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Sci Tech    H4'ed 6/16/16

How to start a public bank: A Modeled Exercise

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How to Start A Public Bank

by Scott Baker, New York Coordinator for the Public Banking Institute

Why write a How-To Guide to starting a Public Bank?

A lot has been written about why we need Public Banks, from the books and articles of Ellen Brown -- essentially the founder of the modern American Public Banking Movement in the 21st century - to individual State or City Public Banking chapters creating their own feasibility studies and documenting their results and projections.

Unfortunately, for the average activist looking to take on this kind of reform in his or her community, there is very little to actually show them the way in a step-by-step nuts and bolts fashion. Where will the money come from? Will that money be needed back and if so, when and is that feasible? What are the balances, operating and performance ratios you must maintain (if you don't know what these terms mean, don't worry, that's another thing that will be explained in the following pages), how much money can a community of X population expect a public bank to be able to lend? How will this change over the years as the bank becomes more profitable?

There are some banking basics books and articles available that explain how to create a small, basic commercial bank, and we will use a three-page section from one of them: Banking Basics (pgs 19-21) from the article Money Basics by Christopher D. Moore, 2003 (see Appendix). But the requirements and options for a Public Bank are substantially different, and advantageous as we will see, and so require modifications to the basic banking spreadsheet created by Moore. These have been made to the working spreadsheet that accompanies this document.

Both this Adobe Acrobat document and the MS Excel spreadsheet may be found and downloaded from the files section of the Public Banking for New York State Facebook Page:

Even though the Facebook page is set up for New York, my work as the New York Coordinator for the Public Banking Institute has brought me projects from New York City; Goshen, NY; Pennsylvania; Philadelphia; Vermont; New Jersey (Princeton, Trenton, etc.); Tacoma, Washington; Arizona; New Mexico; California (Santa Cruz); and, most importantly for this exercise, the moderately sized city of Oakland, California.

The members of the Oakland chapter first hired me to assess the assets potentially available to create a Public Bank in the summer of 2015. I completed that assignment in early 2016, but quickly realized that it was not enough to just identify the pools of money available (more on that later) without specifying how that money will be used to set up a bank and critically, since it will be borrowed from existing funds under the scenario I've been promoting for 4 years, how and when it will be repaid.

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Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a former blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:

Scott is a former and current President of Common Ground-NY (, a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written dozens of (more...)

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