Her speech before the state's Committee on Insurance and Financial Services is pretty moving.
2. Arizona: On February 18, in Arizona, SB1395 to create a public banking task force and feasibility study passed the Senate Financial Services Committee. The vote was 6-0-1, with GOP support.
3. Washington: Seattle is getting close to implementing a public bank. A series of meetings on public banking took place in Seattle in December, and now the majority of the very progressive Seattle City Council is committed to implementation. Leading proponents at the city level are Nick Lacata and Kshama Sawant. Of course, State Senator Bob Hasegawa continues to be a strong proponent. (For a particularly provocative angle on a Washington public bank, see Sen. Hasegawa's proposal to use a public bank to handle deposits from marijuana revenues in the state, something he's been throwing around since last year.)
4. New Mexico: Following a symposium hosted by Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales in September, the city began to seriously consider opening its own bank. Then, on Jan. 28, the Santa Fe City Council approved a feasibility study for such a bank.
5. Colorado: On January 31, the group Be the Change-USA sponsored a public banking conference with more than 120 attendees, moderated by Denver city officials and community bankers, and featuring speakers such as Ellen Brown, Mike Krauss, Gwen Hallsmith, and Nomi Prins. Be the Change-USA co-director Earl Staelin subsequently published a powerful editorial in the Denver Post.
6. Also state legislators in Hawaii and Connecticut, and local candidates from Spokane to Madison, are pushing for public banks and make for great stories of grassroots campaigning and how it interacts with policy-making.