Sixty-four percent of Americans don’t trust their banks according to a survey conducted in 2012 by GoBank™ and Harris Interactive. This is not surprising considering that $231 billion of taxpayer money went to bailing them out in 2008. Caused by the corporate banks’ predatory lending tactics and fraudulent underwriting practices, the recession led to a decline in wealth for sixty-three percent of Americans, and a ten percent increase in unemployment.
Some people are so paranoid that they prefer to keep their money in cash, hidden away in a safe or just under the mattress. But for the majority of Americans who enjoy the use of services like credit cards and online banking, this is not a good option. For people who want the convenience of a bank, without the greediness of a corporation, there are community credit unions.
For anyone unfamiliar with this type of institution, it’s basically a bank in which anyone who has an account, gets an equal vote on how the company is run (or at least by whom). credit unions use slightly different terminology when describing their services, (savings accounts are called “share accounts”, checking accounts are called “share draft accounts”, etc.). And instead of being insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) they are insured and overseen by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), both of which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.
The availability of ATMs and overall technological advancements of credit unions may pale in comparison to that of large corporate banks, however the benefits of reduced fees and the higher dividends they offer greatly outweigh those minor inconveniences. And although membership is often restricted, since these organizations are not-for-profit, the money they make gets invested back into the specific communities they serve. Compare that to the corporate banks that often impose hidden fees and penalties on their customers to benefit the financial interests of their shareholders, and the choice is clear. If we don’t trust the banks, then we have to show it and stop giving them our money, otherwise they’re going to keep screwing us over.
In 1977, a jury sentenced Leonard Peltier to two consecutive life sentences for the shooting of two FBI agents during a conflict at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Three witnesses placed him near the scene, a ballistics expert testified that a shell casing found near the bodies was linked to a rifle of Peltier’s, and the FBI stated that they had been in pursuit of a red and white van matching the description of Peltier’s own vehicle on the night of the incident. For them it was probably an easy conviction.
What the jury didn’t know was that all three witnesses would later recant their stories, alleging that the FBI had threatened and coerced them into giving false testimonies. They also didn’t know that the ballistics expert withheld evidence disproving the link between the shell casing that was found and Peltier’s rifle. Or that the day after the incident the FBI was searching for a red pickup truck believed to be involved in the incident.
Even in light of this evidence, the U.S. Parole Commission has continued to deny Peltier parole, and President after President has ignored or denied his petitions for clemency. At 72 years old after having spent more than half of his life in prison and recently experiencing the loss of his youngest son, Wahacanka Peltier, all he wants is the ability to be there for his three young grandchildren. His health has been declining in the past few years and he most likely will not make it to his next parole hearing in 2024. If the federal government does not release him soon, he will die in prison. Ask President Obama to release Leonard Peltier before it’s too late. Go to www.change.org/p/free-leonard-peltier-contact-the-president-to-grant-leonard-peltier-clemency to sign the petition.