By Steve Ratzlaff
The five largest banks in the United States—Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JP Morgan/Chase and Goldman Sachs—have caused an economic crisis that has left millions facing foreclosure and unemployed in the worst economy since the Great Depression. This crisis has, in turn, caused massive tax revenue shortfalls for the federal government and for state governments across the country—nearly $300 billion combined for all 50 states in the years since the crisis began.
To deal with these budget woes, politicians have cut public spending—laying off teachers, attacking public-sector workers, raiding pensions, closing hospitals and eliminating essential services for children, veterans and the elderly. Despite causing all this damage, these banks continue to do “business as usual” and have continued to earn large quarterly profits and receive large tax refunds.
These five large banks recently signed off on a $26 billion agreement with the attorneys general of 27 states to help ease the losses from foreclosures and to assist homeowners whose mortgages are now “under water” (their houses are worth less than the amount owed on them). This admission of complicity in the great meltdown of 2008 has been made evident in the banks’ agreement to the $26 billion settlement.
The truth of the matter, though, is that the homeowners who have been foreclosed on by these large banks have lost nearly $700 billion in this housing debacle and all the big banks had to pay was a measly $26 billion. Does that seem fair? In normal times, that would be considered grand larceny. There is no way that those who are being foreclosed on could ever get away with that kind of malfeasance. But the big five banks are “too big to fail” and so continue to get away with this kind of miscarriage of justice.
So, it’s time to move our money out of these large banks to local banks that are much more responsive to our needs. It’s the only leverage that we have. If enough of us, and our houses of worship and organizations, are willing to move our money, it is possible that the big banks will change the way they do business and begin to treat their customers in a just and fair way.
Here is one way to begin doing just that. Faith in Community, Peace Fresno and Occupy Fresno are planning a Divestment Day press conference and action at noon on Friday, July 13 at St. Anthony Claret Church (2494 S. Chestnut Ave.). This as an act of solidarity with the many homeowners who, through no fault of their own, are now facing foreclosure on their home as a result of the big banks’ irresponsible actions that devastated the economy.
Anyone who has already changed their bank account from one of the large banks to a local bank in the last year, anyone who is now in the process of changing banks or anyone who plans to do so in the future is invited to join us in this time of action and protest. It is no accident that the action is being held on Friday the 13th, a day that many consider unlucky. Every day is unlucky for those homeowners who have lost their homes or find themselves “under water” due to the greedy actions of these big banks. Participate in this action as we work together to change the ways these large banks operate and to support those who are facing foreclosure.
Steve Ratzlaff is pastor of Mennonite Community Church and a board member of Faith in Community. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.