We watched with fascination and horror as a slow-motion economic train wreck sent waves of destruction to cripple our state and change our lives in countless ways.
The global economic system is so complex, interconnected and distant from our daily lives that it often seems that all we can do is muddle along waiting for recovery to materialize.
Our culture prefers money as a measure of success, power and value to our communities.
Ever wonder if the system itself might be the problem?
Something’s amiss when there’s a disaster — and the GDP goes up. When the value of what’s mostly women’s unpaid work — having and raising children, keeping a household running, caring for sick and aging relatives and those myriad tasks that make life possible — doesn’t even count? When the decisions of reckless Wall Street gamblers, profit-mad international corporations and greedy CEOs impact our lives on the Olympic Peninsula?
The 1992 best-seller, “Your Money or Your Life,” Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez offered ways to break the links between jobs, money and life satisfaction.
Researchers examining happiness find no correlation between cash and contentment. Studies continuously confirm that money, really and truly, can’t buy happiness.
We know that putting a price tag on love, on friendship, even on a child’s spontaneous smile, is foolish, although we also worry about our bank accounts.
Can you use money in support of what you truly value?
Start with where you put your money. It’s always working, doing good or ill, with or without your awareness.
Making affordable credit available can mean the difference between hiring new people to expand a business or having to cut jobs. Big banks now sit on piles of cash, promising to help the economy by increasing lending yet their lending hasn’t budged since 2009.
Moving your money to a local bank helps keep your dollars working our communities.
Join a nonprofit credit union and gain a voice in how your money is used. Ithaca’s Alternatives Federal Credit Union, for instance, serves those overlooked by other financial institutions, like low-income, minorities, women and nonprofits.
You also can use a credit card that donates part of each purchase to saving the planet — without costing you. See www.workingassets.com/creditcard.
Cheers and huzzas to state legislators, Rep. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, and Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, who have introduced bills to establish a state bank, modeled on the Bank of North Dakota, the country’s only state-owned bank.
Founded in 1919, the Bank of North Dakota has contributed to the health of the state’s economy, which has the country’s lowest unemployment rate as well as a state budget surplus.
By law, the state must deposit all its funds in the bank — not some for-profit institution. The state guarantees all deposits. Its mission: to deliver sound financial services that promote the state’s agriculture, commerce and industry.
Three elected officials oversee the “bankers’ bank“ that partners with private banks to loan money to the state’s farmers, developers, schools and small businesses. It also loans money to students and buys municipal bonds from public institutions.
A certified state bank isn’t limited to spending only the money it has. It can legally extend credit — that is, it can create money in the form of loans, earning interest on amounts far exceeding their deposits.
Communities can create their own money systems, too. In colonial times, the Massachusetts Bay Colony thrived by issuing its own currency. During the 1930s depression, there were some 5,000 local monetary systems, says Jeff Gates, former counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. See www.odemagazine.com/doc/74/make-your-own-money.
Peninsula communities could do that as well.
Our money represents our own vital energy, one reason for rethinking our relationship with money, Robin explained. Last month she hosted the Healthy Money Summit, to “shift from consumerism, scarcity and greed to sufficiency, health and sustainability around money.” Download and listen to this gathering of innovative thinkers and community activists.
We can see the economy as something we can actively change for the better. We could shun the greedy, power-driven institutions and put our money to work for our own interests.
Diana Somerville writes about creating more sustainable communities and our personal connection with the environment. A Clallam County resident, she’s a member of the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Reach her at www.DianaSomerville.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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