TRUTHOUT – By Pamela Haines, Waging Nonviolence. The public banking movement is gaining groundswell across the nation. An advocate with Philadelphia Public Bank Coalition tells a story of the movement and the grassroots work transforming the financial system from private to public control. Part of that story includes our work here in #LosAngeles and how it set a precedent for the rising national movement. “They did an outreach and social media blitz and got endorsements from hundreds of civic, labor and other community groups. Measure B received over 44 percent of the votes, with 430,488 Angelenos voting yes to a public bank. This was not enough for a win, but an astonishing achievement from a grassroots, volunteer-run campaign with minimal funding — and it laid the foundation for a series of advances in the establishment of a structure for creating public banks throughout California.
“The potential for public banking — or managing taxpayer funds through publicly-controlled financial institutions rather than private banks — first became real to me in the office of my city councilmember in the spring of 2019. A group of us had fanned out through City Hall to speak with every member of the council about the benefits of establishing a Philadelphia Public Bank. The staffer we were chatting with was new to the idea, and grew more and more interested. “The Council person would really like this idea,” he said. “It’s good for the common people. It’s good for the city budget. I’m going to talk with her about it. I think she’ll want to support it.” In that moment the concept of public banking, which I found compelling and had been promoting informally for years, became not just another good idea but an attainable goal.
It’s been a puzzle to know how to best organize around economic issues. Once we’ve identified our economic system — and more particularly the financial system — as the root of so many of our problems, what do we do next? Transforming the economy is too big to easily build campaigns around, and the number of people who can be mobilized purely on ideological grounds are small. While Occupy Wall Street was a great national teach-in on wealth inequality, including a critical understanding of the importance of democracy, it didn’t offer enough focus or program to keep people in motion.”
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