A descendent of Occupy Wall Street, the Occupy Money Cooperative, recently popped back up on the radar to launch their latest project, the Occupy Card. They say that soon, instead of keeping your money in a big, evil, economy-ruining bank, you’ll be able to put your money into an Occupy-approved cooperative, and have your own Occupy card!
What that means is a little foggy.
At the height of Occupy, there was a big “Move Your Money” campaign, wherein participants would open an account at a credit union or cooperative—institutions that aren’t legally allowed to engage in stuff like sub-prime mortgages, predatory lending, or toxic assets. The idea was to boycott the banks, and a lot of folks did it, since credit unions and cooperatives are everywhere, and most have all the features of a modern bank, with checking, loans, debit cards, etc.
So why choose the Occupy Money Cooperative? Well, I’m not really sure. Here’s a quote from their website’s FAQ:
The Occupy Money Cooperative, Inc. is a cooperative that will offer access to low cost financial services. We will not take deposits or offer loans, or other such services offered by banks. The Occupy Card will be offered through a bank, and so will be FDIC insured.
While banks are FDIC insured, credit unions and cooperatives are insured with the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), which is just as safe and secure, but overseen by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). So what you have with the Occupy Money Cooperative is an institution that does not take deposits or offer loans, does work through a bank, and somehow insists upon its own inherently ethical nature. It’s none of the convenience, with (potentially) all of the chicanery, and they’re asking for donations.
The Occupy Card is intended to be a prepaid card for people too disenfranchised to even open a checking account. Many current prepaid cards are giant scams, with some charging a $5 monthly fee, $5 to reload, $15 to dispute a transaction, and even a $1.95 fee for inactivity. Of course, there are prepaid cards that aren’t such a swindle, and since the Occupy Card will still charge ATM fees for withdrawals and inquiries, what advantage does it really have? Why on earth would they launch an autonomous project with so many cooperatives and credit unions that can take deposits and offer loans already around? Many credit unions already offer prepaid cards, so why not work with existing institutions instead of creating an inferior one from scratch?
The legacy of Occupy Wall Street is a bit hard to pin down. In some countries it inspired anti-austerity actions, or at least invigorated the movements already on the ground. In the US, it’s a bit of a scatter-shot. While it can be argued that Occupy “changed the conversation,” the truth is that it was powered by a populist fervor that lost steam pretty quickly, due to both external and internal problems. Some autonomous groups like Occupy Our Homes still do amazing anti-foreclosure activism, and Occupy Sandy was a life-saver after the tropical storm ravaged the East Coast, but the massive presence of a mobilized populist movement is sorely missed.
A lot of folks are angry because they feel the Occupy Card “cheapens” the spirit of the movement. I’m just sad that it seems like such a waste of time.
Via The New York Times