Here are some suggestions for a manifesto for the Occupy Wall Street protests, which are currently taking place. The manifesto attempts to summarize common concerns about current banking practices and articulate a new agenda for a better system. The banks are busy lobbying lawmakers and the Administration every day. The public must be given equal access to demand a better system.
A Manifesto for Better Banking
The current banking system is both a cause and an intrinsic part of our current economic and political crisis. The system encourages excessive risk and profit taking, and discourages long term sustainable investment and lending practices, and marginalizes the poorest and most needy from the banking system altogether. Worst of all, the risk -- and thus profit -- are effectively insured by the taxpayer. The public is in effect subsidizing Wall Street profits.
We do not hate bankers, but we hate the system. It is time to change it. We have five key demands and proposals. These are not only for the government to adopt; everyone, across the country, who wants to change the system can help too. We demand a better banking system -- one where risk is not passed to the taxpayer, but which supports sustainable enterprise, and embodies values other than pure profit-making.
1. The Past. We demand an independent inquiry into the credit crisis, and, if necessary, prosecutions of those guilty of deception or fraud. The inquiry must name names, identify lessons and hold those responsible properly to account.
2. The Future. We demand effective banking legislation to curb excessive and risky lending, but to sustain credit for businesses, particularly small businesses, in lean times.
3. In particular, these reforms must include the following: requirements for greater high-quality capital reserves: the separation of retail from investment banking: legislation to encourage and support local, cooperative banking, and micro-credit for those routinely denied loans and banking services.
4. The Politics. One problem of the current and unjust system is that the big banks enjoy unequaled access to the political system. This tilts the political system to provide for their needs over others. We demand equal access: in particular the Administration must provide a full list of every meeting with representatives of Wall Street banks with the White House, Fed and other government officials. We demand equal access to put the public's requirements on the table.
5. We encourage everyone to demand but also adopt "better banking". We should withdraw our money from those banks that are aggressively lobbying for their own interests over the public's (JP Morgan Chase is a particular example). We should instead deposit our money in cooperative and community banks, and credit unions. We shall also work, with bankers and other supporters, to establish a new national cooperative bank, owned by and run for its depositors and borrowers, not its share-holders.
I discussed some of the problems, and in particular the inadequacy of current and planned global rules, in this article. The problems of banking, and how to resolve them, are discussed at greater length in my book (now published in the U.K., published in April '12 in the U.S. by Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin books).
Carne Ross is a former British diplomat who now runs the non-profit advisory group, Independent Diplomat. He is a regular commentator on international affairs. His book, "The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People Will Take Power and Change Politics in the 21st Century," will be published by Blue Rider Press (an imprint of Penguin books) in March 2012.
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