A New Year’s Resolution: Move Your Money!
As we approach the New Year, pundits have begun to reflect on 2009 and, more broadly, the decade known as the Aughts or Naughts. All, it appears, is not well with the United States. According to Robert Reich, if 2009 has proved anything, it’s that the escalating profits on Wall Street have little effect on Main Street, where mortgage delinquencies “continue to rise,” small businesses “can’t get credit,” and people everywhere are “worried about losing their jobs.” E.J. Dionne Jr. describes the past decade as a time when the United States “badly lost its way by using our military power carelessly” and by pursuing domestic policies that “constrained our options for the future while needlessly threatening our prosperity.”
And then, of course, there is Paul Krugman, who prefers to simply call the decade The Big Zero. Zero: as in, zero job creation; zero economic gains for the average family; zero gains for homeowners; and zero overall gains on the stock market. Even more impressive, writes Krugman, was the nation’s inability to learn from its mistakes. Thus, if the decade began with a deflating dotcom bubble, it has concluded with a deflating housing bubble: boom-and-bust, boom-and-bust. Nor did the Enron scandal cause investors to more carefully scrutinize the financial strength of banks. Even worse, if Republican politicians have been dead set again financial reform, Democrats have not yet offered what Krugman calls a “full-throated critique” of excessive leveraging and CEO pay.
But what can I do?
That is the question. Indeed, it is a very big question asked by a very big number of people these days. Certainly, it is easy to become discouraged, or even apathetic about America’s woes. But that would be a mistake. To be sure, political reform will not come from the top-down, even with Obama as commander-in-chief. (Stay tuned to the ISJ for a review of Heads in the Sand, Matthew Yglesias’ incisive book on the failure of Democrats to offer an coherent alternative to Bush’s foreign policy.)
That’s why we need a social movement. Sounds daunting, and it is – but the longest journey begins with…a wonderful suggestion by Arianna Huffington. Here is her simple idea, which I believe has enormous potential:
If enough people who have money in one of the big four banks [JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo] move it into smaller, more local, more traditional community banks, then collectively we, the people, will have taken a big step toward re-rigging the financial system so it becomes again the productive, stable engine for growth it’s meant to be. It’s neither Left nor Right — it’s populism at its best. Consider it a withdrawal tax on the big banks for the negative service they provide by consistently ignoring the public interest.
So this New Year’s Day, as you lie on the couch nursing a hangover, do yourself a favor: read Huffington’s post (pardon the expression), and/or simply scroll down to the bottom and watch the It’s a Wonderful Life-inspired video she has created urging readers to Move Your Money (see also http://moveyourmoney.info for more details, including information on finding a community bank in your area).
Oh, and please do pass it on.