Remember the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement - the bands of disparate (and sometimes smelly) souls, squatting in cities around the country, advocating for a buffet table full of causes, while blaming America's problems on greed and Capitalism? Most people have forgotten about them. However, OWS is efforting a comeback...sort of. And it's starting with an ATM card.
Three weeks ago, on the second anniversary of the Zuccotti Park takeover, a small but faithful group of the occupiers gathered in NYC's financial district to mark the anniversary and pitch a new tax on all Wall Street trades. Dubbed the "Robin Hood Tax," a .05% fee would be collected on every trade and then be redistributed among a variety of funds that the occupiers say would include schools, hospitals, and various non-profits.
On September 17, OWS also announced they were trying to launch the Occupy Money Cooperative, a financial services organization. A money cooperative is member-operated financial institution. Cooperatives are not banks, savings and loan associations or credit unions, but their deposits are protected by the FDIC. The Occupy Money Cooperative would kick off by offering the Occupy Card, a pre-loaded debit card.
Pre-paid debit cards are not a new idea, you can get them just about everywhere, from a variety of sources. Getting a card is free, and like typical ATM cards, there are usage fees. However, the Occupy Card claims that fees associated their card will be much lower than typical debit cards ($1.95 for purchases and ATM withdrawals, 99 cents to check your balance at a machine). The website calls the card the choice for people who are "anti-bank."
The brains behind the card are listed on the "Founding Board Members" page and they include; a former British diplomat, a Cornell Law professor who also consults the New York branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, a former Blackberry executive and a London-trained former Director from Deutsche Bank.
Curiously, the Occupy Money people have made a deal with VISA - a large financial institution - like those they were railing against. The FAQ page tries to justify a relationship with an organization that many of their members consider to be part of the problem.
The use of the Visa platform will provide our members with a universally accepted product, but the OMC will not have an agreement with Visa. Visa will be receiving only their standard share of any transaction revenue. A larger percentage of the revenue will flow to the OMC, rather than Visa or any conventional financial institution.
A CNBC report says that some of the OWS die hards are not pleased with the card and the connection to a big bank. Bill Dobbs told the financial network, "Too much blood, sweat and tears have been going into Occupy to have that turned into a piece of plastic. This is a very odd fit, and for the project's sake and Occupy's sake, they ought to go on separate paths."
Right now, the Occupy Card is just an idea.
The website says they need $900,000 to set up the cooperative and fund it for the first couple of years. The cooperative is asking for donations, and depending on how much money you give, you will receive different benefits.
- $5 - $19 makes you a Donor and earns you the Occupy Card and Coop membership
- $20 - $49 raises you to Supporter status. That gives you the card, membership and a patch you can sew on your backpack
- $50 - $99 puts you at the Founder level, which gives you all of the above and the notation of "Founder" on your Occupy Card
- $100 and above - You are a Benefactor, getting all of the goodies plus a special edition Founders card and a signed letter of appreciation from the board of the Coop.
How much of the $900,000 has been raised? We checked the latest total on the morning of October 3.
What happens if someone donates money and the card does not hit the $900,000 target? The site says your money will be refunded...after they pay some of the expenses incurred for the website set-up and making a short video (below) to promote the idea.
Follow Mike Opelka on Twitter - @stuntbrain