Sunday, November 06, 2011

Truest statement of the week II

Along with the Occupy Wall Street movement has grown up a "Move Our Money" campaign pushed by a group calling itself The New Bottom Line. It takes off from a brainchild of that great exploiter of unpaid journalistic labor at her economist post, Arianna Huffington. Arianna's scheme would have those of us with money in large banks move it to small ones. This touches on a foundational populist fantasy that virtue and size are inversely related. When Huffington unveiled her scheme I took advantage of the gadget at her website that allowed you to enter your zip code and it came back with a suggested list of virtuous meaning small banks. I thought I'd look into some of the suggestions that emerged when I entered that zip code 11238. One suggestion was the Black-owned Carver Federal Savings Bank. In recent years, Carver has been a major financier of the gentrification of previously predominantly Black neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. "As those neighborhoods get richer," Carver boasts, it's been partnering with Merrill Lynch -- a subsidiary of the Bank of America, by the way -- to offer wealth management services to flusher new residents. Another one of Arianna's suggestions, Apple Savings Banks, has about 3/4 of its assets in US Treasury Bonds not local loans. They don't come much bigger than the US Treasury. And a third suggestion, New York Community bank, which even features that sacred word in its name financed a private equity group that bought up a lot of apartment building in New York during the boom in the hope of squeezing out the rent-regulated tenants and replacing them with more lucrative ones paying market rents with the real estate bust the private equity firm had trouble servicing its debts and the residents of the buildings that it bought are suffering as services are cut further and tenants harassed more intently.

-- Doug Henwood, Behind The News, November 5th (KPFA, 10:00 AM PST every Saturday).
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