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Morning Must Reads: Occupy Wall Street and the Banks in Pennsylvania

"Gilbert Stuart's George Washington" by WallyG on flickr

"Gilbert Stuart's George Washington" by WallyG on flickr

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

In just over a week, the Occupy Wall Street movement has gone from being lectured by writers at Mother Jones for not understanding messaging to comparisons to George Washington in a Central Pennsylvania newspaper!

The protesters didn’t take their beef to the dysfunction that is Washington. Instead, they planted their flag of dissatisfaction in the heart of America’s financial district. It has spread to Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles, and is coming to Harrisburg on Wednesday … The upstarts who got Occupy Wall Street off the ground might not become storied legends, but their idea looks like it has legs, and with any luck, there’s a next generation George Washington poised to step in, articulate a moderated message, and put American economic equality squarely in the political middle.

If you follow the link in the above quote, you will discover that one possible target of Occupy Wall Street – Harrisburg is the resignation or impeachment of Mayor Linda Thompson. OK? Hopefully, as the Harrisburg protest movement comes together, they will follow the lead of the Occupy Wall Street – Philadelphia movement which remains focused on Wall Street.

Occupy Wall Street – Philadelphia is also targeting City Hall but remains focused on Wall Street.

As for Wall Street, Hershman said that he wants to see people there ‘return the money they stole from the American people and invest it in health care, education and jobs for working people and families.’ Protesters left the meeting with plans to form committees, and were assured by a legal representative that legal observers would watch the occupation and support arrested protesters. The representative also distributed ‘Know Your Rights’ pamphlets.

Speaking of messaging, Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group is moving in the direction of charging more fees.

PNC has said the changes were aimed at reducing the number of customers with free checking accounts. A number of the nation’s biggest banks have been phasing out free checking and scaling back debit reward programs as a way to make up for a shortfall caused by new regulations that have cut deeply into banks’ fee income. Most recently, federal caps took effect Oct. 1 on debit card swipe fees that banks collect from merchants every time a customer uses a debit card. PNC spokesman Fred Solomon said this week he could not speculate about whether PNC might impose a debit card fee as Bank of America plans to do next year.

And in a not unrelated story, big banks in the Lehigh Valley are losing marking share.

The loss of deposits this year was not evenly distributed. The Valley’s top three banks — Wells Fargo, KNBT parent National Penn Bancshares and Lafayette Ambassador — all lost deposits and market share … Another Valley bank trend that continued in 2011 was the growth of small, community banks that serve only the Valley, such as Embassy Bank and American Bank.

Since this morning is focused on the financial sector, I want to direct you to Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute who explains that imposing a tax on financial transactions — the transfer of stocks, bonds, futures and interest rate swaps (in other words, not withdrawals from your ATM) — should be one of the key demands of the Occupy Wall Street protests. I couldn’t agree more.

In short, such a tax [financial transactions tax] would raise money from a sector (finance) that has profited enormously in recent decades (aided by government guarantees) while too much of the rest of the economy has lagged….

Many of the high-earning Pennsylvania financial-sector executives who have “profited enormously” from growth in the past decade are in the top 1% of earners in the state. The chart below shows that this top 1% of Pennsylvania earners took home well over half of the total increase in income in Pennsylvania between 2000 and 2007.

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