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It's Time for Banks to Get Out of the Governing Business

It's Time for Banks to Get Out of the Governing Business

Marc Armstrong
Executive Director
Public Banking Institute

Think of a public bank as your local library – you are able to “borrow” public credit in the form of money, which you then return according to the specified term. Or, consider a public bank as open space – the public resource enhances the value of the entire city. You can also image a public bank as an open marketplace – the standards set are democratic and transparent and lead to fair and just economic transactions.

The Public Banking Institute’s vision is for affordable public credit to be available throughout every state, county and municipality in the USA, by establishing a network of publicly-owned banks. Nearly a year ago, Ellen Brown, author of Web of Debt, and 15 other public banking advocates established the Public Banking Institute because, even though we had no funding to start, we felt the urgency to create a voice speaking to this very important matter. Eleven states have responded (and more are on the way) with bills that further the idea of a state-owned bank. Now, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and Toronto are considering the first municipally-owned banks (that we know of) in North America.

The PBI Board of Directors meets weekly to discuss policy, plan activities, and resolve issues. Many of us are completely engaged in this work and have volunteered a considerable amount of our time, an off-budget item that is valued at more than 15 times PBI’s cash donations. Three individuals have supported PBI by writing checks of $1,000 or more, with all cash donations totaling around $9,500 this past year. Our effectiveness has been quite high because, as advocates for a network of public banks, our message is both precise and a complete game-changer.

There is so much more that we have been requested to do, but have had to decline because of the limited funding we have. Our goal is to end 2011 with new donations of at least $50,000 which will be used to further our relationship with the Occupy Wall Street movement and to continue the successful work we’ve done providing testimony in state and municipal public hearings. Brochures need to be printed, teach-ins need to be held, PBI strategy needs to address the direction of key Occupations. And much of this needs to be done in-person, since Occupations are all about people stepping away from their keyboards and showing up.

PBI Board members are willing to move or visit for extended periods to participate fully at OWS, Occupy Philly, Occupy D.C., and other key sites, as well as collaborative online projects. But this cannot be done without some money to pay for travel, publicity, and hard work.

Why are we increasing our focus on the Occupations? In 1896, William Jennings Bryan said in his famous Cross of Gold speech,

“…Those who are opposed to this proposition tell us that the issue of paper money is a function of the bank and that the government ought to go out of the banking business. I stand with Jefferson rather than with them, and tell them, as he did, that the issue of money is a function of the government and that the banks should go out of the governing business.”

The American economy has had the private bankers’ boot on its neck for far too long. People in the Occupy Wall Street movement are legitimately angry at the scale of economic justice that is continuously manipulated to favor the 1%. We believe that it’s time for bankers to get out of the governing business and for public banking to be recognized as a necessary element of restoring a democratic – and just – economy.

You can help. Please send a check to:
Public Banking Institute
PO Box 2195
Sonoma, CA 95476

Or, you can go to our website at www.publicbankinginstitute.org and donate online with either a one-time or a recurring donation.

Thank you for your support and we look forward to continued success.

The Public Banking Institute is a project of Inquiring Systems Inc., Employer Identification Number (EIN), 942524840. Address, PO BOX 2037, Sonoma, CA 95476-2037, an educational nonprofit establish in August, 1979. Contributions are deductible.

Marc Armstrong is the Executive Director for the Public Banking Institute and will be giving a Teach-In on Public Banking at Occupy San Francisco on Sunday at 3pm. Click here for the case I've learned to make for public banking, while part of a working group or Teach-In.