Excerpted from Callahan's
Credit Union Report
Sorry to say,
but there are rumblings from the growing banker volcano again. There's
smoke and spurts, and the ground is beginning to quake. They'd like
to blow off with a good one and bury us in six feet of lava and
grumblings from them about our "arrogance" and our "land
grabs," that is, extensions of our authority to organize by
communities rather than employers. For this we are to lose our tax-exempt
status. The bankers will march on Congress to open Representatives'
eyes to their lost tax revenues and convince them to end, as they
would put it, our "federal subsidy."
are absolutely wrong, of course, but they are framing the issue,
and if we continue to let them frame it in the manner they wish,
and to apply their Chinese water torture of taking their message
again and again to Congressmen, then we are eventually going to
lose in Congress and every other legislative body. He who frames
the question guides the answer.
For all Americans
We cannot let
bankers frame the issue. We cannot let them claim we are merely
another kind of "community bank" that is receiving a "federal
subsidy." We are something far more special, with roots in
self-help activities codified in the 1936 credit union act.
were not set up to serve employers. Credit unions after decades
of work merely shifted to using employers as organizing tools, the
easier to reach people who needed the kind of self-help financial
services credit unions were meant to be.
We always were
community-based. The early New England credit unions were established
in communities and meant to allow anyone to walk in and join so
long as he or she was willing to save and help other members. It
was these kinds of credit unions that lobbied for the '36 Act.
Congress granted a federal credit union charter. It was for self-help,
not-for-profit cooperatives meant for Americans of modest means
and who were unlikely to enjoy a reasonable relationship with a
bank, in other words, just about all Americans in 1936. For credit
unions' not-for-profit status, they were granted freedom from federal
This is still
good public policy today and good public policy for tomorrow. Any
American who wants to join a cooperative for the purpose of helping
himself or herself while helping fellow members should be allowed
to do so. Here is something Democrats, Conservatives, Libertarians
and Strict-Constructionists can rally to: self-help and cooperative
help. It's good. It's American.
The fact that it has been modestly successful and helped a lot of
people does not thereby mean the revenues it generates for its members
should be taxed.
the Credit Union Act
A current problem
is that we do not have the proper tools for the job we could be
doing. The bankers have crafted new legislation granting them breathtaking
powers for the coming century. Our own charter lingers from the
time of the paper ledger and the wire-tugging switchboard telephone
We need to modernize
the Act in recognition of information and capital traveling around
the world at the speed of light. And at the same time re-emphasize
and recodify just what was meant back then: that Americans are savvy
enough and community-spirited enough to have and run self-help cooperative
not-for-profit financial service organizations -- of no matter what
size -- that benefit those who join and serve, and that on account
of the purpose and structure of these organizations no tax need
were granted authority to engulf the insurance industry, and they
are poised for taking over the investment banking and equities industries,
not just in our country but globally. Now that S&Ls have disappeared
there is only one obstacle to their utter dominance of financial
services around the world -- cooperative credit unions.
We cannot let them frame the next issue or shape the next battleground.
We have to keep saying what we really are.
Truthfully. Loudly. Over and over and over.