This is a post originally posted at bensaren.com. Check out all the comments there and join the conversation about Moving Your Money!
My very first bank when I was a teenager was BayBank. A few years later BayBank merged with Bank of Boston, to form BankBoston. So then I was a BankBoston customer. Then came along Fleet Bank, who acquired BankBoston. Then I was a Fleet Bank customer. In 2005 Fleet was merged into Bank of America, and since then I’ve been with them. What started for me as a couple of nice local banks with roots in Boston going as far back as 1784, later became one of the banks that were and are, as it’s been so well put by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big to Fail.
The past 24 months has been a total nightmare for the every day American who trusts some of these Too Big to Fail banks with his/her hard earned income, who trust them with their home loans, who trust them with their 401(k), their mutual funds, their CDs, portfolios, wealth management, and on and on.
In late 2008 the US economy, along with most of the other economies across the globe, froze in time. Credit was frozen and we just saw the tip of the iceberg in what became the Global Financial Crisis. Along came the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which then resulted in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP as it’s more commonly known. Under this program the federal government literally had to step in and purchase assets and equity from these banking institutions to prop up our economy and avoid a total economic meltdown. Money was simply frozen in time – it wasn’t flowing for quite a while, as we all shudder to remember. And the only reason this happened is because of something that we all know of now as the Subprime Lending Crisis.
These massive, and I mean massive, financial institutions were bailed out by you, and your brother, your sister, your children, grandchildren, your mothers and fathers, your friends. How many of them are struggling to make ends meet? How many of them are working their asses off to pay for the home or tuitions? Unless they’re employed by one of these massive companies, I bet there’s a lot of them. It was your money, and their money, that bailed these companies out! Our tax dollars, instead of going to other causes like fixing our educational system, or fixing homelessness, disease, poverty, space exploration, fixing our nations highways and infrastructure, environmental causes, or any cause that you might feel passionate about, your tax dollars didn’t go there – they went to these massive institutions. Why? Because these banks are too big to fail? I call bullshit!
What all this boils down to for me and millions of other people like me, is that there is clearly something fundamentally wrong with our economic system, and this is just the beginning. I’m not a student of economics but I pay attention. I think I’m like a lot of people, whereas until something affects my wallet I tend to ignore it most of the time. But some politics and some economics just can’t be ignored anymore, some things have totally earned my outrage, my disgust, as opposed to my usual state of apathy. And I know I’m not alone.
This past Friday evening I was watching Bill Maher on HBO, as I often do late Friday nights (am I a liberal? gasp!). Arianna Huffington was on, and I really enjoy her. I learned about this new movement that she, and others, kicked off a little over 2 months ago called Move Your Money. Here, Arianna explains how it came about, and talks a bit more about the fundamentals behind it, but the idea is a simple one – move your money from the financial institutions that are “Too Big to Fail” to institutions that aren’t, and move your money to more fiscally, socially, environmentally responsible ones. Wow, what a notion huh? Not exactly rocket science is it? And the result is a website called Move Your Money. Move Your Money is about exactly that, moving your money from these institutions to a local community bank or credit union. Who’s too big to fail?
Most people are trying to avoid the six largest banks that engaged in casino-style financial practices (credit default swaps, derivatives trading, etc…) and that are largely to blame for the financial crisis — Citi, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The banks and credit unions we encourage people to look at largely avoided these kind of financial tricks, and then did not reward their executives with massive bonuses.
Today, March 8, 2010, I made my pledge to move my money. And I started the process. I opened a bank account a very well respected, very socially responsible, community bank called Wainwright Bank. Look at these guys – look at what they do! And this isn’t something new, because it’s the popular thing to do, they’ve been at it for nearly twenty years. It’s banks like Wainwright that have earned my business, but only now that I’ve learned my lesson! It’s a bank like this that I can be proud to bank with! The effect on my bottom line? Zero effect. Sure, they’re online banking may not be as swanky as BofA, but I have Quicken and Mint and I know how to balance my checkbook and stick to a budget. Sure they may not have locations all over the nation, but I like that, and they’ll refund my ATM charges. The fact of the matter is, I just feel better by making this change. It’s better than sitting on the sidelines, shaking my head and saying “what a shame, what a shame” and wondering how we’re going to get out of this mess. Oh, and I’m not alone. According to HuffPost…
More people are reaching the same conclusion. A new poll found that 9 percent of Americans have already moved their money out of a big bank as a protest. And the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to require any bank doing business with the city to reinvest in the community. It’s about time citizens and local governments inject some much-needed competition into our increasingly oligarchic banking system.
Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, from Boston, once said, “All politics is local.” What he meant was that the problems and troubles within our towns and cities around the country have a major affect on the actions of their representatives and senators at the capitol.
Please join me and Ali as we move our money and take action! It’s easy. Start by finding your new bank, here, then follow these basic steps. When you’re done, spread the word on twitter, on Facebook, and even log it here!