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AOC and Bernie Put Postal Banking Back on the Agenda

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Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders just put postal banking back where it belongs: high on the agenda of those who seek to create a just and equitable United States. On Thursday, the pair drew national attention with the announcement of their Loan Shark Prevention Act, a sweeping plan to “combat the predatory lending practices of America’s big banks and protect consumers who are burdened with exorbitant credit-card interest rates. The legislation imposes a 15 percent federal cap on interest rates and empowers individual states to establish lower limits.”

The CEOs of the banking behemoths that have enjoyed a free ride under Republican and Democratic administrations were, undoubtedly, shaken by the progressive populist clarity of the measure. Sanders named names:

The reality is that today’s modern-day loan sharks are no longer lurking on street corners breaking kneecaps to collect their payments. They wear three-piece suits and work on Wall Street, where they make hundreds of millions in total compensation and head financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and American Express.

But what unsettled conservative champions of the banking interests was a parallel proposal by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortezto build and expand basic post office banking services as an accessible, affordable alternative to check-cashing and payday-lending businesses.”

“Post offices exist in almost every community in our country. There are more than 31,000 retail post offices in this country. An important way to provide decent banking opportunities for low-income communities is to allow the US Postal Service to engage in basic banking services,” explained the proposal. “The Postal Service already cashes Treasury checks and issues money orders. The USPS should fully exercise its existing statutory authority and implement pilot programs offering affordable financial services, including ATMs, paycheck cashing, bill payment and electronic money transfers in post offices.”

Responding to a serious challenge—according to a 2015 study by the Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General, roughly 68 million Americans are underserved by the private banking system—Ocasio-Cortez said that “we should have a not-for-profit public option for basic banking services, and we should be piloting these projects through the US Postal Service, or any other number of ways.”

Sean Hannity could not handle it. He mocked the idea on Twitter and his website decried warned: “‘POSTAL BANKING’? AOC, Bernie Call for the Creation of Government-Owned Banks Run by the US Post Office.” Hannity was not alone. The Right exploded with fury over the notion of a public alternative to private banking. Predictably, along with right-wing members of Congress, conservative media went into attack mode, trafficking in stereotypes, fantasies and outright lies about the the efficiency of postal workers in particular and the government employees in general.

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