by Paul Bradford
Conservatives face all kinds of censorship from the private sector. Big Tech will ban your account and employers will fire you just because of your political beliefs. This free market suppression could escalate into conservatives losing their bank accounts and credit cards due to their political views. For some people, it’s already happened.
We could very well see this nightmare scenario under a President Joe Biden. That’s why it’s imperative for the Trump Administration to do something right now to protect ordinary Americans from the depredations of liberal corporations.
Thankfully, one agency may do something about this. The Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is considering a new rule that would bar banks from denying service for non-financial reasons, such as a customer’s political views. The idea has a solid legal basis. It simply implements the language in Title III of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2020, which directs the OCC to “assure the safety and soundness of, and compliance with laws and regulations, fair access to financial services, and fair treatment of customers.”
The proposed rule is still in draft form and is open for public comment here.
The rule states that a financial institution may not “deny any person a financial service the bank offers except to the extent justified by such person’s quantified and documented failure to meet quantitative, impartial risk-based standards established in advance by the covered bank.”
The proposal advises banks to do more to assess potentially risky customers rather than practice “total avoidance.” “Higher-risk categories of customers call for stronger risk management and controls, not a strategy of total avoidance,” it states.
The OCC’s leadership understands why this rule is needed: to protect ordinary Americans and groups from political discrimination.“There is a creeping politicization of the banking industry that has the propensity to be very, very dangerous,” acting comptroller of the currency David P. Brooks and OCC chief economist Charles W. Calomiris wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Many of the targeted industries are those unpopular on the political left. But we’ve also heard allegations of banks being pressured to cut off programs and business disfavored on the right, such as Planned Parenthood.”
OCC is playing smart politics by noting that both sides of the political aisle are affected by financial blacklisting. In the age of woke capitalism, however, there’s no question that the Right is under greater threat.
The draft proposal notes two targets of woke debanking: privately-run immigration detention facilities and gun businesses. “Some banks have reportedly ceased to provide financial services to owners of privately owned correctional facilities that operate under contracts with the Federal Government and various state governments. Makers of shotguns and hunting rifles have reportedly been debanked in recent years,” the rule says.
The proposal is correct. JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America all cut ties to ICE facilities due to activist pressure. These same banks also discriminate against gun manufacturers and sellers for the same reasons. In 2018, the New York Times published an article that argued for this approach to achieve gun control. The article advocated for Visa and Mastercard to pressure gun sellers so “assault weapons would be eliminated from virtually every firearms store in America because otherwise the sellers would be cut off from the credit card system.”
“It takes leadership and courage – exactly what these executives say they have. If they don’t want to back up their words with actions, the next time there’s a school shooting that prompts a conversation about gun companies, it should also include the financial complex that supports them,” the Times’ article concluded.
The OCC’s rule would force banks to ignore the demands of liberal journalists and Antifa militants and uphold the principles of American liberty.
Several Republican senators support such protections as proposed by the OCC’s rule. Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and John Kennedy (R-La.) have expressed support for the OCC’s rule or similar measures. “Banks provide financial services; they are not arbitrators of social policy. They should not punish legal industries like payday lenders or firearms dealers because they disagree politically, nor should they promote credit to politically favored industries,” Sen. Scott said in a November press release.
Scott is exactly right. As OCC’s leaders made clear in their op-ed: “Banks don’t set national policy. They don’t choose what goods and services are available to consumers. Nor do they determine which industries are legal. It is the job of democratically elected government to make those decisions.”
Free speech makes America great, but we lose that freedom when left-wing activists can weaponize corporate power to deny basic services to their political enemies. What good is the First Amendment if you can’t access the internet, can’t work, and can’t even bank because of what you say? It’s time for our lawmakers to protect average Americans from the malevolent power of woke capitalism.
No one should lose their bank account simply because of their political views.
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Paul Bradford is a Capitol Hill refugee now earning an honest living.