Big Banks at work by Jeffery J. Smith
income fell in August (from July), says the Commerce Dept, while the top one
percent of the population rake in 24% of all US income -- their biggest haul
since the 1920s.
While Wall Street does sorely misuse our money, should they have our money in the first place?
The wealth belonging to others on their ledgers is prodigious: much of our savings -- stocks and money market funds; most of our pension funds; and just about all of society's debts -- government deficits, private credit cards and mortgages -- are Big Bankers' credit. Yet it need not be that way.
We can stop sending all our surplus cash to Wall Street right now. We can:
* keep our savings in community credit unions;
* use cash or debit cards and credit cards only as a last resort; and
* lobby government to keep our commonwealth at home.
What is the wealth that already belongs to us, which we overlook and upon which Wall Street feasts, empowering itself to lord over everyone else? Our common inheritance is largely the worth of Earth, the value of land and resources. It's society's spending for sites and ecosystem services. We pay for land and oil not only when we pay rent or buy gasoline; the value of nature is embedded in the price of everything we buy. This flow of dough is ours, since we all have an equal right to Earth, and it is trillions of dollars every year that now end up in the wrong pockets.
How can we recover and share our commonwealth and thereby starve Wall Street? Demand that local governments levy locations, as Pittsburgh did from 1980-2000, and then pay dividends, somewhat similar to what Alaska does with oil revenue and Aspen CO does with land revenue. Cut off the flow to Wall Street and you can provide yourself and your neighbors with an extra income from the worth of Earth; at last we'd be able to feel more secure and enjoy life more.
If we were to really get serious about economic equity and closing the income gap, we'd quit taxing wages -- workers have it hard enough as it is -- and quit taxing productive companies and cooperatives -- promising startups have it hard enough as it is, too. This "geonomic" tax shift from wages and earnings to the socially-generated value of locations has always helped people prosper: e.g., in Denmark (1950s) and in Australia (1990s). As long communities utilize land dues (or taxes) and "rent" dividends -- keeping local values circulating locally -- then people's material success won't leak out and gravitate to Wall Street.
Another major piece of the puzzle is to end the Big Banks' monopoly on creating and issuing new money needed for a growing economy (growing in sustainable ways, one hopes). Rather than allow the Federal Reserve to expand the money supply -- as when bailing out their Wall Street cronies -- we could return that function to Congress (trusting elections will soon become democratic) or we could extend that power to our communities and allow credit unions and local currencies to issue legal tender, trusting our neighbors more than faceless bankers.
While the power to create new money and the tendency of society to create surplus may seem unrelated, they are not. Presently, the Federal Reserve creates new money when it buys debt with money that never existed before, and most of private debt is mortgages and the major portion of mortgages is borrowing to buy land. And historically, the big bankers who founded the Fed were earlier founded by families who had amassed fortunes in oil, which like land, is a natural resource; e.g., Chase Bank is a haven for the wealth of the Rockefeller "oligarchy".
Wealthy entities wield power because they hold privilege. We ordinary citizens wield power because we vastly outnumber them. Our shortcoming is not grasping how economies work, why they fail, and what we can do about it while the elite enjoy a simple vision of purpose -- keep everyone else paying them for land and resources. To defeat Wall Street today, and to dismantle Wall Street so it can never bully and impoverish us tomorrow, we must match their clarity of purpose. Simply put, we must stop feeding the beast . Let us recognize our commonwealth and demand that it be shared equitably. It is a demand we can make in the streets yet must also call for in our gatherings, in the media, and our visits to our legislators. Then the next time we take to the streets it will be to celebrate.
In several states, each legislative session we have a bill introduced to allow localities to shift their property tax, if voters so desire, off buildings and onto locations, in order to recover the socially-generated value of land. To move such bills out of committee and onto the ballot, join us, at meetings, and help organize events. Thanks.