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Brains Lost in Mail—Postal Bank Bunkum

Posted on Mar 9, 2014

    Screen shot from the pdf "Providing Non-Bank Financial Services for the Underserved" on the Office of the Inspector General of the USPS website. Illustration by USPS

By Greg Palast, Reader Supported News

(Page 2)

BitCoin Banking and BitNews Reporting

Last week, when I noted that the Empress has no clothes on this issue, I was viciously tweeted upon.

One truly decent activist for the un-banked poor had written a column backing the USPS/Warren ghetto plan – and then slapped me for failing to join the party.

I was ready to concede I’d gotten it wrong: I don’t believe in the doctrine of Journalist Infallibility. So I wrote this thoughtful author (the name is not important) about her knowledge of the details of the Post Office plan. And I got this reply:


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“No, I hadn’t read the bill. Drowning in work at the moment, but I’ll get to it.”

I’ve been busy working too: reading the plan.

Such a snap commentary, the staple of U.S. news outlets, is what I call BitNews. Like BitCoin, it’s imaginary, without any back-up, but you’re expected to buy it. (The image came to me after reading the P.O.’s additional request for authority to set up accounts for BitCoins – but not US currency. I can’t make this up.)

I am an investigative reporter. Sometimes that means hiding in the snow at dawn outside some finance vulture’s mansion; or taking a dug-out canoe up the Amazon hunting for evidence. Sometimes, it’s just reading a law before I write about it.

That’s what is happening here. My progressive friends, and, I suspect, Senator Warren, have decided to review a movie without seeing it.

Oh, yes, they’ve seen the trailer. The “trailer” to the USPS scheme was an op-ed in The New York Times by one Mehrsa Baradaran, called “The Post Office Banks on the Poor.”

It’s a terrific piece. But it’s a lie.

It’s a lie because of what it leaves out: that the Post Office will provide nothing but the degraded ghetto “services” already available from a guy in the back room of the corner bodega.

And it’s a lie because the bio of Ms. Baradaran leaves out something crucial. She’s listed as a “professor of law specializing in banking regulation.” But until recently, Ms. Baradaran worked for Davis, Polk & Wardwell. Davis Polk represents the Securities Industry & Financial Market Association and Wells Fargo, the firm’s biggest lobby clients. Baradaran’s firm fought tooth and nail against Liz Warren’s banking regulation proposals.

The banksters must have broken out the champagne when they heard they’d hooked Senator Warren.

But this story is not about Liz Warren, nor Greg Palast for that matter. This is about an assault on the nation’s least-defended Americans.

Happily, there is an alternative to Postal predation.

Occupy Wall Street’s Solution

If you’re like me, nostalgic for the good old days of 2011, you’ll remember a movement called “Occupy Wall Street.”

“Occupy” (acolytes only use its first name) called for taking your money out of the Big Banks and sticking it into the not-for-profit banks known as community credit unions.

Occupy itself stuck its buckets of cash donations into New York’s Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union. (See my report for Democracy Now, Goldman Sachs Versus Occupy Wall Street.)

Occupy’s bank, “Peoples,” provides short-term loans (not payday loans) to their members, 80% of whom are near or below the poverty line. The loans cost 10%, not the 34% sought by the PO. They offer real savings and checking accounts, even to the homeless.

There are about a thousand of these community credit unions nationwide. But there should be 25,000.

Are you reading this, Senator? The Post Office has already begun what it calls a “market test” with American Express.

Instead of letting American Express run tests on us, Senator, why not let post offices partner with not-for-profit credit unions to offer real banking services, not usury, to the public?

Postmen to Bagmen?

There’s another issue thrown into this witchy cauldron. Lots of progressives applaud the Postal payday loans because it will keep the USPS out of bankruptcy. But if it’s okay to skin the poor to save the P.O., why stop with ghetto “banking” and BitCoins? Why not let postmen sell cigarettes, forties, spliffs and escort services? These too are overpriced in low-income neighborhoods.

Despite what I read about myself on the Internet, I like Postal Banking – just like they have in Switzerland. My family likes postal banking. In fact, my relations like postal banking so much, they’ve put all their savings into Postal Bank accounts in Switzerland (they’re Swiss).

So, there you have it: The story of the U.S. Postal Bank that doesn’t exist, of lobbyists hoodwinking the best of us when we’re “busy,” my resignation from yet another publication, and my commitment to you that you will never read here some propaganda for someone’s “mission.”

You only get the story ordered by my favorite editor, Sgt. Joe Friday: “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Greg Palast is an investigator of financial and corporate fraud who has never lobbied for the banking industry. His latest investigations for BBC Television and Democracy Now have been released as a full-length film, Vultures and Vote Rustlers, available from the not-for-profit Palast Investigative Fund.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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