Now imagine a world where banks are not-for-profit organizations where surplus funds, after ensuring reserves, are distributed back to the members as dividends and better rates on loans. Imagine if each member had an equal say in the governance of the organization, regardless of his or her account size. Imagine "banks" that are democratic, member-owned cooperatives.
This world exists and these better-than-banks organizations are called credit unions.
I am in the process of moving my own money from Bank of America, where it is used to lobby against causes I support, to a credit union, where it will grow at a better a rate and help provide good loans to other members. For me, the final stroke was when Bank of America, three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize fundraising against the Employee Free Choice Act. It made me nauseous to think that the money in my checking and savings accounts, the interest I'm paying on my credit card, and my federal tax dollars were helping to make the country a worse place.
So I ask you to make it your New Year's resolution to break up with your big bank and marry a credit union. It is in your own immediate self interest, since you'll get better dividends, cheaper loans, and better service with a credit union. And it will benefit the country in the long run by dispersing financial power from the banking behemoths--like Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo--to ordinary Americans.
Here's one way you can locate a credit union near you.
The timing of this post is inspired by, and intended to amplify, the new effort launched by Arianna Huffington and friends to encourage people to move from Wall Street banks to Main Street banks. Check out their video, which plays off of It's a Wonderful Life, and then see the new site www.moveyourmoney.info:
Huffington's "Move Your Money" movement is excellent. I just have one quibble with it. They ask people to move from big banks into small banks, and they only mention non-profit, democratic credit unions as an afterthought. It really should be the other way around: Ditch your big bank, and get into a credit union. If you can't join a credit union, go with a small, community bank. After all, small banks can be bought by big banks, and many small banks are working to become big banks. Again, it's a minor quibble. If we can all agree on the first part of the plan, moving our money out of big banks, we will be doing great.
Here are some resources to get you started:
Let us know if you are making the move. Or, if your money is already in a credit union or community bank, how has your experience been?