Commentary

Banking at the post office? Law professor makes strong case for its return

Postal banking

Image: www.campaignforpostalbanking.org

The idea of the United States re-instituting postal banking has, happily, received some attention from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in recent months. The simple and straightforward idea: provide Americans (especially low-income Americans) with an alternative to the bottom feeding payday lenders, finance companies, check cashing outfits and pawn shops that have filled the gap in the market in recent decades after the demise of community banks and savings and loans.

Today, in an excellent essay for The Nation, University of Georgia Law Professor Mehrsa Baradaran (the author of the 2015 book “How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy”) strongly endorses the idea and places it in its historical context. This is from the essay:

“So it’s time to consider a large and national solution to the problem of the unbanked.

Almost every other developed country in the world has found the answer in their post office. What very few people seem to remember is that the United States did it too. In fact, our postal banking system, first proposed in 1871, began in 1910 and banked millions of Americans until 1966, when it was phased out, because this was the heyday of community banking and there was no need for the postal banks….

Postal banking was the most successful experiment in financial inclusion in the United States—a problem in front of us once again. Postal banking brought millions of new immigrants and rural dwellers into the United States banking system.

We are again facing the realization that our banking industry is unstable, but also, more crucially, that it is unfair. Read more

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More on the attempt to bring back payday lending to NC

As reported on the main NC Policy Watch site last week (It’s baaaack: Troubled Alabama bank tries to sneak payday lending back into North Carolina) at least one bank (Regions Bank out of Alabama) is trying to bring payday lending back into North Carolina after state lawmakers, regulators and advocates chased the practice away more than a decade ago.  

Mark Binker over at WRAL had more on the story over the holiday weekend, including the fact that a much larger and more respectable  institution, SunTrust Bank, may be considering doing its own shark impression as well. Let’s hope that SunTrust and others come to their senses and realize that payday lending is bad news for the state’s consumers and bank reputations.    

 

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B of A protest activities this weekend in Charlotte

There is a helpful website for folks converging on Charlotte this weekend to demonstrate against Bank of America — it’s called www.ncagainstcorporatepower.org.

 This is from the site:

“On May 6-9 people from across the country and world will be converging in Charlotte, NC, home of Bank of America’s Headquarters and their annual Shareholder meeting, to demand an end to their practices that are bankrupting our economy and wrecking our climate. Read more

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Guilford County official takes on the banking industry

Hooray for Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen. Yesterday, this rather obscure public official had the guts to file a lawsuit against a goodly part of the American banking industry.  Here’s a link to the press release (also reproduced below) and other relevant documents.

Guilford County Sues To Clean Up Banks’ “Mess” at the Register of Deeds

Guilford County, ex rel. Jeff L. Thigpen, Guilford County Register of Deeds, filed suit today against LPS/DocX, MERSCORP, MERS, Inc., and numerous banks, loan servicers, and foreclosure specialists seeking to clean up the “mess” Defendants created in the County’s property records registry.   

“Our office uncovered an abundance of falsified, forged, and fraudulently executed mortgage documents,” said Thigpen.  “But our investigation only found the tip of the iceberg.  We need the banks to clean up their mess.”    Read more

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The very sad and scary world of the foreclosure mills

In case you missed it, the New York Times ran an opinion piece by Joe Nocera last Friday that exposed the seemy underside of the foreclosure mill industry.

It turns out that employees at one of New York’s biggest foreclosure mills had a big Halloween party in which many people dressed up in costumes and created props that were designed to make fun of the “deadbeats” whose homes their firm has been doing its best to take away. Six amazingly tasteless photos of the shindig are posted in the article.

This morning, Mike Konczal at New Deal 2.0 has a good follow-up post on the matter. Here’s the excellent conclusion:

“Though the Halloween pictures are disgusting, they are a symptom of a larger view of the way the law should work that is even worse — one in which debtor’s protections are mocked, the rule of law is ignored, and shantytowns proudly display their creditor’s name over them. This is the way many elites view the rules when it comes to debt. Thankfully, there is more and more mass opposition to this perversion of the law.”