Every year, billions of dollars of public money flow through banks. Wallstreet Megabanks, often accused of prioritizing shareholder profits, control a total of $509 Billion in deposits and $4.3 Trillion in state and local pensions. Advocates for public banks want more of that money to benefit the community.
The little city of Hazen, North Dakota, population 2,300, is the kind of town where farming and ranching families often have a second income from a job at a power plant or a coal mine.
As a teenager, Christie Obenauer, née Huber, frequently made the hourlong drive from Hazen to Bismarck, the state capital, to go shopping with her sister. On the way, they’d usually make a stop to run an errand for their dad, who ran Union State Bank of Hazen.
It has been over a decade since the financial markets crashed in 2008, spurring foreclosure of homes, job loss for millions and economic destitution for many. The effects of this crisis are still being felt by working Americans, but for Wall Street these effects are spelled with a dollar sign.
At least 90 percent of the nation’s cities are facing a budget crisis because of the economic shutdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a mid-April report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities. Because municipal governments cannot run deficits, they will have to respond by cutting staff and programs, which will worsen the economic conditions of the cities they serve.
One hundred years ago July 28, a bank in Bismarck, N.D., opened its doors for the very first time. This would have been an unremarkable event, likely lost to history, except for the fact that it was a public bank, owned by all the residents of the state. A century on, the Bank of North Dakota (BND) is still the only publicly owned bank in the continental United States (a second public bank was recently established in American Samoa) — though potentially not for long.