The Growing Movement for Publicly-owned Banks

Ellen Brown

The Web of Debt

March 19, 2010

jihad jamie
Money today is just a ticket, a receipt for work performed and goods delivered. We can fund the work we need done by creating our own credit.

As the states’ credit crisis deepens, four states have initiated bills for state-owned banks, and candidates in seven states have now included that solution in their platforms.

“Hundreds of job-creating projects are still on hold because Michigan businesses and entrepreneurs cannot get bank financing. We can break the credit crunch and beat Wall Street at their own game by keeping our money right here in Michigan and investing it to retool our economy and create jobs.”

–Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero in the Detroit News, May 9, 2010

Struggling with 14% unemployment, Michigan has been particularly hard hit by the nation’s economic downturn. Virg Bernero, mayor of the state’s capitol and a leading Democratic candidate for governor, proposes that the state relieve its economic ills by opening a state-owned bank. He says the bank could protect consumers by making low-interest loans to those most in need, including students and small businesses; and could help community banks by buying mortgages off their books and working with them to fund development projects.

Bernero joins a growing list of candidates proposing this sensible solution to their states’ fiscal ills. Local economies have collapsed because of the Wall Street credit freeze. To reinvigorate local business, Main Street needs a heavy infusion of credit; and publicly-owned banks could fill that need.

A February posting tracked candidates in five states running on a state-bank platform and one state with a bill pending (Massachusetts). There are now three more bills on the rolls – in Washington State, Illinois and Michigan – and two more candidates on the list of proponents (joining Bernero is Gaelan Brown of Vermont). That brings the total to seven candidates in as many states (Florida, Oregon, Illinois, California, Washington State, Vermont, and Idaho), including three Democrats, two Greens, one Republican and one Independent.

The Independent, Vermont’s Gaelan Brown, says on his website, “Washington DC has lost all moral authority over Vermont.” He maintains that:

“Vermont should explore creating a State-owned bank that would work with private VT-based banks, to insulate VT from Wall Street corruption, and to increase investment capital for VT businesses, modeled after the very successful State-owned Bank of North Dakota.”

The Bank of North Dakota, currently the nation’s only state-owned bank, is the model (with variations) for all the other proposals on the table. The Bank of North Dakota acts as a “bankers’ bank,” including doing “participation loans” with other banks, allowing them to compete with larger banks. In a participation loan, the community bank originates the loan and takes responsibility for it, while the participating bank contributes funds and shares in the risk and profits. The Bank of North Dakota also makes low-interest loans to students, farmers and businesses; underwrites municipal bonds; and serves as the state’s “Mini Fed,” providing liquidity and clearing checks for more than 100 banks around the state.

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