WEALTH AND MONEY PART VI: BANKING AS A PUBLIC UTILITY
“The vast amount of money paid to Wall Street by America’s cities, counties, and states has profound impacts on our lives and local economies.” “It’s a staggering amount: Hundreds of billions of dollars move from taxpayer pockets into private Wall Street hands each year in the form of interest payments on bonds, loans, fees, and financial product costs” “The debt load is squashing local economies, ruining our school systems, letting our infrastructure crumble, and so much more.” “Breaking our dependence on Wall Street usury means reclaiming control of our money through publicly-owned, public-interest banks.” – – The Public Banking Institute’s “What Wall Street Costs Us Campaign”
The collapse of the Wall Street banks in 2007-2008 was devastating to millions of Americans. Many have never recovered. But in the long run there was an even greater tragedy – – – we failed to turn these predatory institutions into public utilities serving the common good. Indeed, we made them whole again. We made fraud and deception, corruption and insatiable greed whole again. And we did it with taxpayer dollars. Now these same institutions, through the same deception and fraud, are again bleeding the life out of our communities, our cities, and our states.
Think Detroit – – think Flint – – think poisoning children and pregnant women with contaminated water – -think death from bridge collapse in Minneapolis – – think gutting of our public schools and crippling student debt – – think destroyed pension funds and retirement hopes of millions of aging citizens – – think privatization of cherished public assets and the heartbreaking loss of the commons – – think austerity in all of its ugly forms. As all roads once lead to Rome, all debt looting now leads to Wall Street.
Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.” – – Napoleon Bonaparte – 1815
With one notable exception – – the state of North Dakota – – virtually all cities and states currently use large private banks for most of their financial needs. The assets of these cities and states, through “bonds, loans, fees, and financial product costs,” are trapped in predatory finance deals that cost them millions of dollars every year. Designed to fail, these “deals” deceptively and deliberately force communities and states into endless debt. As stated by Saqib Bhatti of the Roosevelt Institute:
“State and local government officials in the United States are forced to face down budget crises every year. They have to make unconscionable decisions about which services to cut in order to close budget gaps. The impact of their decisions is borne by working families, especially in communities of color. When our public officials are being forced to choose between providing residents with healthcare or an education, we cannot afford to be shipping millions every year to Wall Street.”
There is an alternative. Quoting attorney and author Ellen Brown, founder of the Public Banking Institute, “We need a banking system that truly serves the needs of the people, and that objective can best be achieved with banks that are owned and operated by and for the people.” We need to create public banks. There is absolutely no reason for us to continue being a slave to Wall Street. There is absolutely no reason why the public assets of our states and cities cannot be used to capitalize our own public banks rather than pad the pockets of obscenely wealthy Wall Street CEO’s. The is absolutely no reason why we could not be making loans to ourselves from our own wealth, and paying the interest on these loans back to our own cities and states. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot put an end to the parasitic austerity regime being imposed on us by the private banking cartel. And we have an excellent example to follow.
The publicly owned Bank of North Dakota (BND), in one of the reddest, most Republican states in the nation, has been in existence since 1919. It is currently the only public bank in America, and is becoming the model for efforts to create similar institutions in communities and states across the nation. Founded during the years leading up to the Great Depression, the BND was born of hardship and exploitation. It is the story of a people coming together for the good of all – – the story of how citizens saved their communities, their farms, and their way of life by casting off the debt bondage of Wall Street. It is the story of what can be done again to overcome the fraudulently created austerity now being imposed on working people all across America. It is a story of hope.
Part VII will discuss: Public Banking at the City and Local Level
Please take the time to watch the following short videos from the Public Banking Institute about the development of the Bank of North Dakota and how “we the people” can regain control of our money and our lives. Understanding these issues is critical to our future: