Don't wait for the federal government to fix the economy – relocalize your money now!

“What would it be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?”  

Woody Tasch founder of Slow Money.

Even though the U.S. economy was rocked by market and banking scams, Wall Street has rebounded quite nicely from the economic crisis they helped to create with assistance from a federal government that continues to support a “big corporation” economic policy.  Want proof –  just follow the money!

  • According to Neil Barofsky, inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the financial  assistance provided those corporations that were “too big to fail” exceeded $3 trillion
  • The U.S. federal government Small Business Jobs Acts created a fund to spur local bank lending to small businesses, investing about 10% of the amount provided to the big banks through TARP

But that’s not all.  According to Amy Cortese’s new book, Locavesting: the Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It, government subsidies, tax breaks and grants to big corporations are estimated as:

$10 to $30 billion to “big agriculture” each year,
$17 billion to oil and gas companies per year, and
… tens of billions to state and local officials to attract corporations to build stores, factories and warehouses in their communities that compete with local, small businesses.

There are fundamental flaws in how the federal government deals with the financial system.  They continue to underwrite big investment banks that play roulette with our money.  They have bailed out financial institutions and corporations deemed “too big to fail” and then allowed them to get even bigger.  And they subsidize multinational corporations that continue to move jobs offshore.

Healthy small businesses and vibrant community banks are needed to restore economic vitality in the U.S. because they create jobs and circulate money locally.  Multinational corporations have failed to produce sustainable prosperity, because they are more interested in making money than making things people need.

According to Sagar Sheth, cofounder of a successful technology firm, “we have lost a sense of respect for what brought us here – building things that the world can use.”  He continues…  “… you have these smart kids coming out of school and going to Wall Street and making a lot of money playing around with numbers.

Federal deregulation has made our financial system a casino for the rich – and they are playing with our money.  When Congress repealed of the Glass-Steagall Act, the relatively conservative culture of banking changed radically and became a free-for-all of risky speculation culminating in the collapse of 2008.   

A ballooning trade deficit producing a massive international debt, an underemployed middle class, the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs overseas, and the acceptance of speculative trading as the way to make “easy money” –  is not the road to a sustainable prosperity.  When 40% of the annual profit of large corporations are generated by the Financial Services Divisions that make speculative investments to maximize short term profit (rather than actually making something real) we are in serious trouble!

According to Cortese, the financial system supports “…a massive misallocation of capital away from its most productive uses and toward unproductive, even harmful, ones, such as speculative trading, subprime mortgagees, and the latest bubble du jour.”

Our trade, tax and bank policies create a business environment in which exploitative practices are the norm.  Given the financial power of Wall Street, efforts to regulate this dangerous behavior will be difficult.  Politicians that try are labeled “socialist” and marginalized.

What can the ordinary person do? 

Well…

Occupy Wall Street is one response!

Another is to keep your money close to home!

We need to relocalize our money!

Here are some ways how

Our corrupt financial system must be reformed, (even some bankers agree) but we can’t wait for the federal government to begin.  Politicians run for election full-time and depend on corporate money to stay in office. Wall Street has too much money and power to be reformed by government.

We must take action ourselves and reclaim the power to make the economy work for people, rather than allowing the 1% to manipulate the financial system to serve short-term greed.

Impossible you say?  I say – believe it!

Begin with small actions like those listed above.  Small actions taken by enough people will create a reinforcing feedback loop that can develop into a title wave of change.  If we start a parade, eventually politicians will want to jump up front and carry our flag.

Too many people just don’t believe it is possible to create real change…

To quote a classic……

“‘I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the White Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Believe it

…. and then relocalize your money – today!

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For more ideas, videos and challenges along these lines, please join my Facebook Group; Just Food Now.   And for those of you from Amherst, please send me your favorite public initiatives to promote local food to add to my list for a future blog.  This post was inspired by the Pioneer Valley Relocalization Project.

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21 thoughts on “Don't wait for the federal government to fix the economy – relocalize your money now!”

  1. For me, the most immediate action is to buy locally. I have begun to explore ways in which not only food but services can be chosen using local businesses not attached to major corporate entities or franchises. In addition, I'm beginning to explore other ways of localizing my finances. The localization movement will of necessity be gradual, I think, but that kind of gradual shift in money management can eventually reach a critical mass, at which point both economic and political pressure can be brought to bear on more national financial practices.

  2. Excellent article, John. I've been preaching this particular sermon for awhile, thru my column called Think Local (madisoncountycourier.com). If we can take away the money from the big banks, big ag, big box stores, etc., we hit them where they live, and eventually, with critical mass, they go away. Unfortunately, it's a long learning curve. People don't want to be inconvenienced and they don't want to change, most don't even want to think! It will take a crisis to change that, which is well underway. But we keep plugging, and keep telling people. Thanks for this. I'll share it on FB – might even quote you in a column.

  3. I don't see it so much as "playing roulette with our money" but more like the kings and serfs. Serfs (us) paid money into the kings (corporation's) pockets, as we have thru our taxes for the corporate bailouts. The transfer of our labor into their pockets. Do we hafta do the Magna Carter again?
    One of the best outcomes of Occupy has been the public education (reminds me of the ol "consciousness raising" during our youth). I'd like more info on your 5 points of "some ways how". Altho I do subscribe to #s 1, 3 & 5 currently.

  4. In the Pioneer Valley you can also choose to use R Credits (an alternative electronically based trade system) to both keep more money locally as well as grow the local economy.

  5. Thanks for posting this article, John. It truly comes at a time, in my opinion, when the average American has just about had it with the Federal government and they are throwing their hands up in disgust. I think people are tired of waiting for the Federal govt. to act and are looking for actions they can take RIGHT NOW to make a difference (I know I am), and supporting local businesses and local economies is a HUGE step in the right direction.

    I can't agree with you more on what was written in this article. It especially has a lot of meaning for me right now as I come out of college, am becoming more financially independent, and have more control over where my dollar goes. I feel like now that I'm about to leave family life I have a lot of responsibility to "vote" with my dollar every single time I make a purchase. I haven't always been this aware about where my money goes, but I think the tipping point for me has been the combination of all these things: learning more about the Occupy Wall Street movement and what it really stands for, seeing Citizens United dramatically affect the 2012 Election, learning more about the financial crisis and how the people responsible for the meltdown have not been held accountable, were able to resign from companies with obscenely large bonuses, government money bailing out fraudulent companies, and these companies continuing to post record profits.

    The time is NOW to start re-localizing our money.

    Thanks again for posting this article. It's refreshing to see others just as frustrated with government inaction and financial system cruelty as I am. This frustration has prompted me to act and change, and this article provides some great resources and motivation to do so. Thanks John!

    P.S. "Inside Job" (http://www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob/) is an incredible documentary on the financial crisis and I recommend seeing it

  6. After reading David Barsamian's interview of Richard Wolfe on Capitalism and It's Discontents; What went wrong in last month's The Sun Magazine I feel more informed about just how much we need structural changes in our business system e.g. more cooperatively owned ventures.
    http://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/434/capitali

    As far as doing business locally I have the majority of my finances in local banks and investments and am working on moving the balance. Oh yeah I am an owner/member of a cooperatively owned grocery business and haven't used charge cards in over 20 years (live within my means). Now I just need to figure out how to stop shopping at Whole Foods.

  7. It certainly will take all different types of activism to turn this around. Thanks for teaching me some new ways to make a difference.
    Glenn Johnson, Greenfield, MA

  8. I appreciate the practical thinking and the how to part of localizing money in this article. As a city dweller, I always want to find ways to keep my money working for me and what I believe in. Living in NYC, a global node of commerce, is often trying because ecology and economy are working in an unruly way that's inscrutable.

    The occupy wall street movement has succeeded in opening dialogue, and reminding New Yorkers and Americans and the world that we need to share in a more meaningful way when we occupy a space. But it's one thing to be a part of a movement and another to truly have the ability to meet the eyes of the businesses and institutions where your money goes.

  9. John,

    Thanks so much for alerting me to Tasch's and Cortese's books. It all makes sense to me, along with exploring local currencies.

    I guess where rubber meets the road on this is when one shifts from investing a little or some of one's assets this way to considering investing a lot, most or even all. Some of the rewards of locavesting are non-monetary. Many are collective — that is, my local investments benefit everyone in my community — which is ethically great, but in practical terms can raise "free rider" challenges (i.e., people who refrain from locavesting but are glad to benefit from the actions of those who do it.). Does locavesting provide more or less investment diversification than Wall Street Investing? How does the risk – return ratio compare with various kinds of Wall Street Investing? For diversification, would it make any sense to create vehicles for investing locally, but also investing in other localities? If this is a route to changing the world, can it all be done through voluntary individual or community-based actions, or does it ultimately require some complementary policy and regulatory changes at the non-local level.

    All very stimulating stuff.

    Cheers,
    Dick Sclove

  10. Thanks so much for this great article, John! I think it's absolutely true that starting the parade will influence politicians to want to carry the flag at the national level, but we can start by talking to and influencing councilpeople and elected officials on the local level. Here in Georgia, there has been a surge in relocalizing the economy through purchasing locally-grown food, but the infrastructure to help link farmers to consumers isn't there yet and there are still a few prohibitive laws that actually prevent this activity. A lot of municipalities and cities are now trying to figure out how to remove the regulatory barriers that prevent food hubs, local food aggregation sites, community kitchens, food trucks, and repurposing of unused land into urban and local farms. It's an exciting time to be part of a movement to relocalize our money, especially when used as a tool for economic development, job creation, and environmental improvements in underserved communities. We must make sure that cities and regions have laws that support rather than hinder these efforts to strengthen local economies.

  11. Money can be used for positive social change. Our food system is one of the tastiest and most effective ways to invest money. If we begin to address the challenges in our food system then we begin to fix our the problems in our healthcare, our environment and our local economies all while creating community. Slow Money is one beautiful step in the direction of a happier, healthier and tastier world.

  12. I like this. It is true. We need to not just stand outside with a sign, we need to take action and manage our money locally. It is simple ideas like this that create the biggest change.

  13. I really appreciate this blog posting. I am eager to share this with my parents when I return home (I am currently studying abroad in Australia), as it offers really practical advice and feasible means for localizing our money and economies.

  14. Great article, John! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and passion! Do you know about these folks?…..
    http://commongoodfinance.com/home

    They are up to some pretty amazing and unique community wide money relocalizing efforts. Be sure to check out the tab 'Real Money – (RCredits)' to learn about their unique plan for a local currency / credit model that I think is pretty interesting and which seems like it could have more staying power than other local currency sorts of models I have learned about in the past. It will be launched in Greenfield at some point this year!!
    Cheers!

  15. New crowdfunding investment bill that just passed (shortly after this column) could also give us an easy and affordable way to invest in local businesses.

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