Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time to consider a municipal bank

Time to consider a municipal bank
The Eureka Times-Standard
Richard Salzman

Ten days into the Occupy Wall Street protests, I wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the lack of mainstream media coverage. By the time that letter was printed, they finally got to the story, to their credit.

There are now “Occupy” actions taking place in 1,482 cities across the country (as tracked at, including in my own town of Arcata in Humboldt County, California.

Surprisingly, even as the media has covered the story, many in the mainstream press seem mystified by the motives and/or lack of cohesive message. Does “people's needs, not corporate greed” explain it?

San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, a mayoral candidate, wants his City Hall to pull its money out of corporate financial institutions and start a municipal bank “so we can control how we are investing in local businesses.” I hope Humboldt County will also consider that option.

Long ago, I pulled my money from a big bank and put it into a local credit union. Then, it was recently publicized that the CEO of my small “nonprofit” credit union was taking home just shy of $1 million a year in compensation (making the $160K that our county administrative officer earns seem pretty reasonable). I'm sure people would love to put their money in a county-owned bank whose CEO doesn't get $1 million (see for more on this subject).

Here are six more excellent ideas taken from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone magazine:

1. Break'em up. If a financial institution is too big to fail, it's too big to exist. Start with repeal of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and mandate the separation of insurance, investment and commercial banks.

2. Pay for bailouts. A Wall Street speculation fee on credit default swaps, derivatives, stock options and futures would both pay for the bailouts and do plenty to fight the deficits.

3. Cap credit card interest rates, end usury. Citigroup, Bank of America, and JP Chase should not be permitted to charge 25 to 30 percent interest when they received over $4 trillion in loans from us.

4. Tax hedge-fund gamblers. Repeal the carried-interest tax break, which taxes hedge-fund titans only 15 percent on their income.

5. The Federal Reserve needs to provide small businesses in America with the same low-interest loans it gave to foreign banks.

6. Stop Wall Street oil speculators from artificially increasing gasoline and heating oil prices.
Richard Salzman, who lives in Arcata, works as an illustrators' rep and political consultant.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupy Wall Street deserves our support


Letter to the Editor
Posted: 09/29/2011
Times Standard

If you've not seen coverage of the protests happening on Wall St. for the last two weeks (since Sept. 17th), and you likely have not if your only news comes from mainstream media sources, then you should take a moment to read about (and offer support to) them at the organizers' website OccupyWallSt .org. It's been thousands of people holding rallies day after day to protest the class war that's been waged by Wall Street and the banking industry and corporations against working Americans for the last 30-plus years and finally, people are starting to fight back. I support these protesters and I hope you will too.
Richard Salzman
Sunny Brae