Arianna Huffington thinks we should move our money out of the six banks that hold 60% of our gross domestic product – Bank of America, J. P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wachovia, Wells Fargo, U.S. BC – and into small local banks or credit unions. Assuming you have any to move.
Huffington’s Move Your Money movement represents a grassroots response to the large banks’ reluctance to loan money or refinance mortgages after having repaid most of the $700 billion TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) funds taxpayers floated them last year. At the same time, they’ve also been raising fees willy-nilly, picking customers’ virtual pockets ten bucks or more at a time while handing out record bonuses to top executives. It certainly feels like an abusive relationship, as Huffington pal Bill Maher observes in this video. (I certainly felt abused after a year-long struggle to refinance our mortgage involving three banks and one small claims court filing).
Money movers argue that banking locally is better for the community. Plus local banks and credit unions usually offer sweeter deals on credit cards and checking accounts than big banks, along with more personalized service. And you’re keeping your money in your own neighborhood, which has been proven to have multiple economic benefits. Moreover, President Obama has promised to give smaller banks $30 billion in order to extend credit to small businesses.
Some skeptical economists, though, note that even thousands of people moving their money is still only a drop in the bucket as far as these banks’ holdings are concerned. If anything, you’re only punishing yourself with inconvenience. And of course you’re only transferring your funds from one bastion of capitalism to another. But the Move Your Money testimonials page is rife with anecdotes about people taking gleeful pleasure in letting their money speak for them.
Move Your Money makes it easy for you. Just enter your zip code and choose a local casheteria from the list of banks and credit unions that pops up.
It’s not about punishing corporations – because corporations, as everyone except the Supreme Court realizes, are not people. It’s about improving your personal financial scene.