“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 When Congress repealed of the Glass-Steagall Act, the relatively conservative culture of banking changed radically and became a free-for-all of risky speculation culminating in the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?
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
- Move Your Money to a local bank or credit union
- Invest 5 – 20% of your funds in a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI)
- Invest in and buy from local co-cooperatively managed businesses
- Put some of your funds in a B-Corporation
- And of course buy local!
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.”
…. and then relocalize your money – today!
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.