You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Public Banking.
Neither the concept of pooling money to benefit a larger community nor the notion of holding that money in a publicly owned and run institution is novel. We collect taxes to fund schools and roads — projects we couldn’t accomplish individually — and the state of North Dakota has operated its own financial institution for nearly a century. So why is Bismarck, ND the only place in the country with a publicly owned bank?
The movement to expand public banking is gaining momentum. Gus Alperovitz — the economist behind The New System Project we featured just a few weeks ago — described what has created renewed interest in founding more public banks in an op-ed for Bill Moyers:
“[R]ecognition is also growing of the undue influence that private corporate finance — tied to Wall Street rather than anchored to Main Street — has on our communities. Most Americans understand that regulation can only go so far and that it has a tendency to unravel in the face of corporate pressure…[S]tarting at the local level, 'public banking' and related strategies seek to transform the current system toward one in which banking is managed as a public utility rather than a global casino where taxpayers pick up the tab for private losses.”
Banking as a "public utility" — a public good — rather than a playground for the uber rich could quickly revolutionize who has access to capital for starting businesses, buying homes, and funding worthwhile projects that benefit entire communities. We already know that locally spent dollars fuel local economies; public banks work in a similar way by not funneling a percentage of the tax dollars housed in those institutions off to the CEOs of Wells Fargo and Citibank.
Efforts are underway in Sante Fe, New Mexico and the state of Vermont to found public banks. The Vermont plan would authorize up to 10% of the state’s cash balance — approximately $350 million — to be available for investment in local enterprise. Imagine what that could do for a state with just 600,000 people?
If this concept is exciting to you, the Public Banking Institute is looking for volunteers, members for their chapters in more than 20 cities across the country, and support for local initiatives in Santa Fe, Philadelphia, Seattle, Vermont and California. Visit PublicBankingInstitute.org and click on the “Take Action” tab for volunteer opportunities, events, and info to share on your networks.
Then, keep an eye out for more from The Next System Project, which The Public Banking Institute partners on, and new ways to get involved with reclaiming public assets for public use.
Get involved with The Public Banking Institute by:
"Public banking debate starts in Santa Fe” at Albuquerque Journal
Hear the segment in context:
Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich