This is an email that I sent to some Chicago-area foundations about the upcoming 17th annual American Monetary Institute conference. My hope is to engage them in learning about and funding deep monetary and banking reforms that would have a high impact in redressing systemic and growing inequalities in the U.S. political economy. As U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has shown so many times, many of these reforms are simply mechanical.
Just as food system practitioners have successfully broken down local food systems into bite-sized, fundable pieces, monetary and banking reformers are doing the same. And just as the work of food system practitioners has proven its value during the COVID pandemic, my hope is that the collective works of different monetary reforms will demonstrate their value nationally sooner rather than later.
To put it bluntly, the manmade money & banking systems are killing people and planet. Now would be a good time to understand how, so that we can rewire the system for livingness.
SENT October 28, 2021
TO: Chicago-area foundations working on community, equity, climate
Alphawood, Crossroads Fund, Driehaus Foundation, Evanston Community Foundation, Liberty Prairie Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, Wieboldt Foundation, Woods Fund
SUBJECT: Food supply to money supply: Funding & learning opportunity (Chicago, US, global)
American Monetary Institute Conference (Nov. 5-7)
Hi, all —
Sorry that this turned out to be a long email.
To skip the context, scroll down to section C. American Monetary Institute Conference.
Some of you may remember that in 2008-09, I was part of a team that hosted an urban farm tour for legislators, other officials, and funders. The tour was part of the growing statewide momentum to pass the Illinois Food, Farms, & Jobs initiative, a comprehensive food & farm plan for the state. It developed out of an awareness that 21st century adults — U.S. voters — have very little opportunity to learn the basics of our basic systems — the economy, our governmental jurisdictions, the housing system, healthcare system, public safety systems, etc. Re-imagining a local food & farm system in Illinois proved to be a great learning experience for everyone.
Now, at the age of 70, I’m pleased to let you know about a similar opportunity to experience a cutting edge set of solutions for a deeper supply chain problem — the U.S. money supply. First some background on the food system as a learning opportunity, followed by the new opportunity re the money supply chain.
A. LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS:
A learning opportunity for 21st century U.S. adults
In 2006, the Evanston Food Policy Council (a grassroots group) met with Evanston’s State Rep. Julie Hamos three times. Each time we met with a bigger group of food & farm advocates, each time with a bigger list of problems with our current food & farm system. Halfway through the third meeting — harvest-time 2006, when farmers from central Illinois had driven up to Evanston to meet with my state rep. — Julie spoke frankly. She said that since we couldn’t all agree on what to do, the legislative solution was to create an ad hoc task force charged with writing a report, with recommendations.
So, in 2007, she wrote the first of two Illinois Food, Farms, & Jobs Acts; Sen. Jacqueline Collins (Chicago) was the Senate sponsor. The 2-year task force wrote a report, Julie wrote a second bill, and in 2009, Illinois adopted the food & farm plan contained in our report, Local Food, Farms, and Jobs: Growing the Illinois Economy.
Working with a large coalition that had been growing since 2001-03 (Illinois Food Security Summits), both bills had passed unanimously (except one vote on a technicality). Unfortunately, because the country was in the middle of a financial meltdown, Rep. Hamos had deemed it wise to not ask for funding. The Illinois plan remains one of the most comprehensive food plans in the country, still unfunded, but capable in fact of acting as the state’s climate action plan. It was a great learning experience for all of us (including the rural farmers who are also siloed from system knowledge).
Those of you who attended the urban farm tour will remember that the purpose was multi-faceted: to provide a visual, interactive experience for legislators, other government officials, and funders who might never have seen an urban farm and/or who might not know— all the intersectional goals and models of community-based agriculture— the many components of a local food system— how such a simple idea could have such a big impact on so many people and neighborhoods.
The tour was so well-received, we did it twice.
Ten+ years later, I think you’ll agree that all the subsequent work and investment that Chicago-area and Illinois people have put into local food systems paid off in March 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit. We didn’t need to reinvent the wheel; we just needed to maintain, reinforce, and scale up.
B. THE U.S. MONEY SUPPLY
NEW OPPORTUNITY to invest in justice, equality, humanity — and climate mitigation
It turns out that most U.S. adults would benefit from learning more about our money & banking system — the country’s “operating system” as termed by former agricultural banker Ben Gisin.
As funders, you already know that lack of money is an issue for so many of us, as organizations, individuals, and hard-working businesses. What may be new to you (and almost every U.S. adult) are the (1) structural root causes (in addition to greed, racism, sexism, etc.), (2) multi-faceted solutions, and (3) why farmers and other U.S. workers can’t make the numbers — time and $$ — add up.
Unfortunately, there’s no local money farm that we can visit because the power to produce U.S. money resides with the U.S. Congress. Even worse (and more to the point), in 1913 the now-dead members of the 63rd U.S. Congress gave the money power away to private interests (via the Federal Reserve Act). The U.S. money supply is now largely created and regulated by private banks (the Federal Reserve System) with the rubber stamp blessing of every Congress since, up to and including the current 117th. As we saw with the Great Depression (1930s) and “Great” Recession (2007-09), Congress and the President still have had to step in to correct for the “boom & bust” cycles inherent in the U.S. economy. The New Deal was the only correction that got it partly right. Now, in 2021, we have a dammed up money supply, affecting the purchasing power of 99% of U.S. residents and 100% of local and state governments.
In addition, because the money supply is set to a trickle, almost everyone has to over-work, over-produce everything, and over-use land, water, and air (beyond nature’s capacity to restore) — causing climate chaos, natural resource depletion and pollution, waste, and mental health issues across the country.
C. AMERICAN MONETARY INSTITUTE conference
(Nov. 5 – 7)
The good news is that, instead of touring a local money farm, I can point you to the webpage of the 17th annual conference of the American Monetary Institute, a 30-year old think tank dedicated to studying the “lost science of money”. For the last 17 years, the AMI conference has originated in Chicago and this year is no exception.
On Nov. 5-7, 2021, the 17th AMI conference will originate via Zoom from Evanston, IL where the new Executive Director of AMI lives. Steven Walsh, who grew up in Albany Park, is a science & environment teacher, recently retired from the Chicago Public Schools. Steven has been a national and international leader of the monetary reform movement for many years. In 2012, with Steven’s facilitation, the Chicago Teachers Union (Exec. Committee) endorsed the key legislation that would return the money power back to Congress, the NEED Act. Now, AMI is poised to break through on a variety of monetary and banking reforms.
As you can see from the list of 30 speakers (14 countries) and topics, monetary reform is an international set of issues centering on the core issue, the money power, The Money Question. AMI has been promoting the legislative solution in Congress since 2011-12 when U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) proposed the NEED Act, an infrastructure jobs + monetary reform bill. The bill would return the money power to Congress and disengage private banks from the creation of public money permanently.
At the time (in 2012), The Money Question was so new to policy-makers that Kucinich was only able to get one co-sponsor, the late John Conyers (Michigan).
But, as with urban agriculture and local food systems, much has happened in ten years. U.S. voters, officials, and media alike are now familiar with all kinds of monetary & banking reform: public banking, guaranteed income, participatory budgeting, alternative to GDP in economic accounting (e.g., GPI), enforcing parity agriculture, etc.
Some of these topics will be discussed at the AMI conference. All are valuable solutions to systemic inequality and injustice, all worthy of grassroots, legislative, and philanthropic investment. Of special interest in 2021 is that AMI, through its new action-spinoff organization, Alliance For Just Money (AFJM), is updating the NEED Act. AFJM has renamed the bill — American Monetary Reform Act (AMRA) — and is looking for new Congressional sponsors.
D. CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS in brief
— For those new to monetary & banking issues, history professor Jeffrey Sklansky (U. of Illinois-Chicago) will present on The Money Question in American History. He specializes in capitalism in 18th and 19th century America, when The Money Question was a daily topic of civic discussion. The issue for us in the 21st century is why The Money Question has been unknown for 100+ years.
— Just announced, an informal session for Spanish speaking people, led by Mary Sanderson from Madison, WI (farmer, mother, peace advocate).
— The keynote speaker is Laurence Kotlikoff (Boston University economist) whose 2011 book was a bestseller: Jimmy Stewart is Dead: Ending the World’s Ongoing Financial Plague with Limited Purpose Banking.
— Indiana resident and Vietnam vet, Nick Egnatz will be previewing his book, People, Planet and the Power of Money: Reclaiming the Ancient Lost Power, to Heal Our Planet and Ourselves.
—Michigan fruit farmer Randy Cook is AMI’s resident expert on parity agriculture. There will be two sessions onMonetary Reform and Farm Parity: The Path to a Par Economy, one by Orland Park, IL journalist Geraldine Perry.
—Finally, Ohio resident and retired physiologist John Howell will present on updating the NEED Act, now called the American Monetary Reform Act.
E. CONFERENCE REGISTRATION & donations
The cost to attend the AMI conference is $35, but I’ve been told that no one will be turned away. Registration link is here.
If anyone is able to provide additional support for this grassroots group and for deferred maintenance expenses — new computer for Zoom, archiving the papers of two AMI leaders (recently deceased), paid intern, etc. — donations up to $17,000 or beyond would be gratefully accepted. (See below for donation details.)
F. SETTING RIGHT the U.S. foundation
I look forward to seeing some of you becoming active in the monetary reform world. Perhaps you already are and I just haven’t heard the news.
If you’re interested in learning more about investing in various kinds of monetary and banking reforms, including public education around these issues, I would be happy to discuss the areas in which I am active.
Likewise, I am sure that Steven (of AMI) and the leadership of AFJM would be happy to talk with you about their work and the potential for (a) leveling the playing field of our political economy, (b) slowing the monetary system’s exacerbation of climate destruction, and (c) reducing our collective mental and spiritual stresses in the face of a world gone unnecessarily mad.
In my opinion, monetary and banking reform is akin to re-setting some of the foundation stones of the U.S. democracy and economy—and would positively impact the global economy and governance.
Please share this email with anyone who might be interested in making the numbers — time and money — finally add up for everyone.
PS TRENDING TIP:
The next high-impact investment area?
#WomensPublicAuthority is just around the corner (in my opinion).
Donations to American Monetary Institute can be made via:
— PayPal AMI Charitable Trust Donate:
— Send checks to:
American Monetary Institute
1860 Sherman Avenue, Apt 4NE
Evanston, IL 60201