by Jeff Sovern
I only just found out about Mehrsa Baradaran's terrific interview for the Who Makes Cents podcast. If you haven't made time to read her book, How the Other Half Banks, this will give you a brief introduction. For those who are unfamiliar with podcasts, it is easy to download them to a smartphone and then listen to them while driving or performing other standard chores. Here is an excerpt from the book's blurb, which also could serve as a blurb for the interview:
[I]t is easy to forget that America’s banking system was originally created as a public service. Banks have always relied on credit from the federal government, provided on favorable terms so that they could issue low-interest loans. But as banks grew in size and political influence, they shed their social contract with the American people, demanding to be treated as a private industry free from any public-serving responsibility. They abandoned less profitable, low-income customers in favor of wealthier clients and high-yield investments. Fringe lenders stepped in to fill the void. This two-tier banking system has become even more unequal since the 2008 financial crisis.
Baradaran proposes a solution: reenlisting the U.S. Post Office in its historic function of providing bank services. The post office played an important but largely forgotten role in the creation of American democracy, and it could be deployed again to level the field of financial opportunity.