Public Banks and Student Debt
Public hold public dollars, such as taxes and fees, to keep money local so it serves the public interest, instead of giving it to Wall Street banks who charge high fees and interest rates. There is only one public bank so far in the United States, the Bank of North Dakota, which has been in operation for almost 100 years.
However, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the recent malfeasance of big banks like Wells Fargo, there is now a vibrant movement to create more public banks in the U.S. at the city and state level. Locally, Oakland is making serious strides by taking the lead on a public bank feasibility study, which should be out this year. Alameda County, Berkeley and Richmond have all chipped in to help Oakland fund this study. And last May, the Richmond City Council voted on a resolution to support Oakland’s efforts to create a public bank; direct the Richmond City Manager to investigate the possibility of forming a mutually beneficial partnership; and consider, if Oakland’s initial feasibility study yields positive results, providing funds for a future business plan.
Advocates around the country are getting galvanized around the idea public banks for different reasons – a way to take one’s money out of big banks that fund the fossil fuel industry, as a potential source for local business, as a money-saver for cities, or providing financial services to the legal (but difficult to bank) cannabis industry. Another big potential benefit: it could help to relieve the burden of student debt that so many of us are struggling with.
Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland, the RPA and others will be hosting a student debt forum on Monday, April 9. CA lieutenant governor candidate Gayle McLaughlin will be the featured speaker at this free event, which is open to all.