Democratizing credit

The $780 billion stimulus package will help stimulate the economy and create jobs, no matter how hard the Rush Limbaugh lunatics try to make it fail. It is already creating jobs and the ripple effect will create more.

But the $780 billion in and of itself cannot do enough or do it soon enough before the recession deepens into a full-blown depression. Much more needs to be done to move the economy into recovery mode. The reason for this is that there is a critical, vital ingredient missing in the recovery program: availability of low-cost mass consumer credit.

Seventy percent of all economic activity is carried on through credit. A huge portion of that is consumer credit. That’s what has been cut out of the economic cycle in today’s recession.

Credit is to the economic engine what oil is to a motor. Neither will operate very long without it. The resulting damage is destructive.

But what kind of credit? How much credit? How can it be made available for all who need it so that it becomes a constructive economic tool in the recovery program?

Credit has been an integral part of the economy ever since the foundation of our country. It is also necessary in socialist economic activity.

Credit is a capitalist tool in our country. Consumer credit, used by masses to purchase the daily necessities of life, is paid for by the levying of usurious interest rates. It is a method used by capital to compel millions into economic dependence.

U.S. capitalism used and uses credit to suck up and ingest every morsel of surplus value which it could not steal at the point of production. In effect, these exorbitant interest payments are the same as a wage cut. That kind of credit cannot keep millions in the mass consumer market. It is credit for the greed of the Wall Street financiers.

Then what kind of credit is necessary? How can credit be a useful part of the stimulus program? How can millions be brought into the consumer credit market without fear of again being economically strangled? How can the people be reassured? Who can give them that confidence? Certainly not the same Wall Street finance capitalists who have made off with a trillion dollars to bail them out of their bogus mortgage schemes.

The assurances and guarantees can only come from the democratization of credit. Democratizing credit means placing the credit system under control of the people. That can only be done by the federal government setting up a separate and independent credit banking system. This would make the government the lender of first resort with no intermediaries. It would be restricted to consumer use only. Consumers’ ability to borrow from a publicly owned bank at low fixed interest rates would be a permanent pressure on the loan-sharking private capitalist credit system. People could again buy anything from groceries to a home. This democratic credit system should be a permanent financial institution. Let the loan sharks compete.

The capitalist crisis is worldwide and only new economic structural changes can effect substantial changes to help recovery. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that establishes capitalism as the country’s economic system. New economic forms under public control are necessary and possible. One of those forms is a new, independent, democratic credit system.

Remember Robert Kennedy’s challenge: “There are those who ask ‘Why?.’ We say: ‘Why not?’” Yes. Why not a consumer banking system, of, by and for the people only?

Can we build a successful separate and independent credit banking system? You bet we can. Remember Pearl Harbor? Just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, American soldiers were doing rifle drills with broom handles because there were no real rifles. Yet in four years, 13 million men and women were drafted, armed and equipped to fight fascism. A navy, air force and ground war machine were built. Massive amounts of war equipment were supplied to allied nations around the world. All of the ships for this mighty effort were built in U.S. shipyards. All this was paid for by a government-conducted campaign to sell victory bonds. That effort would dwarf the process of setting up a separate and independent credit banking system at this time.

The basis for establishing such a banking system already exists. It includes credit unions, savings and loan associations, and small honestly run Main Street banks that are not caught up in the Wall Street profit swindle. The capital to start this separate and independent credit banking system could come from the remaining $350 billion which was supposed to be used to open up mass credit. Wall Street has already gobbled up a trillion dollars and has solved nothing. Now it is the people’s turn. We can solve the credit question. Let’s do it.

----- Pat Barile is a retired trade unionist and member of the Communist Party USA National Board.