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Featured News End Corporate Rule Can Public Banking Spur Economic Growth in Southern Arizona?
Friday, 15 November 2013 15:56

Can Public Banking Spur Economic Growth in Southern Arizona?

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Tucson is one of the most impoverished cities in the country—for many reasons. The Arizona Legislature—driven by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and short-sighted, “small government” ideology—has routinely swept funds earmarked for counties and cities to “balance” the state’s budget or fund pet projects like lower corporate taxes. Beyond the Legislature’s negative impact on Baja Arizona, the Tucson economy is not diversified enough. Manufacturing is nearly non-existent in Southern Arizona. There is an over-reliance on defense spending, University of Arizona spin-offs, tourism, low-wage service jobs, and growth/development. 

During the Great Recession, multiple income streams for our local economy were dramatically reduced or eliminated—resulting in the loss of hundreds, if not thousands of good-paying jobs due to budget cuts, business closures, and the housing market crash. People and jobs left the area.

In August, the Arizona Daily Star ran a week-long series on multiple aspects of poverty in Southern Arizona and just this week, the Star ran a story that stated Tucson was second only to Detroit in the proliferation of crappy, low-wage jobs. In a survey of 52 metro areas with over 1 million residents, Tucson was in the top 10 for job creation; the problem is that more than half of the projected 28,000 new jobs will pay less than $13.84/hour. (If you really want to be depressed, check out the list of Tucson’s fastest growing occupations here. None of these jobs requires a college education. Thanks to TREO’s efforts, telemarketer is #1. Thanks to Tucson’s ample supply of old folks, the next four most popular jobs are low-wage health/caregiver positions. We won’t break the cycle of poverty in this city with a jobs picture like this.)

So, we know that our city has big economic challenges. Now what? As I wrote back in August, it’s time for some creative economic solutions. It’s time to STOP our addiction to military spending. It’s time to STOP relying on temporary construction jobs and low-wage hospitality industry jobs. It’s time to defund TREO and STOP chasing rainbows by competing with other metro areas for “the next IBM” or the next spring training team. It’s time to STOP sending our money to Wall Street for investment. It’s time to START investing in Tucson. It’s time for public banking.

Public Banking as an Economic Engine

Public banks are owned by the citizens and managed by a board of directors on behalf of a governmental entity (country, state, county, city) for the benefit of the citizens and the collective good. Commercial banks are owned by investors, and their goal is to make money for those investors. As we learned during the Great Recession, “public good” has nothing to do with it. North Dakota is the only state in the US that has a state public bank; consequently, ND weathered the Great Recession without a hiccup because it manages its own wealth and relies less on Wall Street gamblers than other states, like Arizona.

State banks (like North Dakota’s) or national public banks (like Costa Rica’s) are economic engines because they manage the government’s money and create their own credit — thus eliminating bank fees and freeing the state to fund projects for the public good, like infrastructure projects that improve the state and provide good-paying jobs. Infrastructure improvements (better roads, reliable bridges, light rail) make the state more economically efficient and a more attractive place for businesses and people. Good-paying jobs attract a better educated workforce and boost the economy because people have money in their pockets. State banks can foster local business development and help community banks by backing the community banks’ loans to LOCAL small businesses, farmers, or entrepreneurs.

Buying Debt

Public banks can also help the economy by offering low-cost student loans or by buying up personal debt (ie, credit card debt, student loans, underwater mortgages) and excusing it or restructuring it. This would be similar to what the Rolling Jubilee– part of Occupy’s Strike Debt group– is doing. Rolling Jubilee recently purchased $15 million in personal debt for $400,000. Focusing primarily on medical debt, Rolling Jubilee helped more than 2600 Americans in 45 states by buying their medical debt and excusing it.

How does this benefit the public good? People who are spending a significant amount of their income each month to pay off debts cannot afford to buy the things they want or need– like houses, cars, childcare, health insurance, food, etc. They are supporting the lending institutions– primarily too-big-to-fail banks– with their monthly payments, but this money is lost to the local economy. Let’s assume a middle class American is paying $200 on a credit card, $100 on a student loan, and $300 on a car loan each month; that is $600 per month going to Wall Street Banks and not to the local economy. If this person is making less than $15/hour and working less than 40 hours per week at a call center that doesn’t provide health insurance, they are living on the edge of catastrophe if they or a family member gets sick or has a serious accident. High debt + high interest rates + low wages = poverty, crime, drug trafficking, addiction, domestic violence, suicide. If you add a medical emergency or life-threatening diagnosis to the mix, lives can spiral out of control quickly, and people lose hope.

Public Banking Can Help the State Economy, too

By Arizona statute, all of our state’s wealth is held in a big commercial bank—Bank of America, at this time. Consequently, Bank of America makes money by creating credit on our money and charges the state fees and interest. Sweet– for Bank of America– but not for the citizens of Arizona.

Establishing a public bank in Arizona could vastly improve Arizona’s budget problems, according to Jim Hannley, registered investment adviser, local public banking advocate, and head of PDA Tucson’s economic and social justice team. For two years, Hannley, PDA Tucson Chair and former Arizona Legislature Phil Lopes, and others in Progressive Democrats of America’s (PDA) Tucson Chapter have been meeting with Arizona and Tucson politicians to encourage support for public banking. In 2013 alone, Hannley has addressed groups like Sustainable Tucson, Democrats of Greater Tucson, Drinking Liberally, and the Tear Down the Walls Conference to drum up grassroots support for public banking.

Arizona’s Republican-led government parrots the same economic austerity meme as Republicans on the national level, according to Hannley. The meme goes like this:

  1. There’s not enough money.
  2. We must take dramatic austerity measures to control spending.
  3. Government must live within its means and cut budgets and services. (This disproportionately hurts the poor and the middle class who use these services and hold the jobs being cut, Hannley pointed out.)
  4. Government must cut corporate taxes to encourage businesses. (Cutting corporate taxes and income taxes results in raising taxes on the rest of us because revenue has to come from somewhere. Why do you think we have a 8.1% sales tax? Income taxes and property taxes are progressive taxes. Sales tax– which hits the poor the hardest– is the most regressive tax, and the one that Arizona and Tucson rely on all too heavily. Secretary of State Ken “Birther” Bennett, who is running for Arizona governor, is proposing to levy sales tax on food, while cutting corporate and high earner income taxes.)

To have a solid economy, people need purchasing power. Points 3 and 4 of the Republican austerity meme take money out of the hands of ordinary citizens, thus reducing their purchasing power and hurting the overall economy. (If you’re making less than $13 an hour as a home health aide, how can you afford a $12 glass of wine at one of the gleaming new bars on Congress Street?) Continued sequestration cuts (which Congressional Republicans want to keep) and cuts to direct social programs which help millions of Americans (like Food Stamps) will worsen poverty nationwide.

So, how could establishment of a public bank help? Under the current system, Arizona has lost the ability to create credit and has transferred this power to a private company– Bank of America. Before the Wall Street crash, the too-big-to-fail banks were lending money at a rate of $30 for every $1 in their vault, charging interest on that $30, and making money on our money. Since our state’s money is held by Bank of America, all of Arizona’s wealth is invested on Wall Street– not in the State of Arizona. By contrast, North Dakota has had a public bank since 1919. ND is one of the few– if not the only– state in the US whose economy was not destroyed by the Wall Street meltdown and the housing crash. ND also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the US.

The Bank of North Dakota holds all of the state treasury funds and is an economic driver for the state. Each state collects taxes and receives millions of dollars in matching funds from the federal government for health care, roads, schools, and many other initiatives that promote the public good. In most states (like Arizona), those funds are held in large commercial banks– not state banks. The Bank of North Dakota holds that state’s funds, manages all large transactions, invests in public works projects to create jobs and better the state, and guarantees loans to students, farmers, small business, and entrepreneurs. Arizona, by contrast, is beholden to Bank of America.

Arizona currently has a $60 million debt, which we pay interest on– thus transferring our wealth to the private companies who own the debt. To help balance the budget– after the crash– the State of Arizona sold off assets, like the State Capitol buildings; now the state must pay rent on buildings it used to own. In addition, in 2012 the Arizona state employee pension plan (which is invested on Wall Street) recognized a $524 million loss on pension fund. Contrast this bungled financial picture with North Dakota’s. For fiscal years 2011-2013 ND projected $3.197 billion in revenue and $3.185 billion in total expenditures, giving it more than a $12 million budget surplus. ND has a reserve balance of $1.237 billion. These budget figures include $900 million in property and income tax relief from 2009 to 2013. The Bank of North Dakota makes money by using surplus funds to make loans to businesses and citizens. According to Hannley, the Bank of North Dakota has greater than a 13% return on equity.

In 2012, Tucsonans passed a bond initiative to fund road repairs. The voters approved a $100 million bond, which the city paid a fee of $1 million to create. With an authorized interest rate up to 8%, the city could pay as much as $8 million per year in interest over the 20-year bond. If Pima County or the State of Arizona had a public bank, the city could borrow from the public bank at a lower rate to pay for road repairs and save millions of dollars. Tucsonans would save money on the municipal bond, and the state would make money on the interest. Under the current system, municipalities like Tucson have to pay higher interest rates to Wall Street bond managers, while the State of Arizona’s sits at Bank of America—making peanuts for Arizonans.

Twenty states are considering establishing a public bank, according to the Public Banking Institute’s website. Arizona is listed as one of those states because in 2012 Rep. John Filmore introduced a public banking bill in the Arizona Legislature; the Apache Junction Republican and small businessman worked with PDA Tucson on the initiative. PDA Tucson continues to be committed to this cause.

“It’s time to cast off our addiction to Wall Street banks,” Hannley said as he ended his talk.

Facts from the Public Banking Institute

Public Banks are …
• Viable solutions to the present economic crises in US states.
• Counter-cyclical, meaning they are capable of reducing the negative impact of recessions, because they can make money available for local governments and businesses precisely when private banks decrease lending.
• Potentially available to any-sized government or community
able to meet the requirements for setting up a bank.
• Owned by the people of a state or community.
• Economically sustainable, because they operate transparently according to applicable banking regulations
• Able to offset pressures for tax increases with returned credit income to the community.
• Ready sources of affordable credit for local governments, eliminating the need for large “rainy day” funds.
• Required to promote the public interest, as defined in their
charters.
• Constitutional, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court

… and are not
• Operated by politicians; rather, they are run by professional
bankers.
• Boondoggles for bank executives; rather, their employees are
salaried public servants (paid by the state, with a transparent pay structure) who would likely not earn bonuses, commissions or fees for generating loans.
• Speculative ventures that maximize profits in the short term,
without regard to the long-term interests of the public.

 

Read 4538 times Last modified on Saturday, 16 November 2013 00:08
Pamela Powers Hannley

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth--not just people who agree with me or look like me. I believe that people who promote religiosity but use violence, intimidation, and lies to force their ideas upon other people are not following the teachings of any religious leader.

I have a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University and a masters in public health from the University of Arizona. In addition to being a blogger, I am a published author, photographer, clay artist, mother, nana, and wife.

My Tucson Progressive blog and Facebook page feature large doses of liberal ideas, local, state, and national politics, and random bits of humor. I also blog at Blog for Arizona and the Huffington Post. I am a proud member of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).

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  • New York Times reports on NC Marriage Ban, WI Recall
    New York Times reports on NC Marriage Ban, WI Recall

    North Carolina's voters on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage, joining 29 other states and the rest of the South.

     


     

    Democrats in Wisconsin have a month to persuade voters to unseat the governor, Scott Walker, in a recall election with Tom Barrett as Mr. Walker's opponent.

    Written on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 17:42 Read more...
  • Chicago pulls permit for nurses rally planned for NATO summit
    Chicago pulls permit for nurses rally planned for NATO summit

    The city of Chicago today yanked a permit for the first demonstration planned for the weekend of the NATO summit in a dispute over where the National Nurses United can hold its rally May 18.

    Written on Wednesday, 09 May 2012 13:28 Read more...
  • Socialist Wins in France: Two Articles Explain the Historical and Current Context
    Socialist Wins in France: Two Articles Explain the Historical and Current Context

    "France, Okay, But Could a Socialist Gain Power in the US? Here's How It Almost Happened" by Greg Mitchell of the Nation, and "François Hollande wins French presidential election" by Angelique Chrisafis of the Guardian.

    Written on Monday, 07 May 2012 17:44 Read more...
  • NNU Rally to Tax Wall Street and Heal America
    NNU Rally to Tax Wall Street and Heal America

    Nurses, Robin Hood and the band of merry women and men, and scores of friends
are strapping on their boots and preparing to head to Chicago Friday, May 18.

    Written on Monday, 07 May 2012 16:29 Read more...
  • 9 Swing States, Critical to Presidential Race, Are Mixed Lot
    9 Swing States, Critical to Presidential Race, Are Mixed Lot

    Since the housing bubble burst, Nevada has been plagued with record foreclosures, the nation’s steepest drop in home values and its highest unemployment rate.

    Iowa, on the other hand, may have missed out on some of the boom but was spared the worst of the bust: its housing prices have stayed relatively stable, and it now has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the country.

    Written on Sunday, 06 May 2012 22:46 Read more...
  • Defense trumps poverty in Republican House
    Defense trumps poverty in Republican House

    American soldiers learned the hard way not to walk down enemy trails in Vietnam — and certainly not twice. But here come the House Republicans, marching into the sunlight by shifting billions from poverty programs to the Pentagon, all within hours of adopting an entirely new round of tax cuts for those earning more than $1 million a year.

    Written on Friday, 04 May 2012 16:50 Read more...
  • McDermott Will & Emery's Pardo discusses impacts of EPA's fracking rule (video and transcript)
    McDermott Will & Emery's Pardo discusses impacts of EPA's fracking rule (video and transcript)

    How will U.S. EPA's oil and gas air rule affect the fracking industry? During today's OnPoint, Jim Pardo, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, discusses the broader impacts of the rule ....

    Written on Thursday, 03 May 2012 23:19 Read more...
  • One Year After Bin Laden’s Death, Bring the Troops Home Now
    One Year After Bin Laden’s Death, Bring the Troops Home Now

    Today marks one year since the death of Osama bin Laden. The CIA estimates there are fewer than 100 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. Since ‘getting Bin Laden’ and defeating al Qaeda were the stated reasons the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, President Barack Obama should use the anniversary to announce the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

    Written on Thursday, 03 May 2012 23:12 Read more...
  • Obama's Afghanistan Speech: A Guide for the Perplexed
    Obama's Afghanistan Speech: A Guide for the Perplexed

    President Obama’s dramatic speech from Afghanistan should be parsed as a careful election-year orchestration of his plan to “wind down” the war. It is no accident that the speech came during the first-year commemoration of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the event providing Obama the rationale for ending American combat while placing hawks and political rivals on the defensive.

    Written on Thursday, 03 May 2012 23:05 Read more...
  • End Student Debt!
    End Student Debt!

    The student loan crisis finally reached center stage in Washington after the House GOP budget called for letting interest rates double on government-subsidized loans (and for deep cuts in Pell grants and other student support). If it passes, students who borrow the maximum will end up paying as much as $1,000 a year in added interest.

    Written on Thursday, 03 May 2012 20:13 Read more...
  • Women: Occupy the Left
    Women: Occupy the Left

    Women’s rights have always been a bit of an add-on for the left. At this spring’s Left Forum, only fifteen of 440 panels touched on any feminist issue, broadly understood. New Left Review is famous, at least in my apartment, for its high testosterone content (despite being edited by a woman); ditto Verso, the left’s flagship publishing house, where women authors are as rare as Siberian tigers.

    Written on Thursday, 03 May 2012 20:06 Read more...
  • Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist
    Conservative Nonprofit Acts as a Stealth Business Lobbyist

    Desperate for new revenue, Ohio lawmakers introduced legislation last year that would make it easier to recover money from businesses that defraud the state. It was quickly flagged at the Washington headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a business-backed group that views such “false claims” laws as encouraging frivolous lawsuits. ALEC’s membership includes not only corporations, but nearly 2,000 state legislators across the country — including dozens who would vote on the Ohio bill.

    Written on Monday, 23 April 2012 19:50 Read more...
  • Meet the US media companies lobbying against transparency
    Meet the US media companies lobbying against transparency

    Corporate owners or sister companies of some of the biggest names in journalism against FCC order to post political ad data. News organizations cultivate a reputation for demanding transparency, whether by suing for access to government documents, dispatching camera crews to the doorsteps of recalcitrant politicians, or editorializing in favor of open government.

    Written on Sunday, 22 April 2012 15:31 Read more...
  • Former ALEC Supporters Now Find Connection Toxic
    Former ALEC Supporters Now Find Connection Toxic

    With thousands of consumers expressing their concerns about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to corporations across America, even former supporters of ALEC are feeling the heat, and some are rushing to distance themselves from the organization. YUM! Brands (owners of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut) became the 12th corporate member of ALEC to announce it is leaving the organization yesterday.

    Written on Friday, 20 April 2012 15:24 Read more...
  • A Cruel Ethos - Pay Upfront or Die
    A Cruel Ethos - Pay Upfront or Die

    Our acceptance of death for those who can’t afford medical care is unique among the advanced industrialized nations of the world. This ethos allows people who don’t have enough money or enough medical insurance to die everyday. We remain blind to the humanistic healthcare ethos of other nations, that result in greatly reduced costs and superior outcomes.

    Written on Wednesday, 18 April 2012 03:20 Read more...
  • Drug War Nightmare: How We Created a Massive Racial Caste System in America
    Drug War Nightmare: How We Created a Massive Racial Caste System in America

    The drug war has created a new Jim Crow system. Ever since Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took his oath of office, pledging to serve the United States as its 44th president, ordinary people and their leaders around the globe have been celebrating our nation’s “triumph over race.”  Obama’s election has been touted as the final nail in the coffin of Jim Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America. 

    Written on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 19:15 Read more...
  • How ALEC Is Creating Florida-Style Messes in Other States
    How ALEC Is Creating Florida-Style Messes in Other States

    Wisconsin is a rod-and-gun state, with a hunting history that has fostered traditions of broad gun ownership and respect for the right to bear arms.

    So how did Wisconsin get saddled with a “Castle Doctrine” law that mirrors some of the worst aspects of the Florida legislation that's now at the center of the controversy over the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

    Written on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 17:42 Read more...
  • We Need More Heels Running Around Capitol Hill
    We Need More Heels Running Around Capitol Hill

    "[I]t will come, but I shall not see it ... It is inevitable. We can no more deny forever the right of self-government to one-half our people than we could keep the Negro forever in bondage. It will not be wrought by the same disrupting forces that freed the slave, but come it will, and I believe within a generation."

    Written on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 13:31 Read more...
  • The 1%’s Doctrine for the 99%
    The 1%’s Doctrine for the 99%

    Many on the American Right insist federal actions from the Civil War to recent banking regulations were encroachments on states’ rights and personal liberties, but underlying these claims – in the 1860s and today – is the greed of the richest 1 percent treating the 99 percent as chattel, writes Mark Ames.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 21:21 Read more...
  • Congress Takes a Step or Two Forward, Two Steps Back
    Congress Takes a Step or Two Forward, Two Steps Back

    Watching some of the news coming from Capitol Hill this week, two old music videos started buzzing around in our heads. One was the classic “I’m Just a Bill,” from Schoolhouse Rock, in which a beleaguered piece of legislation sits outside on the marble steps hoping to someday become a law.

    Written on Monday, 26 March 2012 21:15 Read more...

PDA In Your State

Join "Countdown to Coverage" Share TPP with your Daily Newspaper

CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!

Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries.

Button-ShareTPPWithNewspaper

Step 1 is to send an Op-Ed to your Daily Newspaper.

Sign the TPP Fast Track Petitions

MoveOn.org Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track

Public Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority

MoveOn.org Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership

CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab

 

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of