The Public Banking Movement in the United States: Networks, Agenda, Initiatives, and Challenges

Public Banking in the United States

This study by PERI researchers Esra Ugurlu and Gerald Epstein analyses contemporary public banking initiatives in the U.S. Based on surveys and semi-structured interviews, they provide an overview of the achievements of this growing movement, describe the central socio-economic issues they organize around, and examine the challenges they face. They demonstrate that the growth in public banking is a reaction to several socio-economic and ecological issues in the U.S. They argue that public banking can be an important tool in addressing these problems and suggest how the federal government can support these initiatives.

Abstract

In this paper, we analyze the contemporary public banking initiatives in the United States. We first provide a brief historical account of public-oriented banking in the United States. We then map out the central nodes in the contemporary public banking advocacy networks. Based on an online questionnaire and semi-structured interviews we held with public banking organizers and experts across the country, we provide an overview of the achievements of this growing movement, describe the central socio-economic issues they organize around, and examine the challenges they face. We demonstrate that the interest in public banking is a reaction to a number of socio-economic and ecological issues the United States faces, including the infrastructure crisis, ecological crisis, financial exclusion, and problems stemming from the management of state and local government resources. We argue that public banking can be an important tool in addressing these problems and suggest how the federal government, through the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, can support these initiatives.

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