What can we bank on?

Not long ago, banks and banking were yawn-inducing synonyms for grey flannel boring. Then came the orgy of reckless greed that precipitated the global financial meltdown. Now banking is back in the news in surprising ways:

  • * Demonstrations prompt Seattle to move $12 million from Wells Fargo, one bank funding the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • * An innovative Port Angeles restaurant shuts down, its owner facing possible bankruptcy with “a $125,000 Intuit loan with a 32 percent interest rate,” a local paper reported.

 Wow! Is that even legal?

Usury laws – those regulating interest rates — are still on the books, but how they’re applied is, well, complicated. Rates are set state by state, but have zero effect on most banks and credit card companies.

Because . . .(drum roll, please) what lenders can charge depends on the kind of financial institution — and where it is based. Big surprise, most are headquartered in states with zero interest rate caps.

Is pillage and plunder the new norm?

The current administration seems determined to wrest whatever control it can from working people. Last week Congress repealed an Obama-era rule change that allowed cities to provide workers with Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Seattle City Council member Tim Brugess, who’d been working for the city’s setting up an IRA plan, was disappointed. “. . . this was a very pro-business pro-worker, pro-econoic-growth rule that would have benefitted up to 200,000 workers in Seattle,” he said.

Now those workers and others across the country must fend for themselves or deal with financial planers no longer bound to look out for their clients’ best interests. You remember that rule change, right?

 Keep your money safe from the banksters

Where you put your money matters — because it’s always working, whether you know it or not. Why not put your dollars to work for you?

No need to unravel Byzantine banking laws to keep your money out of big corporate banks, however. Simply switch to a Credit Union.

Credit Unions are nonprofit institutions that serve a specific group. No stockholders to please, no corporate goals to meet.

Credit Unions do littlie advertising, so people may not know that they offer their members all essential banking services: free checking and savings accounts, as well as credit and debit cards, and even mobile banking — at money-saving rates. Their rates for car loans and mortgages usually meet or beat bank rates, and they keep your money working in your community, too.

The next step: A state bank can offer big dividends

While we many never know how much individuals lost to financial irresponsibility of the 2008 crash, creating a state bank would put all our money to work to benefit state residents instead of Wall Street.

The model: the Bank of North Dakota (BND).

North Dakota deposit all its funds in the state bank, assuring accountability and transparency. The state guarantees all deposits, provides loans directly to students and delivers guaranteed financial services that support the state’s economy – which includes nearly six times as many community banks and credit unions per capita as the rest of the country.

BND has generated almost $1 billion in profit in the last 21 years, bolstering a healthy state economy by partnering with small local banks to create credit for small businesses, cash-strapped farmers and schools, while earning reasonable interest. BND Profits go into the state budget.

North Dakota has a state budget surplus and one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates.

Consider the possibilities

A state bank could go a long way toward solving the financial woes of Washington’s school systems, colleges and universities. It could strengthen community banks and small businesses – and support the state’s fledgling marijuana businesses now excluded from traditional banking.

Bills establishing a Washington Investment Trust introduced in the House and the Senate now languish after a February committee hearing. “These things take time,” State Rep. Mike Chapman said.

Maybe legislators are taking their time because they don’t realize all the advantages of baking alternatives? Or do they want to support Wall Street instead of our Main Streets?

Now seems like a great time to strengthen our economy and fund the best possible education for every youngster, every resident, every voter. While it’s still possible.





Just for fun:


Why Sarah Silverman Took Her Money Out of Her Bank And Put It In A Credit Union #BankExit


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A freelance writer who lives near Olympic National Park in a house overlooking the Salish Sea, I'm nourished by Mother Nature and enjoy exploring the places where science, spirit, and story come together. Part science geek, part spiritual feminist, part Earth-loving tree-hugger, I continue learning the many ways that how we think and what we believe helps shape our world. Quantum physics shows us that our personal energy is too often overlooked as force for positive change; indigenous wisdom leads us to connect with all beings in a good way. I've told the research stories of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado, Boulder, and contributed regular columns for newspapers in Boulder, Colo., Sequim and Port Angeles Washington.

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