Welcome to the PBI Newsletter, October Edition
Dear Friends of PBI,
About six months ago, PBI formed a strategy working group to discuss the launch of a national campaign. We debated all sorts of messages and themes, as well as various media strategies.
Now we know why: the Occupy Wall Street movement.
We could not have dreamed up a better platform for the nation and the world to discuss the dysfunction of the current system.
Since the advent of the movement, PBI and those in our affiliated groups have been very active visiting Occupy sites and engaging in discussions, as well as contributing to online forums on the issues raised in the U.S. and around the world.
What we’re finding is that our robust discussions and debates over the past couple of years have honed our approach and given us a variety of tools that other folks in the movement find very compelling. We’re looking forward to continuing this engagement.
In this issue, in addition to compelling articles from a couple of PBI board members—executive director, Marc Armstrong, on the vision of a public banking network, and Mike Krauss, on the awakening stimulated by the Occupy movement—we have the great good fortune to offer you the insights of John Fullerton, the Founder and President of the Capital Institute. As a former banker, we hope that John’s analysis of Occupy Wall Street strikes a chord with the so-called 1% and further expands the dialogue across socio-economic segments.
Another synchronous realization that we had following the unexpected success of the Occupy Wall Street movement is why our most recent video was so long in the making: because it serves as a perfect primer as to why the focus is on Wall Street. Take another look and see why we have picked up about 5,000 hits so far, and keep spreading it around.
PBI Newsletter Editor
Public Banking Institute
It's Time for Banks to Get Out of the Governing Business
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
“…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
), 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.
Featured Article: Listening to Occupy Wall Street
Founder and President
I'm a former banker, a one percenter, and I'm mad as hell too.
Let's be clear. The Occupy movement is not a product of frustration, as President Obama, Treasury Secretary Geithner, and now Eric Cantor have suggested. Frustration is passive; anger is active. Martin Luther King was not frustrated. But beyond my anger is a real concern for democracy, for America, for the people of the world, for the planet upon which we all depend, and for my children's future. It's why I do what I do. It's the inspiration for Capital Institute.
This concern led me to Liberty Park Plaza last week to listen, show my support and empathy for the peaceful demonstrators, and learn about the occupation first-hand. I wanted to see if I could build a relationship with some of the organizers -- which I did -- and find out if the prominent media narrative of disorganization and unclear goals was accurate.
I learned that OWS is first and foremost about restoring democracy in America, and that I was right to be concerned about the media's portrayal.
Since the beginning of the protests, leading politicians and members of the media have been asking the question "What does OWS want?" This is the wrong question. Policy priorities are for interest groups, working their battle plans within the system. Proposals are what the media and politicians of the left and right want so they can put the complex issues that led to the occupation into pre-existing boxes before they are fully understood.
OWS as I understand it today, is building a movement of everyday people who are fed up with Wall Street's corrupting influence on our democracy. Wall Street does not mean capitalism, although capitalism's critics are on hand at OWS. It means the socialized losses and the unchecked power, greed, speculative excess, violence, and theft from fellow citizens that has gone unchecked by our bought and paid for government -- Democrats and Republicans alike. But it also means the dominant influence of Wall Street culture on short-term corporate behavior and misbehavior, from Enron's derivatives-enabled fraud to the Koch Brothers' and Exxon's funding of climate change denial, to the health insurance industry's power over lives and affordable health care, to McDonald's and Coke's impact on childhood obesity, all to further short-term corporate and financial interests no matter the cost to "we the people."
This is different from "We are the 99 Percent," a divisive, although clever phrase that has not been formally adopted by the OWS General Assembly. Wall Street's culture is the target because money has corrupted the Republic. Through this power lens, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the rest are mere tools in the system, not worthy of protesting against. Instead, the right question we should be asking is, "what is emerging at OWS?"
It is useful and eye opening to go back to see how OWS began, and to view the original Adbusters blog post dated July 13, 2011. Like the world we live in, the OWS movement is complex and filled with uncertainty.
But the answer is simple: the Occupy movement is a mass experiment in participatory and deliberative democracy. It says "fix government," not "eliminate government."
I engaged with one of the many experienced organizers at OWS during my trip. He was unusually calm, articulate, experienced (a Seattle WTO alum) and well informed -- he had read much of the leading alternative economics literature. He explained that the General Assembly that meets every evening to deliberate the course of the movement had determined explicitly not to develop a set of demands at this time. Instead, he shared, OWS is focused on setting up a governance system for the movement, expecting to be around for the long haul. As of today, any list of demands that you may hear, therefore, are unsanctioned by the governing General Assembly of OWS.
The emergence of the practice of participatory democracy as the movement's only initial priority says everything. OWS is about taking back democracy. Don't be fooled by their clothing, drums, or hand signals. There is something serious afoot here that is organic, influenced by experienced social movement organizers, and yet uncontrolled. Whether it can last is unknowable and not yet determined. It will depend upon how we all react -- politicians, business leaders, police, and most importantly, we the citizenry. Their strategy is to build the power of the movement before seeking to use that power. A million demonstrators speak louder than ten thousand, just like a trillion dollar balance sheet speaks louder than a hundred billion dollar one. Right out of Goldman Sachs' playbook I'd say.
So far, OWS has established working groups, in areas like media, de-escalation (there is an explicit commitment to non-violence -- let us hope there is a discipline to match), the kitchen, first aid, security (they have adopted strict no alcohol and drug use rules), sanitation, and more. The day I was there, they were organizing to create a phone book for the community. There is a library and groups working to promote new economic thinking. OWS's next and overdue priority is how to be better neighbors to their immediate downtown community.
William Blake cautioned that abstraction without the particular becomes demonic. As a society, we became intoxicated with the pursuit of money, and then in our stupor, allowed forces emanating from Wall Street to layer abstraction upon abstraction in the name of innovation. This morphed into nothing but leveraged speculation at best, and into manipulation, conflicts of interest, cynicism, cheating, and fraud. I know because I was there at the creation in the 1980s. Back then, these tools were innovative, purposeful and productive. But they have since metastasized into a cancer. Free market fundamentalism blinded us to a timely diagnosis, and continues to do so today.
It is time for finance to resume its proper and humble place as servant to, not master of, the real economy -- an economy that promotes a more equitably shared prosperity while respecting the physical limits of our finite planet. Such transformation is the Great Work of our age; work that drives the Capital Institute and many other organizations fostering the emergence of a new economy. The restoration of our democracy OWS seeks is an essential step, which may be at hand. It's still a long shot, but we shall see. One thing is for certain: OWS has started a national conversation long overdue.
John Fullerton is the Founder and President of the Capital Institute, whose mission is to explore and effect economic transition to a more just, resilient, and sustainable way of living on this earth through the transformation of finance.
More about the Public Banking Institute
The Public Banking Institute (PBI) was formed in January 2011 as an educational non-profit organization. Its mission is to further the understanding, explore the possibilities, and facilitate the implementation of public banking at all levels -- local, regional, state, and national.
PBI’s vision is to establish a distributed network of state and local publicly-owned banks that create affordable credit, while providing a sustainable alternative to the current high-risk centralized private banking system. This network will act in the public interest, using its counter-cyclical credit-generating capacity to stabilize potential credit crises, maintain the floor against threats of asset devaluations, build infrastructure, and fund expansion of critical industrial productive capacity. Most important, public banking will create jobs, by partnering with local banks to fund local business, advancing credit for public infrastructure, and augmenting government revenues.
PBI’s mission includes analyzing U.S. and global financial events to facilitate public banking, sharing best practices and lessons learned from research and initiatives in the U.S. and globally, using PBI’s online resources, website, webinars, blog, and in-person conferences. PBI’s activities include:
•Publication of research involving the U.S. private banking system, past and current;
•Evaluation of existing and historical public banking models, in the U.S. and abroad;
•Publication of research regarding the legal requirements, structure, and daily operations of existing and proposed public banking and financing systems;
•Publication of a semi-annual legislative guide and presentations to aide local public banking initiatives; and
•Organization of public forums that enable state and local public banking efforts.
For more information on how BND operates, and how it partners with community banks instead of competing with them:
• “Public Banking in America” Legislative Guide, Spring 2011, pp. 17-23. Ed Sather and bankers from several states explore the North Dakota model.
NOTE: Public Banking in America, Legislative Guide, Fall 2011 will be available November 10, 2011
• Bank of North Dakota, banknd.nd.gov.
• Public Banking Institute, publicbankinginstitute.org
In this Issue
• It's Time for Banks to Get Out of the Governing Business
• Featured Article: Listening to Occupy Wall Street
• Public Banking in the News (sidebar)
• CANARD ALERT (sidebar)
• The Awakening: It's the Greed, Stupid. (sidebar)
A swami, a rabbi and a hedge fund manager were traveling through the Midwest. They needed to stop for the night, and knocked on the door at a farmhouse. The farmer told them he only had two beds and one of them would have to sleep in the barn. Being a humble man, the swami volunteered immediately. But five minutes later, there came a knock on the door. It was the swami. “True, cows are sacred to us,” the swami explained. “But it is not right for me to sleep near one.” “I have no problem with cows,” said the rabbi, and off he went to the barn. Five minutes later, there was another knock on the door. It was the rabbi. “You didn’t tell me you had a pig. Pigs aren’t kosher, and sleeping near one wouldn’t feel right.” At this point, the hedge fund manager stepped up. “Look,” he said. “We need to get some rest. I have no issues with any animals.” And off he went. Five minutes later, there was a knock on the door. It was the cow and the pig.
— Woody Tasch/Slow Money
(via Swami Beyondananda)
Public Banking in the News
San Francisco Business Times, “San Francisco Ponders Creating City-owned Bank,” Mark Calvey, October 25, 2011
Beyond Chron, “Avalos, City Officials, Community Voices Discuss Municipal Banking Alternatives,” Jonathan Nathan, October 25, 2011
Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, “Divest from Big Banks Now,” Hank Pellissier, October 21, 2011
Asia Times Online, “Germany’s Pillars of Growth,” Ellen Brown, October 20, 2011
Just Means, “A Real People’s Bank: Occupy Wall Street’s Call For a Public Banking Option,” Rynard Loki, October 17, 2011
From the Archives:
Rolling Stone, "The Real Housewives of Wall Street,"
Matt Taibbi, April 12, 2011
The Occupy movement is unfocused. It needs demands and leaders.
ca·nard. noun. A deliberately misleading fabrication.
The Tea Party began with righteously angry people and got hijacked into a Republican Party adjunct that gets people to vote against their own best interests.
To avoid this, the Occupy movement has cleverly avoided making demands and recognizing leaders. Instead, they are witnessing the dysfunction of the system have created the democratic conditions for ongoing dialogue, in recognition of the fact that a lot more education is needed before a consensus on solutions can be achieved.
The Awakening: It's the Greed, Stupid.
PBI Board Member
The prosperity of the American middle class has been steadily eroded for four decades.
While expensive consumer credit masked the reality of the decline, the wealth of America was concentrated in the hands of the few by the presidents and Congresses of both major political parties. An immense gap opened between the very rich few and everybody else.
Inevitably, that immense concentration of wealth, primarily in the hands of banks and finance companies, began to rig election and campaign finance laws, to narrow the field and weed out opposition to their unspoken agenda, which can be described in one word. More.
A poster at the Occupy Seattle gathering got it perfectly: “It’s the greed, stupid.”
Confident of their ownership of the government, that no excess would be too much, no gamble too great (with other people’s homes and savings), no reward too big, they crashed the American economy.
The proximate cause was mortgage fraud. But as one observer has remarked, it was all fraud, all the time. Fraud as a business model.
And they skated away, scott free. Until now.
Now, in cities all across America, there is the beginning of a great awakening. Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Philadelphia, Occupy Washington, Seattle, Des Moins, San Francisco. The list grows daily.
And it’s serious. You can tell by the reaction.
In New York, the police have been hostile from the beginning: pepper spray, pushing and shoving, restricting the “Occupiers” movements, lots of arrests. It was to be expected.
The cops report to the mayor, a billionaire who made his money — and still does — providing services to Wall Street and the financial industry. He has a Wall Street business partner. He’s one of the 1 percent.
In Washington, others who represent the richest 1 percent who effectively govern the United States rallied to Wall Street.
Some cracker congressman from Georgia called the protest “An attack on freedom.” And the No. 2 Republican in Congress called the protesters a “mob.” Which suggests how they would deal with it, if they could: water cannons, dogs, tear gas and riot police, to meet the dire threat of people holding up signs, talking to the media, hosting discussion groups and walking on the Brooklyn Bridge.
And in a sure sign of panic, Wall Street’s defenders are trying to discredit the Occupiers by trying to link them to George Skoros, himself a billionaire financier who is reported to support evil liberal causes.
It’s like those mailers I used to get when he was still alive: “Ted Kennedy hopes you never read this.”
One of the media talking heads said the Occupiers were “aligned with Lenin.”
The claim is ludicrous. First, the only “Lenin” these people have ever heard of was a Beatle. Second, as objective reports have described, the Occupiers are less focused and organized than a cub scout jamboree. Not exactly what you would expect from people with billions behind them.
But, what if they do get organized?
According to reports in the local newspapers, the Occupiers are an overwhelmingly middle class crowd — twentysomething college kids with mountains of student loan debt and no jobs, sixtysomething grandmothers with grandkids, worried that those kids will never know prosperity or democracy, truck drivers and college professors, laid off accountants and billing clerks, lawyers, housewives, car dealers and auto workers.
And they cut across party lines the same way they cut across the divides of age and race.
In fact, they seem to have little use for either party. Mr Obama seems to have as few friends among the Occupiers as Mr. Romney. You can see why. What a choice.
A rich white guy, Romney, busy tearing down his $12 million California vacation home, to build something “nicer” while millions lose their homes; or Mr. Obama, the multicultural poster boy who takes his campaign cash and policy directives from rich white guys.
But if the Occupiers continue to grow and keep their distance from the two parties, something new and powerful may emerge.
The Republican Party long ago disappeared into the black hole of established wealth and privilege. Mr. Clinton steered the Democrats into that same cosmic abyss when he married the party to Wall Street.
But nature abhors a vacuum, and something is going to emerge to fill the void created when the two parties died.
The Tea Party almost got there. They, too, came on the scene in righteous anger over the bail out — Wall Street. But they got turned by the money of the plutocrats into a tool to beat the GOP over the head, so that they could beat Obama over the head, while the money found the right Republican to run for president; so that whoever wins in 2012, nothing will change to threaten their wealth and power.
Now come the Occupiers. And it just may be that the American middle class is waking up and finding its voice.
If so, it may be an awful day of reckoning.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.
Mike Krauss is chairman of The Pennsylvania Project, a former officer of Bucks County and Pennsylvania government and an international logistics executive. Reach him at www.papublicbankproject.org
PBI and Move Your Money - Return to Prosperity
For people who are starting from scratch and wish to learn enough about public banking to make a difference in their communities, www.returntoprosperity.org
provides both a handbook and a presentation that can be used to help spread the word.
The PBI Newsletter
is Sponsored by:
Support PBI every month by Making a Recurring Donation
The mission of the Public Banking Institute (PBI) is to leverage the historic role of publicly-owned banks nationally and internationally in fostering access to affordable and readily available credit, particularly as used for increasing productive capacity.
For more information, go to:
or contact us at:
PBI may also be reached at:
Public Banking Institute
PO Box 2195
Sonoma, California 95476
March, 2011 Newsletter
April, 2011 Newsletter
May "Read the Bills (1 of 2)"
May "Read the Bills (2 of 2)"
May "The Fed Speaks" Special Edition Newsletter
June, 2011 Newsletter
July, 2011 Newsletter
August, 2011 Newsletter
September, 2011, Newsletter