Occupy Banking: Yes, Please

Search form

Occupy Banking: Yes, Please

Occupy Banking: Yes, Please
Fri, 10/4/2013 - by Hamilton Nolan
This article originally appeared on Gawker

A spinoff group from the Occupy movement is seeking to launch its own prepaid debit card, as a prelude to offering a more complete set of financial services. Ridiculous? Not at all. In fact, taking over some of Wall Street's business could be the most useful thing Occupy Wall Street could do.

I mean, short of successfully starting a revolution and instituting full socialism, of course. But if we accept that the cadres of Zuccotti Park are unlikely to make that happen any time soon, it makes perfect sense for the movement to try to do something practical to curb the excesses of Wall Street. Will they build their own investment bank, to compete with Goldman Sachs? No. What they can do is to build an institution that can offer the most basic financial services that most people need, to all people, for the lowest possible price. And that, it seems, is exactly what the plan is.

According to the New York Times, the prepaid debit card is but the first offering from the Occupy Money Cooperative, a spinoff group that wants to build at least a rudimentary set of alternative financial products, for the public. (There are squabbles over the use of the "Occupy" name, which are not relevant to the larger point here.)

How is this different from the banks that Occupy was protesting? Well, EVIL BANKS are for-profit enterprises that seek to maximize their own profits by squeezing consumers for everything they're worth. For most people, that translates to high fees for every little service, which is, essentially, extortion by banks. It is middlemen taking as big a cut as possible of the money that flows through their coffers, with no associated benefit for the public. It is $32 billion in overdraft fees in 2012 alone.

What Occupy wants to do, by contrast, is to create a not-for-profit financial institution that could fulfill common needs—debit cards, checking and savings accounts, loans—with no profit imperative, meaning that it could be totally focused on charging the lowest possible fees. It would essentially be a credit union that was open to the public. (Were this ever to come to pass on a large scale, the commercial banking lobby would certainly have something to say about credit unions without restrictive membership guidelines. Cross that bridge later.)

There is nothing inherently evil about wanting to put your money in a bank so that you can have a debit card and write checks sometimes. It only becomes evil when the banks seek to exploit their customers with outrageous fees, and to use their massive financial resources forirresponsible or socially detrimental activities. It's up to lawmakers and regulators to prevent the second part of that. But the first part—the simple soaking of customers—is something that a grass roots, non-profit financial institution open to everyone could go a long way towards remedying.

It's still more of an idea right now than a reality. But it's hardly impossible to realize. And it would save poor people money, and provide a service, and be a thumb in the eye to big banks all at the same time. So if this Occupy banking thing really gets going, please do not have a knee-jerk "BANK THING BAD" reaction. Until the glorious revolution of the proletariat etc. etc. is ready to happen, cooperative banking is a fine idea that deserves support.

Originally published by: Gawker

Article Tabs

Borrowers with federal student loans appear to be buckling under the weight of their debt, as more than half of Direct Loans – the most common type of federal student loan – aren't being repaid on time or as expected.

To understand Ferguson one must understand Kinloch – a once vibrant middle-class community in north St. Louis County and the first incorporated black community in the state – which today lies vacant and decayed.

We are in a global battle of the people versus the plutocrats and this battle has a ticking timer called the climate crisis.

As state-of-the-art buildings belonging to some of the world's biggest, richest tech firms contrast with the child poverty and unemployment outside, it may not be long before London's less privileged residents take action.

How four decades of lobbying and legislation gave corporations dominion over our economy—and eroded the American middle class.

With a shift in media underway, there's an opportunity for alternative online news sources to turn youth apathy into engagement and cynicism into a demand for social and political change.

Posted 5 days 2 hours ago

New but little-known Pentagon directives authorize the use of armed drones against American citizens in the homeland in the context of domestic emergencies.

Posted 5 days 19 hours ago

Thousands of climate activists from across Europe are expected to join local protesters on the German-Polish border for a mass demonstration against a huge coal mining project.

Posted 5 days 2 hours ago

Five months after the police killing of 28-year-old Alejandro Nieto, protesters are returning to the streets Friday to demand justice – from San Francisco to Ferguson, Missouri.

Posted 5 days 19 hours ago

A lot has changed since we last published this report during the Occupy movement in 2011. With major protests in the news again, we decided it's time to update our cell phone guide for protestors.

Posted 5 days 2 hours ago

As the floor falls out from under American workers, big majorities of voters in both parties want the minimum wage raised, making this a core, mainstream issue looking ahead to the 2014 midterm elections.

Techtivist Report: Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't Mean They Aren't After You

If you are actively involved in the Occupy Movement, there is a good chance that you're under surveillance.

Democrats Retreat on Civil Liberties in 2012 Platform

The 2012 Democratic platform abandons or omits much of the '08 version's focus on civil liberties in the war on terror.

It's Time to Ban the Pimps of Wall Street: Credit Ratings Agencies

There is no question that without the criminally incompetent credit rating agencies the Wall Street guys would not have been able to pull off the colossal heist against the American people. Now, we should go further and simply make them illegal.

Idle No More: From Grassroots to Global Movement

For First Nations people, Bill C-45 introduced last fall by the Harper government represents the culmination of hundreds of years of colonial attacks on indigenous sovereignty -- a sovereignty that is fundamentally tied to the use of treaty lands.

Sign Up