Slow Down

Keeping the money local, investing in community banks and credit unions

By Mike Jopek

The story began minutes ago; the following is but the middle of one long ongoing tale. The vehicle first appeared on the rear view mirror of his Porsche 940 as Jim cruised his way through the desert of Death Valley.

The vehicle became larger, and then the Jaguar XK-E sailed past Jim and his 940. It became the tale of efficiency, one that I’d hear many times through out the years of friendship. I preferred the VW tales.

Distorted by time, today’s story intermingled traditional space and time. Dreams wove into the conversation. Maybe it’s a good storyteller’s gift. His life has been one long story.

Jim wanted to talk about a new economy for local survival. He talked about the North Dakota state Legislature and how in 1919, it enacted a state-run bank.

The Bank of North Dakota helped teachers in the Great Depression by paying them fully for their warrants rather than the 85 percent other banks offered. The state bank insured the first federal student loan in America. Today it continues to serve students.

Then, Jim said his dreams were a parable of good versus evil. It was a standoff; there were no winners or losers. It was a reoccurring dream; one where two girls help him rid his yard of the lime-green cancer sticks the man was chucking over from the field. A new intermediary had entered the vivid dreams, it seemed like good news.

We drifted, as Jim first worked as a neurosurgeon in the Flathead, another doctor’s wife asked of him, “Does he hunt, does he have a rifle, gotta have a rifle?”

Jim said he promptly went out a bought himself “a pretty expensive Finnish rifle.” It wasn’t Jim’s first rifle, which he had purchased at a surplus military equipment place back during medical school. He put a new barrel on that Springfield and it proved “long and heavy.”

Jim mentioned the “miracle shot” where he harvested the big elk, over the valley, with his new Sako rifle. I listened. It sounded as unbelievable as the first time I heard it. I smiled.

Soon I prompted Jim on the economy. It’s what he wanted to talk about. We had previously agreed to talk about something for this column. Jim said, Robert Reich, I like him. Then silence.

To Jim it seemed more about retaining local wealth, not letting so much get “skimmed off.” He listed off processed food and corporate agricultural subsidies as symptoms of our old economy.

Wandering again, Jim said it’s taken him 10 days to catch up with one. It’s very weird, he said, to be displaced by time. Routinely Jim checks his flip phone for the correct time and date. It seems important, like it’s all real time or all dreamtime, the Porsche, the Sako, the lime-green cancer sticks.

Why is Montana one of the poorest states in the union? Where’s the money going now? I offered no answers to either of Jim’s questions. I sat in silence, listening.

It was more about keeping the money local, investing in community banks and credit unions. To him, the big banks were not the way.

Jim saw the Grand Coulee Dam when it was half-built and he shares a core value with the Bank of North Dakota, which says, “Do the right thing.”

The state of North Dakota and its agencies were required by their Legislature to bank with their state-run bank, unlike any other state in America. In 2011, the state bank returned more than $70 million to their treasury.

By law, Montana invests billion of dollars to gain the best possible returns for teacher and civil servant’s retirements, and our coal trust fund. Historically those returns, and losses, have proven both great and small.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.