Read

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

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Nicaraguan indigenous struggles, Miskitu people, Mayagna people, Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, North Caribbean Autonomous Region, colonos, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

Settlers are attacking indigenous communities with automatic firearms, killing, plundering and forcing residents to flee their ancestral lands, while foreign companies have entered the territory illegally and are burning the region at a rapid rate.

rising inequality, wealth inequality, wealth gap, rising incomes, growing unemployment, Great Recession, housing crisis

Recent research published about the Great Recession adds to the already clear evidence that rising inequality translates into nearly all of today's winnings going to the wealthy.

Jeremy Corbyn, MPs

The anti-Corbyn forces within Labour might very well have achieved the complete opposite of what they aimed to achieve.

shady financial practices, financial crimes, Dodd-Frank Act, Roosevelt Institute, too big to fail, Glass-Steagall Act, Gerald Epstein, Juan Antonio Montecino

The average U.S. household loses over $100,000 to destructive activities of bankers and financiers.

Bernie Sanders supporters traveled to Philadelphia from every corner of the country this week to show their enduring support for his candidacy.

Democratic National Convention, DNC, DNC protests, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Bernie supporters, Food & Water Watch, March for a Clean Energy Future

More than 10,000 people calling for a “clean energy revolution” filled the streets here Sunday.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
All Lives Matter protesters come together for a group hug with join Black Lives Matter activists in Dallas at Park Ln & Fair Oaks Ave. July 10th.

In recent weeks, the Southern Poverty Law Center has received a number of requests to name Black Lives Matter a hate group. In our view, these critics fundamentally misunderstand the nature of hate groups and the BLM movement.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago

Bernie Sanders supporters traveled to Philadelphia from every corner of the country this week to show their enduring support for his candidacy.

Posted 2 days 3 hours ago
Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Bernie protesters, progressives, Equality Coalition for Bernie Sanders, Migrants Rights March, Juntos, immigrant rights, Democracy Spring

We’re supposed to have a government of and by the people, but the government we have is only interested in protecting the rights of big corporations and billionaires.

Posted 2 days 18 hours ago

This week, as the DNC rages on, we're talking state surveillance – digging deep into the past and present with surveillance expert, Chip Gibbons from Defending Dissent

Posted 2 days 3 hours ago
shady financial practices, financial crimes, Dodd-Frank Act, Roosevelt Institute, too big to fail, Glass-Steagall Act, Gerald Epstein, Juan Antonio Montecino

The average U.S. household loses over $100,000 to destructive activities of bankers and financiers.

super rich, growing inequality, wealth inequality, joblessness, societal decay, pandemics, global terrorism

Perhaps they feel immune from the killings in the streets, for they rarely venture into the streets anymore. They don’t care about the great masses of ordinary people, nor do they think they need us.

More than $50 billion in foreign aid is pumped into Africa annually – but did you know that roughly the same amount is illicitly siphoned out of the continent?

Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Bernie protesters, progressives, Equality Coalition for Bernie Sanders, Migrants Rights March, Juntos, immigrant rights, Democracy Spring

We’re supposed to have a government of and by the people, but the government we have is only interested in protecting the rights of big corporations and billionaires.

Democratic National Convention, DNC, DNC protests, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Bernie supporters, Food & Water Watch, March for a Clean Energy Future

More than 10,000 people calling for a “clean energy revolution” filled the streets here Sunday.