A World Where Finance Is Democratic

by Public Bank LA
in News
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By Michael McCarthy, Berggruen Institute Fellow for Noema Magazine. 

It’s the year 2043 and you’re running late for a meeting that will shape the future of the place you live.

You’re riding Los Angeles’ new electric speed rail instead of driving on congested freeways, because a new democratic process for allocating funds has completely reshaped the city in recent years. You step off the train in the Public Finance District, where the streets were converted into pedestrian zones after huge investments in transportation eliminated the need for cars downtown.

The cleanliness of the sidewalks would have come as a shock even 10 years ago. Gone are the days when people with nowhere else to go lived on them. Instead, the city has allocated finance into public housing and health projects that have gone a long way toward solving the problems of the city’s worst off.

Today, you have a chance to participate in the process that helped these changes come to be. You pull out your phone to check the message you received months ago: “Minipublic Duty Notification: You have been selected at random to participate in the citizen assembly for the People’s Bank of Los Angeles in its Green Futures division. The assembly will make decisions about financing that will determine what green public goods our city will invest in in the future. Your voice and judgement are essential.” So you pick up the pace, heading in the direction of the public bank.

This vision of the future can become a reality by democratizing finance. Finance capitalism has generated a litany of social ills: tremendous upward redistribution, stagnant growth, increased worker precarity, macroeconomic instability and the hastening of ecological demise. When we look to the failures of global coordination, finance seems to always be right there, holding the smoking gun — or financing its sale and the pulling of its trigger.

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Californians Need A “Bank of Good”

by Public Bank LA
in News
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Public banking is on a roll! People across the nation are turning out to learn more about public banking — and Californians are at the forefront of making public banks a reality for the first time in generations. Public banking activists, politicians and financial experts are busy producing viability studies and business plans so that public banks can come online in the near future.

On Wednesday March 30, 2022, over 170 community members joined the California Public Banking Alliance (CPBA) Town Hall featuring elected officials from cities and regions actively working to form public banks. They see public banks as a powerful tool to keep taxpayer dollars reinvested in local communities. We’re grateful for the leadership provided by legislators from five cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Long Beach, Richmond, and Santa Cruz) joining us to discuss their commitment to making public funds work for the public by their courageous efforts to establish local public banks.

If you missed last week’s town hall, 

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Thank you to all participants for joining in a robust town hall chat. We’ve added answers to your questions and comments in this document.

Read our event wrap-up on the CPBA Medium page.

Public Banking Has the Potential to Truly Revolutionize Our Economy

by Public Bank LA
in News
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Truthout - November 6, 2021. The public banking movement is gaining groundswell across the nation. An advocate with Philadelphia Public Bank Coalition tells a story of the movement and the grassroots work transforming the financial system from private to public control. Part of that story includes our work here in #LosAngeles and how it set a precedent for the rising national movement. "They did an outreach and social media blitz and got endorsements from hundreds of civic, labor and other community groups. Measure B received over 44 percent of the votes, with 430,488 Angelenos voting yes to a public bank. This was not enough for a win, but an astonishing achievement from a grassroots, volunteer-run campaign with minimal funding — and it laid the foundation for a series of advances in the establishment of a structure for creating public banks throughout California.

"The potential for public banking — or managing taxpayer funds through publicly-controlled financial institutions rather than private banks — first became real to me in the office of my city councilmember in the spring of 2019. A group of us had fanned out through City Hall to speak with every member of the council about the benefits of establishing a Philadelphia Public Bank. The staffer we were chatting with was new to the idea, and grew more and more interested. “The Council person would really like this idea,” he said. “It’s good for the common people. It’s good for the city budget. I’m going to talk with her about it. I think she’ll want to support it.” In that moment the concept of public banking, which I found compelling and had been promoting informally for years, became not just another good idea but an attainable goal.

It’s been a puzzle to know how to best organize around economic issues. Once we’ve identified our economic system — and more particularly the financial system — as the root of so many of our problems, what do we do next? Transforming the economy is too big to easily build campaigns around, and the number of people who can be mobilized purely on ideological grounds are small. While Occupy Wall Street was a great national teach-in on wealth inequality, including a critical understanding of the importance of democracy, it didn’t offer enough focus or program to keep people in motion."

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