April 2009 KTA: Bringing Our Money Home!


April 15th is Tax Day, a day that fills some with a sense of civic responsibility and most with a sense of dread. This year, as we file taxes, many of us are feeling an anger that we haven’t felt before. That’s why we’re turning this annual ritual into a reminder that it is our contributions and hard work that fuel our government and into a month of action towards keeping our tax dollars local.


WHAT IS THE ACTIVITY?  This month’s KTA is to call your local banks and credit unions and research the potential for investing our local tax dollars at home. Below are 5 easy questions that any of us can ask of our local banks and credit unions. We’ll pool these results from around the state and support next steps for encouraging our local institutions to take advantage of these options – because every City, County, School Board, PUD, and local non-profit has a bank account somewhere!

WHY THIS ACTIVITY? The economic crisis has shown us just how unaccountable large financial institutions are. Across the country, we have been outraged that the government’s TARP bailout in October 2008 resulted in handouts of our tax dollars to the very banks and corporations that got us into this mess, without resolving a thing in our communities and households. Seven financial holding companies that have subsidiaries incorporated in Oregon received a total of over $105 billion from TARP. With few efforts at accountability coming from above, ROP and Human Dignity Groups are taking the reins. ROP is joining with other groups in a campaign to tax these windfall corporate subsidies, but we are also working to do what we can immediately at a local level to bring our money home!  
One step towards gaining control of our money is keeping it in small, local institutions that are run by people we know, people who live in our own communities and invest locally. These are our tax dollars. Do we want them invested globally with disastrous consequences to benefit unaccountable shareholders whose only incentive is maximum profit? Or do we want them invested in our local communities to benefit our neighbors and our main streets? 
There is a lot that we are all learning about banks and finance these days, but the reality is that we are witnessing the dawn of a new economy that will likely get worse before it gets better. We need to get educated now on where our money goes, how it is spent, and develop a new relationship of accountability, not just with our personal finances (what we have left of them!), but with our collective resources.
1.       Gather your human dignity group together and make a list of locally-based banks and credit unions in your county.
2.       Decide who will contact which institutions and review the following questions. Are there any additional questions you want to add? For inspiration you can listen to an interview with Gene Pelham, President and CEO of the Rogue Federal Credit Union that Wes Brain conducted on the second half of March 30th’s Brain Labor Report.
·         What sorts of things do you invest in and lend money to? (cars, houses, real estate development, businesses, etc.) 
·         Do they have a mission in their lending?  What is it?
·         What percentage is invested locally (in our county, region, etc.)?
·         Is there a legal limit on what they can lend to or for what purposes?
·         Would they be happy to see many more depositors? (For example, if people were urged to move their money from the large multinational banks to local credit unions?  What if the City and/or County moved its money to the credit union?  Is there any limit on what they can handle?)
2.       Make calls and set up short interviews with representatives of your local banks and credit unions.
3.       Compile the results from your interviews and share with ROP.  
EXTRA CREDIT – Your Feedback to Create ROP’s People’s Economy Campaign for 2009!
While your group is gathering to map out this project – or if you can take the time on your own – check off your favorite menu items on the latest summary of ROP’s ideas for building a People’s Economy. Then let ROP know which ideas you are most excited about serving up in 2009. What would you like to see ROP working on this year? How would this look in your county? The ROP Board will be meeting to map this campaign out in mid-May and we want to plan with your needs and concerns in mind! 
BONUS – Just how did we get into this mess? Start improving your economic literacy by watching this excellent video of economist and Lewis and Clark Professor Marty Hart-Landsberg speaking at a recent Town Hall on the Economy.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR! May Day, an international celebration of Workers Rights is Friday, May 1st. Join ROP, PCUN/CAUSA, and other unions and social justice organizations in Salem! Email cara@rop.org for more details.