banking, money, debt and the fall of civilization

So the other night I was watching Bill Moyers’ Journal, a PBS program which discusses some of the tougher issues facing the world today. This particular broadcast was on the meltdown of our financial system, the housing bubble, and why, 18 months later, the very same banks were poised, unshamed, to wreak havoc all over again. More to the point, his show was about why, despite the outrage, nothing was changing.
You can watch it here:
www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01082010/watch.html
(the broadcast is a little over 40 minutes, in three parts, or you can read the transcript at the same link)

In addition, you can read several articles on the subject from Mr. Moyers’ guests in the current issue of Mother Jones Magazine, some of which is available online, HERE. I highly recommend reading as much as you can stomach.

The Cliff’s Notes of those stories is nothing is changing because the banks control the lawmakers in two important ways. The first is with lobbyists – lots and lots of lobbyists. The second, and most important, is that the language of financial regulation is purposely so complicated that hardly anyone understands it, not even the people responsible for passing it. The main point of Mr Moyers’ guests was that simplicity in regulation, plain language basically, was the only way we would ever see improvement, but the lobbyists were there to make sure that never happened.
Sounds depressing, right? Well, at the end of the PBS broadcast, there are links to several grassroots organizations interesting in educating people further and showing them how to protect themselves, helping them organize an opposition, and my personal favorite: Move Your Money.

Over at MoveYourMoney, you can watch a cute video for some background, but more importantly, you can plug in your zip code to be given a list of local, community-owned banks, with a rating of B or better. (An explanation of the ratings system and why credit unions aren’t included is here: http://moveyourmoney.info/find-a-bank)
If a Credit Union is more your style, check out this comprehensive website to find a good one near you:
http://www.ncua.gov/
Moving your money from one of the bailed-out, “too-big-to-fail”, criminally irresponsible banks to one with a vested interest in the community it serves is one of the simplest steps you can take towards ending this madness. The big banks may have washington lobbyists in their pocket, but they do still depend on the people’s money.

For those people who are looking for investment solutions, not just personal banking and credit cards, there are some really great resources for finding ways your money can really make a difference, even while making a little back for your own pocket.
A great place to start looking is The Social Investment Forum. You can find projects all over the globe, as well as discussions and ratings.
Even more comprehensive, try this source for Community Development Financial Institutions for links and resources to local banks, local credit unions, lenders, and development centers who focus on providing opportunities for local businesses to thrive.

I used to think that since I really didn’t have much money, where I kept it was of little consequence. Watching these videos and reading these articles has made me think otherwise. My money might not make much differnce by itself, but just think what might change if even half of my neighbors did the same thing? Gotta start somewhere!

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