I am happy to report that I have taken the first very important steps in ending the abusive relationship I am in. That's right. I am breaking up - with my "too big to fail" bank.
Bank of America, bye-bye. It started out innocently enough. When I first started banking as a young woman, I went to the Norshore National Bank, a friendly community bank in my neighborhood. And then it was bought by a bigger bank, and then by a bigger bank, and then by LaSalle Bank, a large but esteemed institution in the Chicago area, and finally by Bank of America. The transitions were pretty smooth, and frankly, I admit I took the easy way out and stayed put.
Hello, Devon Bank! Yesterday I went to the bank that my parents patronized for many happy years. It's in the neighborhood I grew up in, near my house, in my district. The friendly bankers were happy to see me and helped me open a new checking account. I can still bank on line, get a debit card, and use without charge a network of ATMs that are conveniently located. They gave me a map that I'll keep in my car. Not only that, they will pay me 4.15% interest on my balance up to $20,000 and they gave me a very nice pen set and a clock!
I hadn't even realized how good it would feel. Over the last year, I knew in my heart, that I had to get out. I saw, along with millions and millions of my fellow Americans, that my long gone community bank wasn't the only one being swallowed up. Our entire economy was being digested by the big, greedy, reckless behemoths that could care less about me or any of us. With only four banks holding nearly 40% of all deposits, we learned the hard way just what "too big to fail" really means. It means to save our own necks, we had to rescue the monsters, or to carry on the first metaphor, our abusers.
Now we are seeing just how incorrigible they are. Often in abusive relationships, the perpetrator cries and begs forgiveness and promises never to do it again. We didn't even get that. No sooner did they get our money, they doled it out it in huge chunks to their unrepentant co-abusers, leaving us doing the begging for forgiveness for our late mortgage payments and crying for a loan to keep our businesses afloat. What are we, chumps? Enablers?
The House of Representatives and the White House got the message. We in the House passed a bill to force them to change the worst of their ways, and now the Senate needs to follow suit. This week the President got really tough with Wall Street, demanding our bailout money back, proposing to restrict the size and scope of banks, and reviving the depression-era act (Glass-Steagall) that prevented banks from engaging in reckless speculation. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) introduced a bill to levy a 50% tax on the big bonuses, and I jumped right on it.
On my journey to a healthy banking relationship, I want to thank Arianna Huffington for leading the way and Bill Maher for properly naming the ugly situation I was in. You can check them both out at the Huffington Post and at MoveYourMoney.info, where you can find a solid and solvent community bank near you. If I can do this, so can you!