Believe it or not an Occupy debit card might soon be hitting the marketplace. A group launched in the aftermath of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, the Occupy Money Cooperative, began raising money on September 17th – the two year anniversary of the launch of the protests – for a debit card described as a “low-cost, transparent, high-quality financial services to the 99 percent.” The card will be prepaid and is intended for those traditionally unable to use banks.
The idea, led by a group that includes a Cornell law professor, a former director of Deutsche Bank and a former British diplomat, is meant to serve people who do not have bank accounts, but it also aims to make Occupy a recognized financial services brand.
Not surprisingly the idea is proving to be controversial. Should any movement, let alone one centered around bringing Wall Street to justice, turn into a bank? Or is this just finishing what the Move Your Money campaign started – allowing people to opt-out of the system so Wall Street can’t use millions of poor Americans as leverage in their bailout negotiations with the government?
But not everyone associated with the Occupy movement likes the idea; the notion of the Occupy name emblazoned on a financial product, even one made by people with some connection to the movement, has prompted questions about who controls the name and message…
The cooperative has also drawn criticism over its plan to establish a relationship with Visa, which some activists condemn because the company declined to process donations to WikiLeaks, the international organization known for publishing leaked information, much of it classified.
The Occupy Money Cooperative says they plan to offer a more transparent and less predatory service, there seems to be little objection to that. The central push back from those involved in the Occupy Movement seems to be branding – that using Occupy’s name offers a consensus on the project that in truth does not exist.
There clearly needs to be alternatives to the rigged and dysfunctional financial system now in place. But “Occupy” Visa debit card is not what many likely had in mind when they took to the streets in 2011.