Wal-Mart and Banking

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In a just world, Wal-Mart would have received the corporate death penalty long ago and we’d be done with it. (For reasons why: see T.A. Frank’s piece here, or the essay “Inside the Leviathan.”) But given that Wal-Mart’s not going anywhere anytime soon, I should say I’m fairly persuaded by David Leonhardt’s twopart argument as to why Wal-Mart should be allowed to open its own banks.

A Wal-Mart banking system that becomes insanely popular isn’t likely to put low-wage workers out of work—it will just hurt other banks—and it is true that many low-income families don’t have checking or savings accounts because, as I reported here, of steep fees and barriers to entry. Perhaps Wal-Mart could use its magic to lower those fees and barriers and help more people get savings accounts, which in the abstract would be a good thing. (No doubt the store could figure out ways to screw borrowers over, though.)

Perhaps progressive legislators can strike some sort of compromise: Wal-Mart gets the right to open its own banking services, but in return they’ll be required to offer the sorts of not-entirely-profitable services that regular banks don’t ever offer yet low-income families often need—such as payday lending—that would enable many poorer workers to escape the exorbitant fees they have to endure on the secondary lending market. That seems pretty unobjectionable.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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