Un-Occupy-ing the Big Banks

People are breaking up with the big banks! Tuesday’s protest against Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and yesterday’s National Bank Transfer Day were truly inspiring. According to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), at least 650,000 people have joined credit unions within the last month as of Friday, the day before the official National Bank Transfer Day (further inspiring – a movement started by one woman’s Facebook post!).

A number of people went into and closed their accounts Saturday at both the Chase branch across the street, then the Bank of America branch at Westlake park.

Bank Transfer Day - Seattle

While I understand they are part of the 99% and don’t blame the big banks’ local employees, they do need to either get educated or stop telling lies about credit unions. I forget what else they claimed to one of the customers closing their account that set me off, but one of the things they were whining about was that credit unions don’t pay taxes. That would be income tax, which is true – because credit unions are non-profit cooperatives, where all the customers are co-owners who get to vote on polices and there are no shareholders getting wealthy off ripping people off with bad loans and excessive fees.


I’ve been with the Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union for several years, having left Washington Mutual (or WAMU!, as they liked to call themselves), before the crash and Chase taking over. I still have free checking, no charges from SMCU for using other institutions ATMs, and a nationwide network of  credit unions and ATMs I can use for free (including ATMs at 7-11, which admittedly is a little strange).

There are a number of reasons to take your money out of the big banks and go to a credit union or community bank. Fees are one of them. I couldn’t afford $5 or $10 a month for my checking account, yet it’s the customers who have the least money the banks like Chase and Bank of America charge (although they did back down, due to the protests, on charging a monthly fee for using their debit cards as well).  True, they are a business, and if they want to run a business model charging those who can least afford it to subsidize those who have the largest accounts, they can do it. I fortunately still have a choice not to keep my money there (and wouldn’t even if I were one of the wealthy. For shame! Exploiting the poor, like you need it more?).

However, taking taxpayer money for a bailout (with your CEO, who makes $10,000 an hour, on the Fed board, no less), not paying any taxes and foreclosing on homeowners trying their best to pay their bills is not okay, even if it is legal.

Which is what brought so many of us out into the street in the rain Tuesday night, to protest Chase CEO Jamie Dimon:

I’ve already mentioned in my last post some of the reasons we’re protesting Chase (and in my post before that, Bank of America).  Here’s a little more from Working Washington‘s blog entry, November 5: We’re breaking up with the Big Banks (and remember, according to the Seattle school teachers at the other protest, Chase is getting away with not paying taxes on mortgage interest as an in-state bank):

Chase Bank hasn’t been a good relationship. When they first took over Washington Mutual they fired 3400 employees as a way of introducing themselves to our state. They then raised fees on social services like EBT for which they were already being paid by the state at the ridiculous cost of $8 million a year, your tax dollars not at work.

Chase Bank didn’t stop there. They then gave even larger bonuses and pay to their CEO Jamie Dimon ballooning his pay to nearly $10,000 per hour. In fact, he is the highest paid banker in the United States. His earnings have exploded while he continues to foreclose on Washingtonians; nearly 10,000 and counting while making a profit on food stamps from folks who can least afford it.

Now, don’t feel too bad about Jamie Dimon, according to a Seattle Times article about his visit and the protest, he doesn’t lose any sleep at night. Having a lot of money and no conscious will do that for you!

Too much pepper spray flying once again (shades of WTO and the protests shortly after), and I evidently just narrowly avoided getting hit both at the protest I happened upon after my last class let out (maybe 2:30 or 3 pm) at the Chase branch on Capitol Hill on Broadway and at the Sheraton where Jamie Dimon was speaking (video below by Jonathan Walczak of the Seattle Weekly). Ironically, the Sheraton is within a block of the Washington State Convention Center which hosted the WTO a decade ago.

While I wasn’t crazy about some of the “f@#k the cops” chants or the challenging people just trying to get home by the mostly young protesters at that earlier protest; after seeing the photo of the cops pepper spraying them in the Seattle Times, I’d have to say that they were remarkably restrained.


I was heartened to see so many more people, and including a lot of union members and a Marine with an American flag, by the time the rally and march to greet Chase CEO Jamie Dimon started at 6 pm, in the cold and pouring rain. We even had older people in wheelchairs taking to the streets and one woman on oxygen (which made me very nervous, as she was near the front, like I was, just behind some young people in bandannas and even gas masks, with the already itchy fingered SPD with their hands on their pepper spray canisters. I was glad when her friends persuaded her to move back).

Myself? I sometimes moved back, and sometimes was up near the front, taking pictures, and I checked out the action at all the exits the crowd had eventually blocked. I was generally hanging back just a bit, but ran into a friend and ally who came to America after being involved in the protests at Tiananmen Square in China, and really didn’t feel like chickening out as she went up front and even talked to one of the police officers (fortunately, not while they were into pepper spraying). Which did put things a little in perspective, as I don’t think SPD would get that bad, at least not deliberately, but one of the did have a gun with, I think, rubber bullets ready; and as Oakland showed, people can be seriously hurt by “less-lethal” (and unneeded) weapons.

I noticed the headlights on the police helmets, which I suspect was to make it harder to photograph or videotape their excesses. On the other hand, I could read their name tags and they didn’t seem to be covering those over, which was an issue during the WTO era.

SPD's Helmet Lights

I know a lot is made of the excesses of a few protesters, like the “black block” anarchists in Oakland that same night. I’m not defending them, but anyone focusing on the actions of a handful, when thousands were peacefully taking the highway and closing down the port in a mostly peaceful general strike in Oakland is missing the point.


Teachers Educate Chase Bank

I went down to Westlake and joined Occupy Seattle‘s Robin Hood Tax protest yesterday. I got a good education on Chase Bank‘s corporate greed from Seattle’s school teachers.

Teachers Give Chase a Lesson

It turns out Chase hasn’t been paying any state tax on mortgage interest income, thanks to a loophole created for Washington Mutual as an in-state bank. Chase is based in Manhattan, so how did they get to keep that loophole when they bought WAMU for pennies for a dollar? According to the Social Equality Educators website: “Their fair share would add nearly $100 million per year to our State’s sorely strapped budget.”  Closing loopholes for out-of-state banks sounds like a good place to start to turn around our grim budget our Governor proposed to us Thursday, instead of cutting education, health and social services.

I, ironically, missed the largest march so far, the previous Saturday, catching up on other things, and having been to the march the Saturday before that.  I want to mention that because if, like me, you missed that one, it might seem like energy is waning.

Here’s a video from their march through Pike Place Market:

They were protesting Chase then as well. Following Governor Gregoire’s draconian proposals for our state budget, even though she and other Democrats say they don’t want to do it; I think we need to push them and the Republicans, who are all too willing to cut social services, health and education, on why we’re giving an out-of-state bank a free ride. Its time to end corporate welfare, and they are the ones who should be shamed, not the people who end up out of work or underemployed, just struggling to get by for themselves and their families.

Ironically, Chase even profits on that:

Chase Profits for Food Stamps

Why does Washington, and other states, pay to have their food stamp cards run through Chase bank? Why not have them through a credit union, say for Washington, WSECU, the Washington State Employees Credit Union? Why, in fact, is there apparently a state law that limits cities like Seattle to using only the largest banks, according to the city budget director interviewed in The Stranger, in response to Nick Licata’s proposed resolution for the city to review its banking and investment practices?

OK, I’m off on a tangent. Back to this Saturday’s rally, which was about a proposal to pass a version of the Robin Hood Tax, an idea that originated in England. What Adbusters proposed is taxing 1% of financial transactions and currency trades.

Sounds like a good idea to me. Sadly, the money has been going in the other direction, with the public bailing out the poor bankers, who apparently can’t manage their money properly. Shouldn’t we have some case managers if we’re going to have corporate welfare?

How much corporate welfare? Just for starters, the results first Federal Reserve audit, which happened thanks to an amendment added to the Wall Street reform law by Senator Bernie Sanders (VT):

The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

$16 trillion – that’s a lot of money, and with some of that (plus interest – it’s a loan, right?) would do a lot towards balancing the budget and we might not need to take a Credo action to tell Congress not to use Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as bargaining chips.

 “As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world,” said Sanders. “This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”

Not to mention the conflicts of interest that the Federal Reserve routinely gives waivers for:

For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed’s board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed.  Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed’s emergency lending programs.

Would that be the CEO of Chase who is coming here to Seattle, and Occupy Seattle is planning to protest, starting at 5:30 pm Wednesday? Seems like we have a lot to talk about. . .