Occupy Movement Lives On in PA in Spirit, If Not in Name

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As quite psyched as I was to hear that there was a new Occupy encampment getting started in Easton, PA just a few months ago this year, I was equally depressed to hear not long after that it had been ordered to disperse. To me, that was a tease. I’d like to think the Occupy movement still has a spark of life left in it, but even if it doesn’t have much of a presence in Pennsylvania in the official sense at the moment, its spirit is living on in a proposal by a Philadelphia city councilman to take hundreds of millions of dollars of the city’s money away from one of the country’s biggest banks to take a stand for bank competition and against systemically risky Wall Street speculation.

From Tom MacDonald of WHYY:

… Councilman Jim Kenney’s legislation would remove about a quarter-billion dollars from Wells Fargo & Co. bank. Kenney says he’d like Wells Fargo officials to explain why it should hold the city’s money.”We gave those large institutions taxpayer money to keep them from failing to think they could back off some of those debt-service payments or swap payments that are killing our school district and killing our city,” Kenney said.

The city and school district lost $331 million with financial institutions from participating in speculative rate management agreements also known as swaps. Kenney says he believes it’s time for big banks to come and ask for the city’s money.

“This bank has our deposits and our business since the PNC days,” he said. “We’ve never had a discussion with the new iteration of each bank that’s come forward whether it’s PNC or CoreStates or Wachovia or Wells Fargo … why we should be doing business with them as opposed to anyone else.” …

And indeed, why should the biggest bank in town always get the city’s business by default? Couldn’t the city save money if it sought multiple bids from competing parties, money that could then be spent on such vital social functions as education or health care instead of padding the profit margins of unimaginably massive financial entities? Jan Ransom of the Philadelphia Daily News further extrapolates:

… Following the economic downturn several years ago, the city and school district dished out millions of dollars to end financial deals known as “interest-rate swaps.” Now, elected officials are looking to help close the school district’s $304 million budget hole, and [Philadelphia City Councilman Jim] Kenney says it’s time big banks step up.”They should want to help us through this school issue,” Kenney said, noting that Wells Fargo is one of several that arranged bad interest-rate swaps for the city. “You would think as one of their valued customers they would want to step to the plate and say, ‘How can we help?’ Instead of, ‘How can you pay?’ I want them to come to a hearing and explain what is it about their priorities and activities that says we should continue to do business with them.”

Kenney proposed a bill yesterday to discontinue depositing taxpayer dollars into Wells Fargo’s coffers. Kenney said Wells Fargo is a major funder of the pay-day loan industry, and he tried in vain to get support from Council’s Committee on Finance to delay renewing the city’s payroll-services contract with Wells Fargo. …

If you ask me, having an elected official at this level working on this kind of proposal for these kinds of stated reasons is as good as at least one clearly labeled Occupy encampment in terms of placing these kinds of issues at the forefront of the political debate in Pennsylvania.

This entry was posted in Economy, Greater Philadelphia, Open Government.

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