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COVID CASH Part 2: “Evanston, IL Helicopter Money” — pilot project cover letter

On April 5, 2020, I sent this email to 50+ residents and business owners in my hometown — Evanston, Illinois. The email was a cover letter to my proposal for getting some quick cash to all Evanston residents during this first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal is in a separate blog:
COVID Cash: Emergency Proposal for People & Local Economies
(How local community banks can turn into temporary “public” banks)

The legal tool that would enable this proposal is “fractional reserve lending” — the ability of banks (and possibly other financial institutions) to lend more money than they actually have–in their vaults, on deposit, and on their balance sheets.  

These 50+ people are folks I know personally—neighbors, friends, colleagues. With this cover letter, I am trying to find out:
— if anyone has any local banking or credit union connections 
— if people might be willing to use those connections to present and discuss my proposal
— if there is any group interest in trying to make my proposal happen in Evanston

You may well ask if “fractional reserve lending” is legal in the U.S. It sounds like creating money out of thin air. How can that be?

All I can say is, unfortunately, this seems to be the case and the source of our personal and collective confusion about the U.S. economy and the U.S. “democracy” that, we were told, was based on common sense, rationality, and fairness for all.

My suggestion:
–Start asking The Money Question for yourself: If it’s basically just arithmetic, why doesn’t money make sense?
–Do an internet search on “fractional reserve lending”
–Ask bankers, economists, and officials about “fractional reserve lending” (many of them don’t know, but some do)
–Check out the resources at the end of this letter

If this proposal and cover letter seem useful to any other community, feel free to borrow, quote, adapt, etc.  I would be thrilled if someone made this proposal work in some other community—any U.S. community. Once we break through the myths about public money vs. private money and money creation — and all the other myths and misconceptions rolled into The Money Question — I believe that all Americans will be well on their way to real freedom in a real democracy.

1. Link to Proposal
2. Feedback from National Colleagues
3. Next Steps ??
P.S. The Money Question: Resources

“Evanston, IL Helicopter Money” — Pilot project cover letter

Nichols Neighbors listserv
Ald. Don Wilson – 4th ward
Economic Develpoment Dept. – City of Evanston (Paul Zalmezak)
Main Dempster Mile merchant association (Katherine Gotsick)
Evanston media
Evanston political and social justice groups
Individual Evanston residents & business owners in my networks

Hi, all —
This proposal is my version of HELICOPTER MONEY, a pilot project for Evanston.
—-Go straight to my proposal:
COVID CASH:  Emergency Proposal for People and Local Economies
How local community banks can turn into temporary “public” banks
— Twitter: See proposal with The Atlantic’s recent article on helicopter money:
—Or start with the background….


It’s apparent that the U.S. government is not going to help many of us get through this pandemic economically. It’s also apparent that it’s not a matter of ability or capacity, but a matter of intentional cruelty, based on decades of confusion about how an economy works in a real democracy on a finite planet. Whether that confusion was also intentional can be discussed at a later time.

Since the $2 trillion stimulus package was passed by Congress on March 27 (my 69th birthday), my intention has been to find an immediate solution to our current cash crunch at the local level. Such a solution would have to avoid any political process (too time-consuming) and be something that we—people of Evanston—might take into our own hands, using available monetary and legal tools.

Finally, I have a proposal that I can share and to which I invite feedback. I doubt that I have all the answers, but I think this could be a starting point for productive community discussion. I am willing to work on this and do whatever it takes to  make all Evanstonians solvent for at least the next few months.

Please share with any other Evanstonian or any other U.S. resident. We need to get the ball rolling on something like this. The U.S. government under Trump & company will not help. The corporate Democrats were never interested in making the GOP,  Trump & company, or billionaires accountable. The mainstream media are in a trance. And the rest of us spent so much time “resisting” (what we didn’t want) that we either forgot or didn’t have enough time to work on “insisting” (on what we do want, for everyone).

According to filmmaker Andrea Chalupa, Ukrainian oligarchs have a saying about “the people” in their country, the people and public institutions that they use to extract lots of money from: “People are the shit we grow our money in.”  Now that I know how U.S. billionaires “grow” their money—and what they think of people like me—we may as well try the same legal and financial tools to level the playing field for the rest of us. So, here’s my proposal. 


COVID CASH:  Emergency Proposal for People and Local Economies
How local community banks can turn into temporary “public” banks

My proposal uses Evanston as a pilot project, but it can be adapted by any community. It is fairly short (700 words, 2 pages). I believe it is easy to understand, although it is based on some knowledge of our money & banking system.


My food & farm and monetary colleagues tell me I should pursue this proposal. Here are some comments that I received when I sent them the draft. The comments are from colleagues with the following organizations:
–Alliance for Just Money 
–American Monetary Institute (farm parity research group) 
–Public Banking Institute

Note that none of these comments was made officially. These organizations—although all formal nonprofits–are primarily grassroots, made up of good-hearted, thinking voters. Like most Americans, we all know that something’s wrong with the U.S. money & banking system and we’re all trying to figure things out—once and for all.

Comment #1
My son has been an executive at community banks for a couple decades. They are held to much higher lending standards and reserve requirements than the big banks. And, many have shareholders who could not write off such an enormous sum. Perhaps if they are members of the Fed, the Fed could lend them the $375 milllion at zero interest, with an agreement to buy back the debt at $1. That would work, I think. But, you’d need to run it by a small town banker.

Thanks for working on this initiative. We must figure out how to pool all our energy and creat a laser focus!

Comment #2
Thanks and KUDOS for ALL this, Debbie! …the steps you’ve taken are sound and I greatly appreciate you sharing them….

Comment #3
Thank you Debbie, I appreciate the thought, time and energy you put into public banking.

Comment #4
Pretty sure your big hurdle will be convincing even a  ‘community’ bank to put community before profit….The current banking system was born joined at the hip with profit, interest and speculation – you know. True, the failure of that system is daily more obvious. Maybe some bank exec has a vision of better future. I am plugging for you to succeed.


Is anyone a community banker?
Does anyone have connections at a local Evanston bank?

In truth, I’m not sure we have any community banks any more.
First Bank & Trust was sold to Byline. Is Byline a community bank? (I think it’s locally owned, i.e., Chicago area).
I don’t think Wintrust is a community bank even though it advertises as such.

Anyone have connections with other community banks? locally owned? local credit unions?

How can we implement this proposal in Evanston ASAP — for the benefit of Evanstonians and perhaps other U.S. communities who can replicate the model if we’re successful?

Any thoughts, comments, contacts?
Can anyone offer to set up a meeting with a local banker? (conference call ?)

If there’s collective interest in this idea, I volunteer to organize a next step. This might be an “internal” conference call, an email discussion — whatever seems best for whatever group wants to work on this. 


For anyone who wants to dive into monetary history and policy in the U.S., here are some good, not-too-technical resources.

Evidently, “the money question” was a thing in colonial and early America, even up to the 1890s. It was a common topic of civic discussion for more than 100 years because Americans knew that there were no best practices regarding money & money creation in a democracy.

a.  My version of The Money QuestionThere are many money questions that we in the 21st century should be asking. These are the primary ones, in my opinion.
–What is money? gold, social contract, other?
–Who creates new U.S. money? commercial banks, U.S. Treasury, some other entity?
–How does new U.S. money enter the economy? commercial loans, U.S. Treasury implementing U.S. policy (initiated by the U.S. House of Representatives), some other way?

b.  Monetary History Calendar
Free weekly email with quotes, important dates, etc.
Very readable, very informative

c.  America’s Debt Crisis & the Need for Monetary Reform
“Mr. Obama, listen up”
Nine (9) short videos totalling 56 minutes, April 18, 2009
YouTube Channel EconomicStability
Part 1:  (should link to the other 8 parts)

By Joe Bongiovanni, Director – Kettle Pond Institute for Debt Free Money (Vermont)Reviews the history of U.S. money and solutions for reclaiming the creation of U.S. money as a sovereign public function — not a private monopoly franchise (i.e., the Federal Reserve Bank).

These were presented as one presentation in April 2009 that was informally addressed to President Obama and his economic advisors, who were still struggling to stabilize the American economy. Hence, the many references to Obama, Geithner, etc.

d.  NEED Act  National Emergency Employment Defense Act of 2011
The NEED Act is a bill developed by Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich (and some of my monetary colleagues). It is a major structural change of the current U.S. money system (to better align with the U.S. Constitution), combined with a major infrastructure stimulus (including education and healthcare). A precursor to the Green New Deal.

The official summary is very readable.

The Act was endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union in 2012 (thanks to Evanston resident and retired CPS teacher, Steven Walsh).