Missing patterns in corporate news: Project Censored’s top 10 underreported stories of 2020 

Page 9 of 11

8. The public banking revolution

The year 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of the United States' first publicly owned state bank, the Bank of North Dakota (BND), and in October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Public Banking Act, authorizing up to 10 similar such banks to be created by California's city and county governments. In response, the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles both announced plans to do so. It was the culmination of a decade-long effort that began in the wake of the Great Recession that's also been taken up in nearly two dozen other states. Beyond the benefits North Dakota has reaped in the past, such banks could have greatly assisted in responding to COVID-19's economic devastation, and could yet help fund a just transition to a decarbonized future, along the lines of a Green New Deal.

Yet despite California's agenda-setting reputation, Project Censored reports that "No major corporate media outlets appear to have devoted recent coverage to this important and timely topic."

"The Bank of North Dakota was founded in 1919 in response to a farmers' revolt against out-of-state banks that were foreclosing unfairly on their farms," Ellen Brown, founder of the Public Banking Institute, wrote for Common Dreams. "Since then it has evolved into a $7.4 billion bank that is reported to be even more profitable than JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, although its mandate is not actually to make a profit but simply to serve the interests of local North Dakota communities."

"The state of North Dakota has six times as many financial institutions per capita as the rest of the country, and it's because they have the Bank of North Dakota," Sushil Jacob, an attorney who works with the California Public Banking Alliance told The Guardian. "When the great recession hit, the Bank of North Dakota stepped in and provided loans and allowed local banks to thrive."

As a result, "North Dakota was the only state that escaped the credit crisis," Brown told Ananya Garg, reporting for YES! Magazine. "It never went in the red [and had] the lowest unemployment rate in the country, the lowest foreclosure rate at that time."

"There are two ways in which a state bank can fund state investment for a greener future," Eric Heath wrote in an op-ed for The Hill. "First, the bank can provide loans, bonds, and other forms of financing for investments to the state government and private organizations on better terms than those available in regular markets."

Some such projects might not even be considered.

This is not because green investments are unprofitable, "but because their profits slowly accumulate and are widely shared across a community," Heath explained. "Second, a public bank will improve a state's fiscal health. By holding state deposits as assets, the bank's profits can be returned to state coffers to fund direct state investment. Additionally, the activity of the state bank — which will prioritize investing state assets and extending credit within the state for the benefit of the state — will improve the state economy," just as has happened in North Dakota.

A new surge of interest in public banking came out of the Standing Rock movement's Dakota Access Pipeline protests. While individuals could easily withdraw from doing business with fossil- fuel-financing banks — Wells Fargo, in this case — governments have no such similar options to meet all their banking needs.

In short, "From efforts to divest public employee pension funds from the fossil fuel industry and private prisons, to funding the proposed Green New Deal and counteracting the massive, rapid shutdown of the economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, public banking has never seemed more relevant," Project Censored wrote.

It's a time-tested practical solution the corporate media refuses to discuss.



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