“The banks got bailed out; we got sold out,” marchers chanted as Occupy Wall Street-inspired protests swept across the country and the world. At Wells Fargo, profits increased 24 percent this last quarter, Halliburton’s by 26 percent and Citigroup by a staggering 74 percent … galling figures compared with how the rest of us fared in the past three months. Our largest banks, including Bank of America, plan to start charging customers as much as $5 a month for using — or even having — a debit card, a “convenience” that benefited banks by shrinking the expense of handling paper checks. Big banks now sit on piles of cash, promising to help the economy, yet their lending hasn’t increased in years. According to Harper’s Index, of the $46 billion allocated by TARP to help homeowners refinance — remember the Troubled Assets Relief Program? — a mere 4.3 percent has been used for that purpose.
Glaring inconsistencies fuel Occupy protests: The rough handling of peaceful protesters compared with how gun-toting militants at public meetings were treated. More than 1,000 people have been jailed for protesting, as felonious financiers dodge prosecution for fraud, illegal foreclosures and theft by arcane machinations. But delving into international bank chicanery and the labyrinthine complexity of Wall Street machinations promises major migraines.
Where you put your money matters. It’s always working, whether you know it or not, so why not put your money where your heart is, supporting people in your own community?
A state bank would take that idea a big step further. Rep. Bob Hasegawa, (D-Seattle), and Sen. Margarita Prentice (D-Renton), introduced legislation to establish a Washington state bank. It languished in committee.
Their model: the State Bank of North Dakota. Since 1919, it has contributed billions to the health of its economy. North Dakota has the country’s lowest unemployment rate as well as a state budget surplus.
North Dakota deposits all its funds in the state bank, assuring accountability and transparency. It delivers guaranteed financial services that promote the state’s agriculture, commerce and industry. It partners with private banks to create credit for cash-strapped farmers, schools and small businesses, earning interest at reasonable rates.
A state bank can protect us from the self-serving actions of the unelected members of the Federal Reserve. How much has their exploitation cost us? Nobody knows yet, but stay tuned for more startling revelations.
Let’s bank on us, not free-wheeling gazillionaires, to look after our community’s assets and interests.
Diana Somerville writes about creating more sustainable communities and our personal connection with the environment. A Clallam County resident, she’s a member of the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Reach her at www.DianaSomerville.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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