This is YUGE! Bernie Says Yes to "We the People" Owning Our Own Public Banks!


Bernie Sanders was just in Vermont, and when Gwendolyn Hallsmith with Vermonters for a New Economy  asked Bernie if he supported a Vermont State Bank, a proposal roundly dissed by legislators in Montpelier this year, he said "YES!"

Bernie understands it is safer for us to keep our state revenues in Vermont instead of sending them off to Wall Street--especially under the billionaire-run administration of President Trump. Trump and his Goldman Sachs henchmen are undoing regulation by proclamation, while a US Republican-led legislative move to undo Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms is now already underway. (See our previous post.)

Vt. State Sen. Anthony Pollina (D-Washington County) and State Rep. Brian Cina (P-Burlington 6-4) introduced a public banking bill in January, which barely got a hearing and never made it out of committees. The bill only formed a commission to consider how such a bank could be organized and financed. When a similar bill was introduced three years ago, it resulted in a legislative move that enabled state treasurer Beth Pearce Hallsmith to invest some state revenue into local projects.

But that move, while better than nothing, fails to multiply credit as a bank can, and also limits public input into funding priorities. Undaunted by legislative disregard, Vermonters for a New Economy organized a People's Commission for a State Bank, but that commission and its letters and phone calls have also been ignored by Vermont's legislative committees. 

Part of the problem is that women have not yet claimed public banking as their issue. With a state legislature now ranked with the greatest number of women (37 percent), Democrats and Progressive women need to step up and look more closely at this approach to banking in the public interest. If they don't, Republicans, especially the Tea-Party libertarians may step into the breach.

The nation's only state-owned bank has been operating for a hundred years in the very red state of North Dakota, although its establishment was made possible by nonpartisan grassroots organizing. By 2014 the Bank had returned over $385 million in profits to ND's general fund, reducing taxes. Conservatives in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania are behind similar moves for public banking.

Unlike some banks with the word "state" in their name, North Dakota's bank has no other depositors than the state revenues. Its capitalization multiplies the state's ability to extend credit where public services are needed. North Dakota's bank supports local farming, small businesses, education, and mortgages, but the priorities are public ones, decided upon publicly. Professional bankers staff the state bank (though public officials serve on the board, along with citizens), but their salaries are tiny compared to Wall Street's. They also help back local banks and credit unions. North Dakota has more banks and credit unions per capita than any other state.  

You can see a video of this striking moment here, of a woman challenging Wall Street by demanding whether a public bank is needed in Vermont from Bernie, who gives her--and all Americans--a great answer. Thanks again to Gwendolyn Hallsmith, Vermonters for a New Economy, and to Michael Taub, who videotaped the key moment!