Cooperative Banking in the Aquarian Age

Written for Alternet as part of a five-part series titled “New Economic Visions”.

According to both the Mayan and Hindu calendars, 2012 (or something very close) marks the transition from an age of darkness, violence and greed to one of enlightenment, justice, and peace.  It’s hard to see that change just yet in the events relayed in the major media, but a shift does seem to be happening behind the scenes; and this is particularly true in the once-boring world of banking.

In the dark age of Kali Yuga, money rules; and it is through banks that the moneyed interests have gotten their power.  Banking in an age of greed is fraught with usury, fraud, and gaming the system for private ends.  But there is another way to do banking, the neighborly approach of George Bailey in the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Rather than feeding off the community, banking can feed the community and local economy.

Today the massive too-big-to-fail banks are hardly doing George Bailey-style loans at all.  They are not interested in community lending.  They are doing their own proprietary trading—trading for their own accounts—which generally means speculating against local interests.  They engage in high-frequency program trading that creams profits off the top of stock market trades; speculation in commodities that drives up commodity prices; leveraged buyouts with borrowed money that can result in mass layoffs and factory closures; and investment in foreign companies that compete against our local companies.

We can’t do much to stop them.  They’ve got the power, especially at the federal level.  But we can quietly set up an alternative model, and that’s what is happening on various local fronts.

Most visible are the “Move Your Money” and “Occupy Wall Street” movements.  According to the website of the Move Your Money campaign, an estimated ten million accounts have left the largest banks since 2010.  Credit unions have enjoyed a surge in business as a result.  The Credit Union National Association reported that in 2012, for the first time ever, credit union assets rose above $1 trillion.  Credit unions are non-profit, community-minded organizations with fewer fees and less fine print than the big risk-taking banks; and their patrons are not just customers but owners, sharing partnership in a cooperative business.

Move “Our” Money: The Public Bank Movement

The Move Your Money campaign has been wildly successful in mobilizing people and raising awareness of the issues, but it has not made much of a dent in the reserves of Wall Street banks, which already had $1.6 trillion sitting in reserve accounts as a result of the Fed’s second round of quantitative easing in 2010.  What might make a louder statement would be for local governments to divest their funds from Wall Street, and some local governments are now doing this.  Local governments collectively have well over a trillion dollars deposited in Wall Street banks.

A major problem with the divestment process is finding local banks large enough to take the deposits.  One proposed solution is for states, counties and cities to establish their own banks, capitalized with their own rainy day funds and funded with their own revenues as a deposit base.

Today only one state actually does this, North Dakota.  North Dakota is also the only state to have escaped the credit crisis of 2008, sporting a sizeable budget surplus every year since.  It has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, the lowest default rate on credit card debt, and no state government debt at all.  The Bank of North Dakota (BND) has an excellent credit rating and returns a hefty dividend to the state every year.

The BND model hasn’t yet been duplicated in other states, but a movement is afoot.  Since 2010, 18 states have introduced legislation of one sort or another for a state-owned bank.

Values-based Banking: Too Sustainable to Fail

Meanwhile, there is a strong movement at the local level for sustainable, “values-based” banking—conventional banks committed to responsible lending and service to the local community.  These are George Bailey-style banks, which base their decisions first and foremost on the needs of people and the environment.

One of the leaders internationally is Triodos Bank, which has local offices in the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Germany.  Its website says that it makes Socially Responsible Investments that are selected according to strict sustainability criteria and overseen by an international panel of “stakeholder” representatives representing various community, environmental, and worker interest groups.  Investments include the financing of more than 1,000 organic and sustainable food production projects, more than 300 renewable energy projects, 33 fair trade agricultural exporters in 22 different countries, 85 microfinance institutions in 43 countries, and 398 cultural and arts projects.

Two U.S. banks exemplifying the model are One PacificCoast Bank and New Resource Bank. Operating in California, Oregon and Washington, One PacificCoast is comprised of a sustainable community development bank with around $300 million in assets and a non-profit foundation (One PacificCoast Foundation).  Its commercial lending business focuses on such sectors as specialty agriculture, renewable energy, green building, and low-income housing.  Foundation activities include programs to “help eliminate discrimination, encourage affordable housing, alleviate economic distress, stimulate community development and increase financial literacy.”

New Resource Bank is a California based B-corporation (“Benefit”) with $171 million in assets, which focuses its lending and banking services on local green and sustainable businesses.  New Resource was recognized in 2012 as one of the “Best for the World” businesses, being in the top 10 percent of all certified B-Corporations and scoring more than 50 percent higher than 2,000 other sustainable businesses in overall positive social and environmental impact.

All this might be good for the world, but isn’t investing locally in a values-based bank riskier and less profitable than putting your money on Wall Street?  Not according to a study commissioned by the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV).  The 2012 study compared the financial profiles between 2007 and 2010 of 17 values-based banks with 27 Globally Systemically Important Financial Institutions (GSIFIs)—basically the too-big-to-fail banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan, Barclays, Citicorp and Deutsche Bank.  According to the GABV report, values-based banks delivered higher financial returns than some of the world’s largest financial institutions, with a return on assets averaging above 0.50 percent, compared to just 0.33 percent for the GSIFIs; and returns on equity averaging 7.1 percent, compared to 6.6 percent for the GSIFIs.  They appeared to be stronger financially, with both higher levels of and better quality capital; and they were twice as likely to invest their assets in loans.


Along with the values-based banks, community investment is undertaken in the United States by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), including Community Development Banks, Community Development Credit Unions, Community Development Loan Funds, Community Development Venture Capital Funds, and Microenterprise Loan Funds.  According to the CDFI Coalition, there are over 800 CDFIs certified by the CDFI Fund, operating in every state in the nation and the District of Columbia.  In 2008 (the last year for which a report is available), CDFIs invested $5.53 billion “to create economic opportunity in the form of new jobs, affordable housing units, community facilities, and financial services for low-income citizens.”

Two of many interesting examples are the Alternatives Federal Credit Union and Boston Community Capital. Alternatives FCU, located in Ithaca, New York, is committed to community development and social change and is part of the Alternatives Group, which includes a non-profit corporation (Alternatives Community Ventures); a 40-year old trade association of community groups, cooperatives, worker owned businesses, and individuals (Alternatives Fund); and a not-for-profit organization that facilitates secondary capital investment in the credit union (Tomkins County Friends of Alternatives, Inc.). The credit union has over $70 million in assets and offers many innovative financial products, including Individual Development Accounts—special savings accounts for low income residents that offer matching deposits of 2 to 1 up to a certain amount—in addition to more traditional services such as loans for minority and women-owned businesses, and affordable mortgages. The credit union also offers small business development (classes, seminars, consultation, and networking programs), free tax preparation, and a student credit union.

Although its lending programs focus on lower-income borrowers, Alternatives FCU has had lower delinquency and charge-off rates than many major banks that avoid these types of customers. Boston Community Capital (BCC) is a CDFI that is not actually a bank but invests in projects that provide affordable housing and jobs in lower-income neighborhoods.  BCC includes a loan fund, a venture fund, a mortgage lender, a real estate consultation organization, a solar energy fund, and a federal New Markets Tax Credit investment vehicle.  Since 1985, it has invested over $700 million in local organizations and businesses.  These funds have helped build or preserve more than 12,800 affordable housing units, as well as child care facilities for almost 9,000 children and health care facilities that reach 56,000 people.  Their investments have helped renovate 850,000 square feet of commercial real estate, generate 5.9 million KW hours of solar energy capacity, and create more than 1,500 jobs.

Less Money for Banks and More for Workers:

The Models of Germany and Japan


Values-based banks and CDFIs are a move in the right direction, but their market share in the U.S. remains small.  To see the possibilities of a banking system with a mandate to serve the public, we need to look abroad.

Germany and Japan are export powerhouses, in second and third place globally for net exports.  (The U.S. trails at 192nd.)  One competitive advantage for both of these countries is that their companies have ready access to low-cost funding from cooperatively-owned banks.

In Germany, about half the total assets of the banking system are in the public sector, while another substantial chunk is in cooperative savings banks.  Germany’s strong public banking system includes eleven regional public banks (Landesbanken) and thousands of municipally-owned savings banks (Sparkassen).  After the Second World War, it was the publicly-owned Landesbanks that helped family-run provincial companies get a foothold in world markets.  The Landesbanks are key tools of German industrial policy, specializing in loans to the Mittelstand, the small-to-medium size businesses that drive the country’s export engine.

Because of the Landesbanks, small firms in Germany have as much access to capital as large firms.  Workers in the small business sector earn the same wages as those in big corporations, have the same skills and training, and are just as productive.  In January 2011, the net value of Germany’s exports over its imports was 7 percent of GDP, the highest of any nation.  But it hasn’t had to outsource its labor force to get that result.  The average hourly compensation (wages plus benefits) of German manufacturing workers is $48—a full 50 percent more than the $32 hourly average for their American counterparts.

In Japan, the banks are principally owned not by shareholders but by other companies in the same keiretsu or industrial group, in a circular arrangement in which the companies basically own each other.  Even when there are nominal outside owners, corporations are managed so that the bulk of the wealth generated by the corporation flows either to the workers as income or to investment in the company, making the workers and the company the beneficial owners.

Since the 1980s, U.S. companies have focused on maximizing short-term profits at the expense of workers and longer-term goals. This trend stems in part from the fact that they are now funded largely by capital from shareholders who own the company and want simply to grow their returns.  According to a 2005 report from the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels, equity financing is more than twice as important in the U.S. as in Europe, accounting for 116 percent of GDP compared with 62 percent in Japan and 54 percent in the eurozone countries.  In both Europe and Japan, the majority of corporate funding comes not from investors but from borrowing, either from banks or from the bond market.

Funding with low-interest loans from cooperatively-owned banks leaves greater control of the company in the hands of employees who either own it or have much more say in its operation.  Access to low-interest loans can also slash production costs.  According to German researcher Margrit Kennedy, when interest charges are added up at every level of production, 40 percent of the cost of goods, on average, comes from interest.

Globally, the burgeoning movement for local, cooperatively-owned and community-oriented banks is blazing the trail toward a new, sustainable form of banking.  The results may not yet qualify as the Golden Age prophesied by Hindu cosmology, but they are a major step in that direction.


Ellen Brown is an attorney and president of the Public Banking Institute,  In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she shows how a private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her websites are and

15 Responses

  1. Thank you Ellen Brown. I’m predicting / hoping / praying for a change in brain software / advance of cultures myself. Keep alive and be well.

  2. Thank you Ellen. It’s soo good to hear about the value-based banks here in the U.S. I like the idea that OnePacificCoast Bank is a community oriented bank. I am very interested in and looking for such a bank.
    I am also happy to hear that this bank focuses on agriculture, renewable energy, green projects, and low-income housing. Also wonderful that they have programs that discourage discrimination, point towards housing that is affordable, help with our great economic burdens, community development, and provide education in financial issues.
    I’m encouraged that the public banking movement is pushing on ahead, because I think those are the best banks to develop for our economy.

  3. Phoenixaquua is such a cool website. What a beautiful place to reside. Yes, we are living in the dense Kaliyuga, and Wall Street is trying to drag us to the bottom. We haven’t hit bottom yet. We are trying to awaken from the dream of separation to realize that we are part of the One Life. The real revolution behind the physical one we are witnessing all around us in this extremely dense world is the revolution of consciousness. This is the philosophy I’ve been studying for decades. We have to allow our connection to the Eternal Source to come through in all we do.
    Thank you for the link, and for being the bearer of this great message.

  4. Great article as usual but i can’t help but be astonished about it being published in a new age blog. New age religions are the repackaging of the ancient babylonian mystery religions. It is in essence a worship of RA, Osiris, — or Lucifer, despite its benign mainfold representiations to the uninitiated. It is the religion of the private central banker cabals and they fund it and promote it world wide. The goal of the new age movement is the new world order totalitarianism. Hitler and Stalin were both new agers. .

    Two good sources to learn about the new age movement are Constance Cumbey’s “The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow” , a free dl on her site, ; and Fritz Springmeier’s “Be Wise as Serpents”

  5. The PhoenixAquua website is not to be confused with the trendy so-called “New Age” movement.
    The philosophy and ancient history or RA and Osiris are not “New Age.” The Chaldeans and ancient Egyptians inherited their higher forms of philosophy and religion from a culture that predates them by thousands of years. It has nothing to do with the private central banker cabals, who know nothing of the ancient Wisdom Teachings, and the only God worshipped by the bankers is MONEY. I don’t believe either Hitler, Stalin, or the creatures of the Fourth Reich had an iota of wisdom, religion, or spirituality.
    Please don’t confuse some people’s misconception of the philosophy and wisdom of the so called “New Age” movement and its efforts to understand the reasons why we’re even here, with the nonesense spewed and propagated through YouTube videos that, by their very presentation of the subject, exemplify their extreme ignorance on this subject. Just because its on YouTube doesn’t make it true. You would well to do some real research on ancient philosophies and religions and expect to take at least 20 to fifty years for it begin to make sense. I myself have been studying ancient philosophies and history for over forty years, and I can well tell you the truth is much greater than the stories you’ve read.

    • The authors of the books i cited are well researched (F. Srpingmeier’s works are all initially published in book form). Everything they advance about the new age movement is footnoted and sourced. I’m sorry to burst you bubble but there is nothing new about the new age. Hitler belonged to the “Oder of the new templars” and later the Thule society; both secret societies that held beliefs common to all the new age movements today.

      All the new age movements proceed from the from the fundamental deception portrayed in the garden of eden: that man can become god through secret knowledge (gnosis).

    • “Gods of the new age” is a documentary on the history and current manifestation of the new age phenomena. I know you prefer books, but the documentary contains factual testimony form from former members and scholars, in addition to jounalistic coverage of the movement and its leadership. I invite you to test your vast research against theirs.

  6. Don’t worry about bursting my bubble, because there is no bubble to burst.

    Your sarcasm notwithstanding, I have read not only what scholars have said, but actually original texts. I have formulated my own opinions, not what others have regurgitated on the subject. In addition, I have two masters degrees, one in ancient Greek, so I’m not dazzled by your reference to γνώσις. I know what the true meaning of this word is, and I know where it originates.

    You seem to be confusing the messenger with the message, and knowledge with wisdom. You can refer to as many sources as you like to justify an opinion or an assumption and still be wrong. Quantity does not quality make. Following someone who is blind (such as the person in the websites you have cited) does not give you light or sight.

    The non-belief in a particular skewed world view, such as those who believe in the cliche and elusive ‘New Age Movement’ does not and should not be used to discount the great and vast historical events that have lead up to this point in time of AWAKENING throughout the world, and that some, through ignorance, intolerance, or through just plain collective acceptance, have come to call ‘’The New Age Movement’.

    This awakening IMO, is the impetus behind the OWS movement, the Arab spring, and the demand by the average person (the 99%) that something is not right and that this in-equality needs to be rectified. The awakening is world-wide. It is the spiritual awakening of our consciousness to our shared responsibility for each other, something BTW that Jesus taught. How can anyone, without prejudice, see this as wrong?

    Those who wear their religion like a battle shield and believe they are under attack for non-agreement with their particular way of thinking, are the root cause of much of the suffering we feel today. They are the right-wing, god-fearing, bible-thumping extremists, often lead by rich corporations with their own agendas, lobbyists, and followers, who go around blowing up women’s health-care clinics, all in the name of “God.”

    Al-Quaeda does pretty much the same thing on the other side of the planet. Religious fervor does not equal spirituality no matter how much you believe it does, and the lack of belief of in a particular religion does not equal a lack of spirituality.

    • This “awakening” to which you refer in the new age has nothing whatsoever to do with opposing banker caused wars and the globalist establishment. If you had examined the esoteric writings of people like alice bailey, helena blavatsky and david spangler (just to name but a few) you would have realised that their true goals differ vastly from what they wish the public and uninitiated members to believe. They have stated outright in their writings that the god of the new age is Lucifer (Alice Bailey’s publishing company used to be called Lucifer trust; now it is called Lucis trust, to make it less obvious) and that commutarism and totalitarian one world govt is their plan for the world. Those that don’t go along with this new vibrational tryanny will be eliminated.

      You can make fun of the Christains but they aren’t murdering millions of babies every year or supporting the universal ecomonic disenfranchisement of the 99% throught global warming and Agend 21. Nor do they channel evil spirits and await the arrival of a false messiah called Maitreya. Jesus Christ and the Bible have nothing to do with their real agenda.

    • I know what the true meaning of this word is, and I know where it originates. . Very you also have a degree in physics?

  7. Wow. You assume too much. I have the greatest respect for true Christians. You, and the people you base your world view on, do not appear to me to be real Christians, especially after I did as you suggested, and looked them up. We may agree on some things, but the road you advocate is not the road I care to take or, like you, choose to follow. I will not comment further on this because it is pointless.

  8. […] Cooperative Banking in the Aquarian Age ( […]

  9. […] Koperasi Perbankan di Zaman Aquarian( […]

  10. Super rich private bankers misusing a perverted form of kaballism/occultism for their own egos, and to manipulate people, is certainly possible. It does not, however, indict every form of esoteric philsophy under the sun, as some of the “guilt by association” types like to assert. If anything, popular religions that proclaim merely holding a certain intellectual belief will determine the outcome of your eternal salvation could also be pointed to as a tool of manipulation by the elite.

  11. Is it not a more important question to ask a bout the 99 year contract that is up with the Federal Reserve as of now?

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