NYT, Room for Debate — “In Banking, Should There Be a ‘Public Option’?”

The New York Times “Room for Debate” section just hosted a debate called “In Banking, Should There Be a ‘Public Option’?” My oped is here –

Public Banks Are Key to Capitalism

We actually need publicly owned banks for a capitalist market economy to run properly. Banking, money and credit are not market goods but are economic infrastructure, just as roads and bridges are physical infrastructure. By providing inexpensive, accessible financing to the free enterprise sector of the economy, public banks make commerce more vital and stable. Public banking is not a radical idea but has been practiced in the U.S. with excellent results for decades, and around the world for centuries.

Read more here.

What We Could Do with a Postal Savings Bank: Infrastructure that Doesn’t Cost Taxpayers a Dime

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is the nation’s second largest civilian employer after WalMart. Although successfully self-funded throughout its long history, it is currently struggling to stay afloat. This is not, as sometimes asserted, because it has been made obsolete by the Internet. In fact the post office has gotten more business from Internet orders than it has lost to electronic email. What has pushed the USPS into insolvency is an oppressive 2006 congressional mandate that it prefund healthcare for its workers 75 years into the future. No other entity, public or private, has the burden of funding multiple generations of employees who have not yet even been born.

The Carper-Coburn bill (S. 1486) is the subject of congressional hearings this week. It threatens to make the situation worse, by eliminating Saturday mail service and door-to-door delivery and laying off more than 100,000 workers over several years.

The Postal Service Modernization Bills brought by Peter DeFazio and Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, would allow the post office to recapitalize itself by diversifying its range of services to meet unmet public needs.

Needs that the post office might diversify into include (1) funding the rebuilding of our crumbling national infrastructure; (2) servicing the massive market of the “unbanked” and “underbanked” who lack access to basic banking services; and (3) providing a safe place to save our money, in the face of Wall Street’s new “bail in” policies for confiscating depositor funds. All these needs could be met at a stroke by some simple legislation authorizing the post office to revive the banking services it efficiently performed in the past. Continue reading

No More Detroits…The Philadelphia Public Bank Solution

See also a new 1-hour video posted on the PublicBankingTV channel showing Mike Krauss’ presentation to a group in Philadelphia on the proposed Philadelphia Public Bank.  This video is full of information useful to people interested in finding out what a public bank could do for their city, county, university, etc.  It’s linked here.

The Armageddon Looting Machine: The Looming Mass Destruction from Derivatives

Increased regulation and low interest rates are driving lending from the regulated commercial banking system into the unregulated shadow banking system. The shadow banks, although free of government regulation, are propped up by a hidden government guarantee in the form of safe harbor status under the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act pushed through by Wall Street. The result is to create perverse incentives for the financial system to self-destruct.

Five years after the financial collapse precipitated by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy on September 15, 2008, the risk of another full-blown financial panic is still looming large, despite the Dodd Frank legislation designed to contain it. As noted in a recent Reuters article, the risk has just moved into the shadows:

[B]anks are pulling back their balance sheets from the fringes of the credit markets, with more and more risk being driven to unregulated lenders that comprise the $60 trillion “shadow-banking” sector. Continue reading

Public Banking for Wales, Ireland and Scotland: Promise and Possibilities

Dr. Ian Jenkins of Arian Cymru (Money Wales) has written two excellent articles on why Wales should have its own bank and how that might be accomplished. The shorter article is reprinted below, and the longer, more technical article is linked here.

Dr. Jenkins is hosting an event in Cardiff on September 26th titled “Banking and Economic Regeneration Wales,” at which Marc Armstrong, executive director of the Public Banking Institute, will be speaking, along with Ann Pettifor of the New Economics Foundation and several Welsh leaders. As Dr. Jensen states:

This is in an issue on which Wales could provide leadership on an EU-wide level, a matter in which a small nation could make a big difference.

That is also true for Ireland and Scotland, where interest in public banking is growing. I will be speaking on that subject at a series of seminars in Ireland on October 12th-15th (details here), and I spoke late last year in Scotland on the same subject (see my earlier article here).

Here is Dr. Jenkins’ perceptive piece, which applies as well to Ireland and Scotland.

Continue reading

Making the World Safe for Banksters: Syria in the Cross-hairs

“The powers of financial capitalism had another far reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole.”  —Prof. Caroll Quigley, Georgetown University, Tragedy and Hope (1966)

Iraq and Libya have been taken out, and Iran has been heavily boycotted. Syria is now in the cross-hairs. Why? Here is one overlooked scenario. 

In an August 2013 article titled “Larry Summers and the Secret ‘End-game’ Memo,” Greg Palast posted evidence of a secret late-1990s plan devised by Wall Street and U.S. Treasury officials to open banking to the lucrative derivatives business. To pull this off required the relaxation of banking regulations not just in the US but globally. The vehicle to be used was the Financial Services Agreement of the World Trade Organization.

The “end-game” would require not just coercing support among WTO members but taking down those countries refusing to join. Some key countries remained holdouts from the WTO, including Iraq, Libya, Iran and Syria. In these Islamic countries, banks are largely state-owned; and “usury” – charging rent for the “use” of money – is viewed as a sin, if not a crime. Continue reading

The Leveraged Buyout of America

Giant bank holding companies now own airports, toll roads, and ports; control power plants; and store and hoard vast quantities of commodities of all sorts. They are systematically buying up or gaining control of the essential lifelines of the economy. How have they pulled this off, and where have they gotten the money?

In a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke dated June 27, 2013, US Representative Alan Grayson and three co-signers expressed concern about the expansion of large banks into what have traditionally been non-financial commercial spheres. Specifically:

[W]e are concerned about how large banks have recently expanded their businesses into such fields as electric power production, oil refining and distribution, owning and operating of public assets such as ports and airports, and even uranium mining. Continue reading

Truthdigger of the Week: Ellen Brown

(Thanks Alex!)

By Alexander Reed Kelly

Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating. Nominate our next Truthdigger here.

What could happen if we took authority over banking away from Wall Street and gave it to the public? We’re told this is a bad idea—finance is too complex for common people. No doubt this is true. But as events of the last decade have shown, banking in its current form is too complicated even for Harvard-educated “financial wizards” to understand.

Read the full article here.

PublicBankingTV : Your Money Is Not Safe in the Big Banks

Not Too Big to Jail: Why Eliot Spitzer Is Wall Street’s Worst Nightmare

Before Eliot Spitzer’s infamous resignation as governor of New York in March 2008, he was one of our fiercest champions against Wall Street corruption, in a state that had some of the toughest legislation for controlling the banks. It may not be a coincidence that the revelation of his indiscretions with a high-priced call girl came less than a month after he published a bold editorial in the Washington Post titled “Predatory Lenders’ Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States from Stepping in to Help Consumers.”  The editorial exposed the collusion between the Treasury, the Federal Reserve and Wall Street in deregulating the banks in the guise of regulating them, by taking regulatory power away from the states. It was an issue of the federal government versus the states, with the Feds representing the banks and the states representing consumers.

Five years later, Spitzer has set out to take some of that local regulatory power back, in his run for New York City comptroller.  Continue reading

The Detroit Bail-In Template: Fleecing Pensioners to Save the Banks

The Detroit bankruptcy is looking suspiciously like the bail-in template originated by the G20’s Financial Stability Board in 2011, which exploded on the scene in Cyprus in 2013 and is now becoming the model globally. In Cyprus, the depositors were “bailed in” (stripped of a major portion of their deposits) to re-capitalize the banks. In Detroit, it is the municipal workers who are being bailed in, stripped of a major portion of their pensions to save the banks. Continue reading

Green Light for City-owned San Francisco Bank

When the Occupiers took an interest in moving San Francisco’s money into a city-owned bank in 2011, it was chiefly on principle, in sympathy with the nationwide Move Your Money campaign.  But recent scandals have transformed the move from a political statement into a matter of protecting the city’s deposits and reducing its debt burden.  The chief roadblock to forming a municipal bank has been the concern that it was not allowed under state law, but a legal opinion  issued by Deputy City Attorney Thomas J. Owen has now overcome that obstacle. Continue reading

Collateral Damage: QE3 and the Shadow Banking System

Rather than expanding the money supply, quantitative easing (QE) has actually caused it to shrink by sucking up the collateral needed by the shadow banking system to create credit. The “failure” of QE has prompted the Bank for International Settlements to urge the Fed to shirk its mandate to pursue full employment, but the sort of QE that could fulfill that mandate has not yet been tried.

Continue reading

Think Your Money is Safe in an Insured Bank Account? Think Again.

A trend to shift responsibility for bank losses onto blameless depositors lets banks gamble away your money.

When Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem told reporters on March 13, 2013, that the Cyprus deposit confiscation scheme would be the template for future European bank bailouts, the statement caused so much furor that he had to retract it. But the “bail in” of depositor funds is now being made official EU policy. On June 26, 2013, The New York Times reported that EU finance ministers have agreed on a plan that shifts the responsibility for bank losses from governments to bank investors, creditors and uninsured depositors.

Insured deposits (those under €100,000, or about $130,000) will allegedly be “fully protected.” But protected by whom? The national insurance funds designed to protect them are inadequate to cover another system-wide banking crisis, and the court of the European Free Trade Association ruled in the case of Iceland that the insurance funds were not intended to cover that sort of systemic collapse.

Shifting the burden of a major bank collapse from the blameless taxpayer to the blameless depositor is another case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, while the real perpetrators carry on with their risky, speculative banking schemes. Continue reading

The Crime of Alleviating Poverty: A Local Community Currency Battles the Central Bank of Kenya

Former Peace Corps volunteer Will Ruddick and several residents of Bangladesh, Kenya, face a potential seven years in prison after developing a cost-effective way to alleviate poverty in Africa’s poorest slums.  Their solution: a complementary currency issued and backed by the local community.  The Central Bank of Kenya has now initiated charges of forgery.

Complementary currencies can help eradicate poverty.

Proving that may be difficult in complex economies, due to the high number of factors influencing outcomes. But in an African slum with little of the national currency available, supplying residents with an alternative currency has a positive effect that is obvious, immediate and incontrovertible. Continue reading

Review of Public Banking Conference by Matt Stannard

HUNDREDS GATHER FOR PUBLIC BANKING AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE, by Matt Stannard, June 20, 2013

By any standards, the 2013 Public Banking Conference, held at beautiful Dominican University in San Rafael, California, was a success. In a political world where like-minded groups seldom converge on practical policy blueprints, it was an astounding success. Hundreds of committed attendees–Occupy activists, religious groups, labor, environmentalists, legal activists, journalists and progressive economists–came together for three days of heady conversations and inspiring presentations, and by all accounts, everyone left with something resembling a vision.

Read the whole article here.

Elizabeth Warren’s QE for Students: Populist Demagoguery or Economic Breakthrough?

On July 1, interest rates will double for millions of students – from 3.4% to 6.8% – unless Congress acts; and the legislative fixes on the table are largely just compromises. Only one proposal promises real relief – Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act.” This bill has been dismissed out of hand as “shameless populist demagoguery” and “a cheap political gimmick,” but is it? Or could Warren’s outside-the-box bill represent the sort of game-changing thinking sorely needed to turn the economy around? Continue reading

Bail-out Is Out, Bail-in Is In: Time for Some Publicly-Owned Banks

“[W]ith Cyprus . . . the game itself changed. By raiding the depositors’ accounts, a major central bank has gone where they would not previously have dared. The Rubicon has been crossed.”

—Eric Sprott, Shree Kargutkar, “Caveat Depositor

The crossing of the Rubicon into the confiscation of depositor funds was not a one-off emergency measure limited to Cyprus.  Similar “bail-in” policies are now appearing in multiple countries.  (See my earlier articles here.)  What triggered the new rules may have been a series of game-changing events including the refusal of Iceland to bail out its banks and their depositors; Bank of America’s commingling of its ominously risky derivatives arm with its depository arm over the objections of the FDIC; and the fact that most EU banks are now insolvent.  A crisis in a major nation such as Spain or Italy could lead to a chain of defaults beyond anyone’s control, and beyond the ability of federal deposit insurance schemes to reimburse depositors.

Continue reading

Public Banking for “We the People” Conference Call

On April 6, 2013, Ellen Brown of the Public Banking Institute joined Rocky Anderson in a thoughtful discussion relating to the 2008 economic crash and what we can do to protect our state and local economies when Wall Street Banks tank. Fortunately, we have an operating model in North Dakota to learn from: A public state bank.

Listen to the recording below to learn how public state banks save taxpayer dollars and help the economy grow.

Winner Takes All: The Super-priority Status of Derivatives

Cyprus-style confiscation of depositor funds has been called the “new normal.”  Bail-in policies are appearing in multiple countries directing failing TBTF banks to convert the funds of “unsecured creditors” into capital; and those creditors, it turns out, include ordinary depositors. Even “secured” creditors, including state and local governments, may be at risk.  Derivatives have “super-priority” status in bankruptcy, and Dodd Frank precludes further taxpayer bailouts. In a big derivatives bust, there may be no collateral left for the creditors who are next in line.    Continue reading

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