Opening A Chase Bank At The Post Office Is Not 'Postal Banking.' That Is Not It At All.
Photo: Mike Mozart, Creative Commons license 2.0

If you want to find out if someone's a progressive policy nerd, ask them what they think about the idea of "postal banking." If their eyes light up and they start talking about how it would make banking accessible to all and put evil payday lenders out of business, you've found your nerd. Postal banking is, to some on the Left, the sort of intellectual catnip that makes them a bit giddy, like the idea of "industrial hemp" can send certain greenies into rhapsodies. It's good stuff! Elizabeth Warren is a big fan, and wrote this nice 2014 summary of how it could work, based on a US Postal Service inspector general's report.

[The] OIG explored the possibility of the USPS offering basic banking services — bill paying, check cashing, small loans — to its customers. With post offices and postal workers already on the ground, USPS could partner with banks to make a critical difference for millions of Americans who don't have basic banking services because there are almost no banks or bank branches in their neighborhoods.

It's a really neat idea that's popular with lots of progressives, such as Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden's 2020 campaign calls for postal banking to make a comeback, too. Hooray for postal banking! It must be a good idea if John Oliver did a segment on why it would be nifty.

But since there's almost no good lefty idea that doesn't have some asshole proposing a worse, for-profit version of it, you shouldn't be too surprised to learn that JP Morgan Chase is floating the idea of opening private banking locations in post offices, like you find at a lot of supermarkets. For fuckssake.

Capitol Forum reported on the proposal yesterday, noting that the Postal Service was considering a proposal from the Wall Street giant that would give Chase exclusive rights to make money off postal customers, and to set up a "potential limited pilot test of ATM and other banking services located on Postal Service premises" in multiple states, according to a Postal Service document. The big bank would lease space from USPS, which might help with the agency's financial crunch, but that arrangement would vitiate the very idea of postal banking, which is intended to be a public service for the unbanked. There's little reason to think that people who already can't afford bank services would be helped much by a new kiosk in their post office.

Also, and we can't stress this enough, fuck these fucking bastards.

We're with University of California Irvine law prof Mehrsa Baradaran, an advocate for real postal banking, who said the proposal to give one big Wall Street firm exclusive rights to solicit business from postal customers is completely ass-backwards:

"Large banks like JP Morgan are more interested in maximizing shareholder profits than they are with providing equal access to all communities," she said. "That is the opposite of what we want."

Hell, if you're going to set up private banks in the P.O., why not a UPS or FedEx counter, too? (Shut up, Dok, you'll give them ideas!)

As Warren noted as part of her 2020 campaign proposal to rein in Wall Street and make the economy work for everyone, the USPS already has the legal authority to set up limited banking functions, so why not let a public institution help out the 68 million mostly low-income Americans who don't have bank accounts, and spend as much as 10 percent of their income on fees for cashing checks, paying bills by money order, and high-interest payday loans?

If the Postal Service offered basic banking services — nothing fancy, just basic bill paying, check cashing and small dollar loans — then it could provide affordable financial services for underserved families, and, at the same time, shore up its own financial footing.

All very nerdy and very good, and about as far from the idea the Postal Service appears to be chewing on as you can get. While the USPS wouldn't specifically comment to Capitol Forum on the JP Morgan Chase proposal, it did issue a generic statement on postal banking:

The Postal Service currently provides certain financial services appropriate to our existing infrastructure including money orders, electronic funds transfers and U.S. Treasury check cashing to meet customers' needs. The Postal Service's mission is to provide the American public with trusted, affordable, universal mail service. Our core function is delivery, not banking.

To the extent our research concludes that we can legally provide additional services at a profit and without distracting from our core business, we would consider these. However, public policy and regulatory discussions must be addressed before the Postal Service invests in an area outside our core function.

Translation: We don't wanna, even if in the good old days from 1911 to 1966, USPS used to offer postal saving accounts like a goddamn service.

God damn it. Hell no to this, and to hell with Louis DeJoy and the entire privatize-everything GOP.

And no, we don't want to hear Blue Cross-Blue Shield's ideas about "Medicare" for all.

[HuffPo / Capitol Forum / Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force / Photo: Mike Mozart, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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