California Lawmakers Demand Unemployment Answers From Bank of America CEO

A bipartisan group of California lawmakers is asking Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan for answers about unemployment payment problems that have upended the lives of thousands of jobless Californians who rely on the bank’s prepaid debit cards.

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  1. I’d like to add to two questions to the 14 posed by the legislators in their letter to the bank CEO. The first is a personal one: where the hell is the signature of my assembly representative Evan Low?

    I’m sure that if it was an issue that negatively affected his big tech contributors, many of which can now maintain anonymity with Low’s blessing, he would be all over it (https://calmatters.org/projects/closed-doors-secret-donors-legislator-tech-caucus-foundation-silicon-valley-charity/; https://calmatters.org/projects/state-investigates-evan-low-tech-foundation-calmatters-report/). Or if it had any possible deleterious impact on dentists, he’d run to the rescue (https://californiaglobe.com/section-2/assemblyman-lows-legislation-conflict-of-family-interests/). Or even if evangelical Christians who support conversion therapy for gays had made a stink, Low would have surely accommodated, even it meant smacking down the constituency on whose identity he has based his entire career (https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/politics/2019/06/21/california-lawmakers-advance-resolution-condemn-gay-conversion-therapy/1501606001/).

    After all, as Barack Obama would surely attest, employing identitarianism in politics is only useful if you can weaponize it in the interests of your wealthy donors, especially against the people who share your outward identity (https://jacobinmag.com/2017/12/obama-foreclosure-crisis-wealth-inequality)? Low’s missing signature suggests his low prioritization for unemployed and financially-stressed constituents and/or his higher prioritization of the banking lobby in Sacramento (https://www.calbankers.com/state-government-relations).

    My second, and more substantive, question is: why the hell do our elected representatives defer, demur, kowtow and prostrate and humiliate themselves in dealing with the Bank of America? Why the polite, fawning language? Why do they give the bank the benefit of the doubt? The bank is a state vendor, so deal with it like any other state vendor. The state contracts for the goods or services and if the vendor can’t deliver or answer to state needs, take state money (our tax dollars) and go elsewhere.

    In particular, establish a state public bank that fulfills all the state’s banking needs for a fraction of what the Bank of America or Wells Fargo or others presently charge the state. You know, like the 101-year -old Bank of North Dakota (https://bnd.nd.gov/history-of-bnd/). Just a year ago, the state of California formally and legally enabled the establishment of public banks (https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2019-10-02/public-banks-can-be-formed-under-bill-signed-by-newsom). If we had a public bank at the state level, the hundreds of billions that pass through Sacramento (https://lao.ca.gov/Publications/Report/4263) could be managed and mediated without paying tens of millions in fees and commissions to the charlatans in the private banks (https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/bank-america-pay-1665-billion-historic-justice-department-settlement-financial-fraud-leading; https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/pr/wells-fargo-agrees-pay-3-billion-resolve-criminal-and-civil-investigations-sales; https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-01-27/wells-fargo-scandal; https://www.lexisnexis.com/LegalNewsRoom/financial-fraud-law/b/blog/posts/jpmorgan-chase-defrauded-100-000-people-california-alleges).

    Such a bank would, furthermore, give the state much broader fiscal space to embark on healthier and heftier levels of public investment and, like the Bank of North Dakota, afford greater revenue stability and fiscal maneuverability allowing it to finance its debt (https://staging.sanjoseinside.com/news/as-community-lenders-sell-out-or-go-under-can-publicly-owned-banks-restore-local-control/;https://staging.sanjoseinside.com/opinion/op-ed-public-banking-can-recharge-south-bays-economy/).

    A public bank would also serve a development function by eliminating capital allocation decisions based solely on private profit considerations. We need more affordable housing; the public bank will fund such projects. We need more and better public infrastructure: public banks will fund this. We need better school facilities and more public hospitals and clinics: public banks can and will fund these too. We need environmental protection, restitution and reparation; the public bank can lead the way. The state can directly produce what we need, when we needs it and can finance it without bankers and the wealthy weighing in and taking a cut (think fire departments).

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