Americans Voting with Their Feet

It is yet to be seen whether the 'bank transfer day' which took place yesterday and was supported by the Occupy Movement will have any noticeable impact on the bottom line at big banks. The idea behind the day was that transferring funds en masse from the largest financial institutions to local banks and credit unions would serve as a protest to fees. The idea has also obtained a punitive air about it, with some advocates suggesting that it could hurt the people who were responsible for the financial crisis.

In reality, it is of course more likely to be front-line workers, themselves struggling to get by, rather than the masters of the universe who will be harmed if profits decline at the nation's largest financial institutions. However, it would only be right to commend the protestors for doing/advocating for something that is potentially of substance after all of the criticism with regards to their lack of direction we have noted in the past.

However, even if the bank transfer day 'works', it isn't clear that it should necessarily be a notch in the Occupy Movement's belt. Indeed, it was the alliterative Kristen Christian, a small-business owner in Los Angeles who had the idea originally. Occupy only picked up on the Facebook-driven concept once it was fully formed.

Additionally, according to the Financial Times, many Americans have already had their own personal bank transfer days; the paper reported this weekend that over 650,000 Americans have joined credit unions in the past month, compared with about 600,000 in the entire previous year. This influx of members has led to an estimated $4.5 billion dollars shifting hands from big banks to local institutions. Even in a world of $700 billion dollar bailouts, that is nothing to sneer at and is perhaps the main reason behind some banks scrapping previously announced fee increases.

If the current trend which has seen money flowing from the national banks to local institutions continues, Occupy will no doubt claim a victory. Whether or not it is rightly claimed will remain to be seen. Until then, however, we would like to think that this trend is emblematic of something simpler and more 'by the book' than a social networking or protest movement, that it is just a good old fashioned case of Americans voting with their feet. It is somehow comforting to know that good old micro-econ still matters in these topsy-turvy times of ours...

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