March 19, 2010

Action Roundup 3/19

Filed under: Relocalization — Tags: — Russ @ 7:29 am


After a week of nastiness out there, I want to end with some better news.
The number of states, cities, towns, and other entities who are exploring or undertaking action to break the big bank stranglehold slowly grows.
The state of Washington has enacted legislation to make credit unions “eligible public depositories.” In Maryland the governor has sponsored legislation that would give preference to in-state banks for handling state tax dollars (hmm, the executive actively fighting for legislation he claims to support – now that’s a concept likely to blow the minds of Obama cultists). Minnesota has several bills pending which would favor small banks and credit unions for various public deposit accounts and functions. In New Mexico they’re considering legislation to require that state accounts be deposited and managed at in-state banks. The city of Los Angeles is already enacting such a provision. New York City is considering placing a portion of its monies with smaller banks. (When even the mayor of Wall Street itself feels the need to at least claim to value the idea, it means something.) There are many other such moves being made or pondered. So we see how, although the federal government is utterly beyond redemption, a lost cause, democracy just might have a chance in some of the states.
Meanwhile the Move Your Money campaign is expanding, according to the campiagn’s online coordinator Dennis Santiago of Institutional Risk Analytics. He talk about the increase in the number and geographical breadth of zip code searches at the site. He also describes how the scale of the money being moved is expanding:

During the initial wave, we saw a lot of people shifting smaller checking accounts over to local banks or credit unions. Now, our surveys are showing the banks are beginning to see people with substantial amounts beginning to take action. They needed some time to prepare to move more assets, but that’s beginning to happen. There are several banks now reporting that they’re seeing five-figure, six-figure, in some cases seven-figure transfers.

This is very different in character from the earlier “I just want to open a checking account to make a political statement phase.” Now we’re seeing larger, smarter money making moves.

In addition, the movement is morphing even further in that you have state, county and municipal governments now considering whether they can take advantage of something like this. They want to shift their operating and investment accounts from national banks to local ones. This will create an acceleration effect on their local economy by causing their money to circulate locally.

That’s actually a very powerful and classic economic amplifier if a dollar shifts around inside a local neighborhood before it drifts off to the global economy. That’s just very good for local economies.

This is great to hear, since 70% of Americans, and 90% of savings, are still deposited at a big bank. That’s “doing business with the enemy”, according to the article that asks, “You’re Still Keeping Your Money in a Big Bank? What’s Wrong with You?” Those numbers, and the difference in those numbers, show how most depositors, and especially a higher proportion of depositors with larger accounts, are still working with the occupying foreign invader. People need to see how that’s really what’s going on here. The gangsters are demanding protection money, and some of that is extorted by the government goon, but some of it, the money you repose with these big banks, is the part of the extortion you voluntarily pay.
It’s been abundantly proven that the big banks are not less expensive or more efficient or creators of better value (or of any value whatsoever) than small banks. Here’s yet another, small but telling, piece of evidence to add to the pile.
According to a study performed by Time2Talk, at banks with less than 150 branches the average time it took to reach a consumer service representative (averaged over calls made at different times of the day) was 1 minute 37 seconds; at banks with 350 or more branches, the time as 2 minutes 13 seconds. At the big banks they reached a CSR within two minutes 56% of the time; for smaller banks the figure was 76%. At 29% of credit unions and community banks they got through in less than 30 seconds. This never happened at a big bank. The Time2Talk website has a tool for comparing data on banks in your area.
More localities are fighting back vs. big bank bad citizenship. In this sighting, Broward County, Florida, is excluding Bank of America as manager of their next bond sale, to punish it for its poor record on mortgage mods in the county.
(Now, the county’s own premises – that we need to reflate the bubble and keep the debt machine going – are part of the same disease. But they’re at least recognizing that even according to the debt economy premise, the big banks are malign.)
Finally, we’re in the midst of the AFL-CIO’s “Good Jobs Now, Make Wall Street Pay” protest events, running from March 15 to the 31st. The union’s demands: that Wall Street’s big banks must “pay their fair share”, stop fighting regulation, and resume lending to Main Street. (That link lets you find a rally nearest your location.)
These demands are of course political ideals, not concrete demands. We know that regulation is a lost cause, that the Bailout’s “Main Street” propaganda was just a Big Lie, and that Wall Street would sooner die, and will indeed force us to eradicate it, before it would ever pay its fair share.
But that’s not how I look at protests these days. I’m just glad to see people motivated to get out on the street. It’s the spirit we need to fire up. People know Wall Street itself is impervious to bottom up pressure short of all-destroying force. The point is to look around and see one another, hear one another’s voice, comprehend one another’s outrage and will to take real action toward real change.
So each of these things looks small by itself, and if you add them all up it’s still small, compared to the monstrous power of the corporate system. But this vast edifice is really a necropolis. The Great Pyramids were mausoleums. The surging golem is really the soon to be eroded statue of Ozymandias.
Meanwhile the real green shoots, the kind of shoots I described here, are gathering strength, intensifying life. They are ascending. All the best people see and believe in what we need to do. We know the enemy is doomed. His tottering Tower must fall once and for all. But as Nietzsche wrote, what’s hardest is to maintain the courage of what we know. Most of the time it all looks so dark.
But however dark the night, we know the sun will rise again.

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