One of the demands floating around the Occupy Wall Street protest movement has been a call for a public banking option. In an October 8 interview on the Real News Network, Dr. Michael Hudson, a professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, explains this demand:
"The demand isn't simply to make a public bank but to treat the banks generally as a public utility, just as you treat electric companies as a public utility. The key about public utilities is their rate of return is guaranteed and the rules which they operate under are guaranteed. Just as there was pressure for a public option in health care, there should be a public option in banking. There should be a government bank that offers credit card rates without punitive 30 percent interest rates, without penalties, without raising the rate if you don't pay your electric bill. This is how America got strong in the 19th and early 20th century, by essentially having public infrastructure, just like you'd have roads and bridges...The idea of public infrastructure was to lower the cost of living and to lower the cost of doing business. You're not going to do that if you let Citibank write the rules."