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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Quiet Drama in Philadelphia

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"There were two visions expressed . . . . The first is the very practical idea that states and cities around America could be rescued from insolvency if they had their own banks, instead of relying on commercial banks to borrow money through bonds. Tax-exempt bond issues supply money to states and municipal governments typically at 5 or 6% interest, while banks these days are able to borrow from the Fed at 1/4% per year. 

"The second vision is . . . the radically-subversive idea that the system we have for introducing money into the economy is a boon for the banks, but perhaps a major drag on our economy. Perhaps a simple, direct system of money creation by the Treasury Dept instead of the Fed would put an end to cycles of recession, and create a foundation for long-term prosperity. 

"Banking is a huge leech on our economy. 40% of every dollar we spend on goods and services -- 40% of all that we create and all we consume -- is siphoned off the top as bank interest in one form or another. ( Calculations of Margrit Kennedy ) The US Government is in the absurd position of paying interest to a private bank for every dollar that is put into circulation. The Federal Reserve system has privatized the power to create money, which, according to the Constitution, ought to belong to Congress alone. Presently, interest on the national debt costs the Federal government $500 billion in 2011, and (because of structural deficit spending) it is the fastest-growing portion of the Federal budget. 

"Five hundred billion dollars could be saved annually just by refinancing the federal debt through our own central bank, interest-free.  This is not an off-the-wall idea but has actually been done, very successfully.  Among other instances, it was done in Canada from 1939 to 1974, as was detailed by the youngest and oldest speakers at the conference, 12-year-old Victoria Grant and former defense minister Paul Hellyer, founder of the Canadian Action Party.  Another Canadian at the conference, Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, has proposed that the Toronto city council could improve its finances by forming its own bank."

The direct solution to the economic crisis, urged by veteran money reformer Bill Still, would be for the federal government to simply create the money it needs, as the American colonists did by printing paper scrip and Abraham Lincoln did by printing greenbacks. 

But cities and states don't need to wait for a deadlocked federal Congress to act.  As Wong-Tam has proposed for Toronto, they can divest their public revenues from the too-big-to-fail banks and put them in their own publicly-owned banks.  These banks could then do what all banks do : leverage capital, backed by deposits, into money in the form of bank credit. 

This newly-created bank money would then be available for the use of the local government interest-free (since the government would own the bank and would get the interest back as dividends).  Among other possibilities, the money could be used to restore the schools.  This would not be an expenditure but an investment, as illustrated by the G.I. Bill , which provided education and low-interest loans for returning servicemen after World War II.  Economists have determined that for every 1944 dollar invested in the G.I. Bill, the country received approximately $7 in return, through increased economic productivity, consumer spending, and tax revenues.

Legislation for public banks has now been introduced in 18 U.S. states, on the model of the highly successful Bank of North Dakota (BND).  Elaborated on at the Public Banking conference by Ed Sather and Rozanne Junker, the BND is currently the country's only state-owned bank and has been a major factor in allowing the state to escape the recent credit crisis.  North Dakota is the only state to boast a significant budget surplus every year since the economic downturn of 2008. 

Ellen Brown noted that 40% of banks globally are also publicly-owned.  These are largely in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), which also escaped the credit crisis, largely because their public banks did not rely on derivatives and, unlike private banks, lent counter-cyclically to cushion their economies from the downturn. 

Conference speaker Samuel Giles proposed that even public universities could set up their own banks, which could then leverage university monies for the university's own use, rather than giving those assets away to Wall Street to be speculated with and lent back at much higher interest rates.

Innovative Solutions for Pennsylvania

Speakers Michael Sauvante and Mike Krauss noted that efforts are underway in several Pennsylvania and Ohio municipalities to create public banks.  One possibility is for public banks to take an aggressive role in ending the foreclosure crisis by acquiring abandoned and foreclosed homes by eminent domain.  These homes could be added to the asset base of the bank, which could extend credit to restore them and then sell or rent them at reasonable rates. 

Krauss noted that Philadelphia already has a strong effort underway to create a "land bank"--a bank to acquire, rehabilitate and create productive uses for the city's more than 40,000 vacant properties--and legislation (HB 1682) has been introduced in the state legislature to enable this effort.  But the land bank proposed is not designed to function as a depository bank that leverages funds into credit.  Rather, it would simply work with appropriated funds or bond revenue. This is a positive step toward addressing a real need, but it could be enhanced by turning the land bank into a public bank--a chartered bank having the power to create money as credit on its books. 

The efforts for developing public banks in Pennsylvania are being led by the Pennsylvania Project, which was a co-sponsor of the Philadelphia conference and is supported in its work by the Public Banking Institute and the Center for State Innovation.  The Pennsylvania Project is creating partnerships with other Pennsylvania public policy organizations to introduce legislation for a state Bank of Pennsylvania in 2013, after elections are held and a strong foundation of support has been laid.

Revolution Without Bloodshed or War

We live under a tyranny today that is just as intolerable and unjust as that in 1776, but violent revolution is no longer an option.  Our oppressors own the military and the media, and their FEMA camps are waiting for us. 

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Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling WEB OF DEBT. In THE PUBLIC BANK SOLUTION, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and (more...)

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I am hoping that local Occupiers and community de... by manifesto 2000 on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 3:19:47 PM
Agreed.  The difficult thing about leaderless... by Ellen Brown on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 5:28:29 PM
...and the arrests may be much sooner than any of ... by Michael Rose on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 10:55:15 AM
The stock market is a rip-off because it's rigged ... by Ernie Messerschmidt on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 2:34:32 PM
Public banking is the frontline of this revolution... by Russell Scaggs on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 5:03:58 PM
Agreed.  In North Dakota, the conservatives a... by Ellen Brown on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 5:31:22 PM
Once several cities or states adopt public banks, ... by Russell Scaggs on Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 8:54:24 PM
Short, concise and right to the point on all count... by Tom James on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 7:19:46 PM
Ellen, thanks so much for pointing at a growing tr... by Bayard Waterbury on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 3:46:15 PM
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Ellen, again, paints a bleak picture of our future... by James Tennier on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 9:11:42 PM
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