TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Tess Vigeland: This week marked the start of Wall Street bonus season. It's a great time for their bank accounts. For their public image... not so much.
Many Americans wonder how anyone could deserve seven and eight figure bonuses so soon after the near-collapse of the banking system. But what can you do about it other than snarl, right? Well for starters, you could switch banks. And joining us to talk about a fledgling movement to get more folks to do just that is Arianna Huffington, she of the Huffington Post. Welcome to Marketplace Money.
Arianna Huffington: Hi.
Vigeland: So a couple of weeks ago you posted on the site, sort of a call to arms for anyone who banks with one of the Big Kahunas. It's called "Move Your Money." Tell us a little bit about this campaign.
Huffington: So it all started over dinner with friends. We were all talking about this huge irony of the taxpayer bailing out the big banks. And now the big banks are doing very well, they're making massive profits, they're giving themselves huge bonuses. While Main Street is suffering with double-digit unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcies, etc.
So we teamed up with the IRA -- Institutional Risk Analytics -- to provide a tool that we made available on a site that we called MoveYourMoney.info. So anyone who wanted to move their money could actually just put their zip code in and find out if they're credit worthy, solvent community banks in their neighborhood, so they can find their credit union or community bank and move their money from one of the big banks.
Vigeland: And how's it going so far?
Huffington: In the few days since we launched the campaign, well over half the country's zip codes have already been searched. And the comments that people are leaving and the action they're taking is an incredible indication of how much people really wanted to move from resignation and anger to action.
Vigeland: But even if you do get a lot of people to switch to community banks, do you think it'll really put much of a dent in the big bank's bottom line?
Huffington: Well, it actually makes a big difference, because the core deposits that the banks rely on, are very important to the bottom line. Just to give you an idea: This year alone, banks are expected to make $38 billion -- the big banks -- on overdraft fees. And instead of lending, which if you go back, you will remember that was the primary reason, supposedly we had to save them, in order to be able to lend again and start the positive economic cycle that we're all looking for -- instead of doing that, they use the money to fatten their balance sheets and go back to their risky derivatives trading.
Vigeland: It sounds like perhaps, your real goal here is empowerment for folks who are so, so angry right now, even more than damaging those big banks.
Huffington: Our goal is not to damage the big banks. Our goal is to make them smaller. And we believe making them smaller is entirely in the interest of this country. In fact, keeping them "too big to fail" undermines our financial security in the future.
Vigeland: All right, well we described this earlier as a "fledgling movement." We'll be interested to see whether it turns into something bigger. Arianna Huffington is co-founder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post, where you can find all kinds of information on the Move Your Money campaign. Thanks so much for your time.
Huffington: Thank you.
Vigeland: But perhaps you know you've more than a fledgling campaign on your hands when Stephen Colbert, or at least his TV persona, takes a potshot at you in his nightly news parody "The Colbert Report."
Stephen Colbert on his show "The Colbert Report": The idea of a community bank presupposes that we still have communities.
Eugene Jarecki: Which is a big leap.
Colbert: We don't really have communities any more. Because I just stay at home, and I do all my banking online, and I pay my bills, and I play Mafia Wars on the other side of the screen. My local bank isn't going to provide that for me.