Nov. 13, 2006


  • This past weekend I attended a community-based think tank and discussion forum that explored causes, effects and potential remedies to the ailing U.S. Economy. The dialogue ran the gamut between emotionally charged and highly informative and even enlightening. In the end, I was persuaded that you and I can be part of the solution, that it does not have to be difficult and that we could actually start to see real benefits for ourselves and our families.

    The U.S. is immensely rich in natural resources and an enterprising population at all socioeconomic levels. Despite the message in the media that shortage of resources is due to unsustainable supply (resources) and demand (population growth) ratio, I was convinced that, more than a scarcity issue we have a resource distribution issue in this nation. While the supply-demand problem is all too real it is also true that now, more than ever in our history and even more than in the 1920s, we have a wealth gap on a collision course with history. (Think world revolutions!)

    However, it was suggested that just two citizen-based collective actions combined can help restore the U.S. economy back to health. In fact our entire socio-economic future could potentially shift beyond sustainability toward a more regenerative balance and a higher civilization. These two remedies are:

    1. Tax Reform Legislation: Banks, large corporations and the super rich must pay their fair share. There is no rational reason why you and I, the dwindling middle class, have to pay up to a 40% tax rate while banks, corporations and the super rich pay only a 15-19% tax rate. With the advent of the internet and information age, all previous theories that the super rich can save the economy through job-creation and industry have been almost completely discredited. Even the poster-child of the super rich, Warren Buffet is telling us to "Stop coddling the rich!"

    2. End the era of private-interest banking conglomerates: You and I, middle class America can take corrective action. Money talks. Big banks' sole purpose is to make money from other people's money. Today, because of a government bail out and a secret money infusion by the Fed, banks are sitting on record amounts of cash, OUR cash. What can they do with it? They can continue to sit on it or try to lend it in hopes of making more money. "For what?", you may ask. For private profit, that's what. Furthermore, our money is not 100% safe in private banks. In the Stock Market crash of 1929, people banged on the doors of closed-up banks unable to get their money to feed their families. The money was gone and there was nothing anybody could do about it. In today’s fear-based economy EVERYBODY, individuals and institutions alike are holding on tight to their money. It is as if nothing is moving.

    So, what is the second solution? Taking all our money out of the big banks and into community-based, socially conscious credit unions can potentially change the world. If we do so, we can immediately start to see a higher return rate on our dollars and an easier way for non-profits to fund projects and, hopefully, generate human and capital resources. A credit union is a financial cooperative institution "of its local members, by its local members, for its local community of members."

  • Interesting that it was a credit union member switching to a bank for its values. The question really is how can credit union better demonstrate their difference, especially the elusive Gen Y?
  • Indirectly this story highlights the downside of CUs becoming more bank-like--created room in the market for for-profit institutions to establish social responsibility bona fides. Collectively we need to be thinking of how we can do bold new things to create value. Price and service alone are not going to see us through!
  • We should not be looking at this problem in terms of "let's help some underserved people so that people will know we're involved in the community." Instead, we should be doing the right thing just for the sake of doing the right thing. That is what the whole credit union movement was founded on. I do not think mass numbers of Gen Y'ers will be moving their accounts because their credit union is not active enough in the community, so this should not be a money issue. Unfortunately, many credit union leaders tend to worry more about the tax issues behind social responsibility than the ethics behind it. This probably is not a popular comment on this site, but as a fellow Gen Y'er with 8 years of credit union experience, I thought I would contribute my two cents.
    Mark K.