That acronym is not well known by many Americans even though it represents one of the most critical functions of our federal monetary system. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the OCC, is the manager of our system of “national banks” which comprise two-thirds of the banks in the country managing assets of about $14 trillion dollars. As an independent bureau of the Treasury Department, it oversees an industry that at times seems to go its own way with risky bank behaviors. But the OCC may be acquiring a tougher posture if President Biden’s nominee for its Director, Saule Omarova, is approved. Our guest, Dr. Robert Hockett, is a close associate of Omarova and sees indications that we may be entering a new period of support for the public interest in our federal financial institutions.
We’re Still Fighting the American Revolution
Our guest is Matthew Ehret, author of the new book The Clash of the Two Americas Volume 1: The Unfinished Symphony. In it he shows how the young United States, guided by Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and their successors, established a new financial model based on democratic sovereignty. But proponents of the old British model of colonial exploitation disrupted and continue to disrupt that visionary paradigm shift. Ehret points to the opportunity and the need to restore our visionary historical tradition by creating our own credit for the benefit of the people, following the original design of America’s Founders.
PPP’s and You
When costly projects like infrastructure stare down government budgets, taxpayers and politicians understandably get nervous. If federal financial support doesn’t take the lead, states and municipalities must come up with large amounts of money on their own usually through bonds and raised taxes. Another approach widely touted is “public-private-partnerships” – a financial collaboration that shares responsibilities and outcomes between private investors and public resources. Sometimes it works out. Often it doesn’t. Our guests, Drs. Alphecca Muttardy and Stephen Hubbard of the National Infrastructure Coalition, are experts in the field of infrastructure finance and PPP’s and delve into what America urgently needs in the way of infrastructure investment right now, and why PPP’s aren’t the reliable go-to partners they claim to be.
Constructing the Democratic Public Bank
As the movement to create publicly owned banks across America picks up speed, new questions arise about how to make them truly focused on serving public interests. Our guest Michael Brennan, a Research Fellow at the Democracy Collaborative, says public banks can be either “good” or they can be “bad”. The difference depends on how these new institutions are designed and constructed. Brennan has articulated clear design principles in a new paper titled “Constructing the Democratic Public Bank” to help ensure these banks are able to achieve the public interest missions they’re created to serve. Brennan says that prospect can and must be designed into the bank before they even get started.