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How Wall Street Devoured the Recovery

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Les Leopold     Permalink
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2. Right now, we tax payers funnel over $1 trillion of our money into Wall Street banks when we pay our state and local taxes and fees. That money does not go into vaults in city hall or the state capital. It goes to Wall Street banks who at the moment are the only ones large enough to provide all the services required... except in North Dakota. There state revenues run through the state bank which in turns supports 80 community banks. If that happened in the other 49 states, we could create more than 10 million additional domestic jobs. Remember, a state bank invests in its state. A Wall Street has no allegiance to any state or country.

3. State banks also are the answer to funding infrastructure projects. Right now Wall Street prays upon state and local governments who need to borrow money to build schools, roads and other critical public projects. Those loans comes with enormous fees and interest rates that often double and triple the cost of these projects. Not so with public banks whose job it is to build up the state rather than rip it off.

What will it take to win?
There are some positive signs popping up all over the country. Low wage workers are organizing. The AFL-CIO is finally coming out of its defensive crouch and opening up to non-traditional worker organizations. More and more co-ops are forming. And more than 20 states are seriously considering moves towards public banks. But we'll need much more to dent the billionaire bailout society. We will need nothing less than a broad movement that connects all these efforts and many more into a coherent force aimed at high finance. The money labor squanders on meaningless elections should be funding the attack on Wall Street.

It's time we looked more seriously at the last time Americans rose up against Wall Street. That was during the Populist Era of the late 19th century. Then, urban working people and farmers demanded an alternative financial system to the one run by Wall Street. It was a clear cut struggle pitting private banking against public banking. Then, like now, the American people were disgusted by the domination of high finance. Then, like now, the two parties were corrupted by concentrated wealth. Then, like now, the modest prosperity of the working people was collapsing. It took great courage and resilience for Americans to rise up. It took thousands of dedicated organizers and educators who believed in the justice of their cause. Even though the movement was ultimately defeated, it left its indelible mark on America. Many of its policies and programs formed the constructive politics of the New Deal that ultimately tamed Wall Street for nearly a half a century. And it gave North Dakota its public bank.

We will need that kind of massive upheaval again if we hope to undo the billionaire bailout society.

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Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute in New York, and author of "Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice" (Labor Institute Press, 2015)

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