State-run banks: a movement driven by unusual politics

Marshall Swearingen • http://www.hcn.org • November 26, 2012

During Tea Party champion Joe Read’s first session in the Montana Legislature, in 2011, he drew widespread ridicule for introducing a bill that declared global warming “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana.” With another anti-science bill, Rep. Read called for Montana’s government to overrule federal regulations on greenhouse gases. He also passed out 170 DVDs of The Secret of Oz, a low-budget video charging that the Federal Reserve system has been corrupted by corporate bankers, symbolized by the “Wicked Witches” in the original Wizard of Oz.

The DVDs were part of Read’s attempt to create the “Last Chance State Bank,” named for a gulch where gold was mined in the 1800s. The colorful name also cut to the urgency of Read’s banking concerns: Desperate to fix a broken fiscal system, he envisioned that the Last Chance State Bank would be run by Montana’s government.

None of those bills became law, but the bank measure attracted a surprising supporter — Rep. Sue Malek, a Democrat who represents Missoula, a college town. Malek herself sponsored a bill supporting the state-bank idea (which also went nowhere), and Read wholeheartedly supported it…

“You hear that giant sucking sound?” read a flier circulated by the Service Employees International Union in Oregon in 2011. “That’s Wall Street’s big banks sucking up all the public dollars out of Oregon. (The state) does billions of dollars of business with big banks like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo … And what do we have to show for it? 28,000 homes in foreclosure, 10.6% unemployment, and devastating cuts to vital services.”

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