New Op-ed: Leftists Follow China’s Lead with Social Credit Score System
Leftists Follow China's Lead with Social Credit Score System
Communist China’s social credit score system is coming to America.
In China, citizens who do not meet the party’s guidelines are denied access to banking, transportation, apartments and college.
This system applies to corporations as well. Companies that don’t tow the party line see their ability to do business curtailed.
Now, a version of that is beginning to take hold in the United States.
We’ve seen progressives hound conservatives from restaurants, accost senators in airports and even threaten the family of a conservative TV host at home.
But even more insidiously, corporations are becoming enforcers of the progressive party line.
It began in 2008 when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation offered “guidance” advising banks that doing business with lawful customers that might incur bad publicity could pose a “reputation risk” to the banks. Prior to that, a bank’s “reputation risk” only applied to its own business practices, such as laundering illegal money.
Under the Obama administration, the banks’ targeting of legal but politically incorrect businesses expanded. The FDIC issued further “guidance” on “high-risk” businesses banks might want to avoid. These included “escort services,” “drug paraphernalia,” “payday loans,” “Ponzi schemes” and “racist materials.”
In 2012 the campaign became official policy with the launch of “Operation Choke Point,” ostensibly established to “attack internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers by choking fraudsters’ access to the banking system.”
This “anti-fraud” initiative became a weapon the left and the permanent government used to prevent banks from serving groups and individuals progressives oppose.
In 2012, Bank of America dropped the account of a gun manufacturer in Phoenix, even though the company had a good credit history. Thousands of small gun shops faced a similar fate, The Washington Times reported.
President Trump officially terminated the discriminatory practice in August 2017. Republican members of the House Financial Services and Judiciary Committees released a joint statement at the time slamming the Obama administration’s attempt “to suffocate legitimate businesses to which it was ideologically opposed by intimidating financial institutions into denying banking services to those businesses.”
Though the Justice Department is no longer pursuing Operation Choke Point, some top Democratic lawmakers and far-left activists are now using it as a blueprint for achieving their political aims today.
They can’t achieve their policy aims through the legislative process so they are using financial institutions to give them the victories they can’t ram through Congress.
Second Amendment supporters are seeing their constitutional right to bear arms eroded as a result of the left’s corporate pressure tactics at “debanking.”
In February 2018, First National Bank of Omaha ended its branded credit card deal with the National Rifle Association (NRA). “Customer feedback has caused us to review our relationship with the NRA,” a bank spokesman stated at the time.
That “customer feedback” was orchestrated by leftist activists. Shortly before the bank’s decision, a group called “Nebraskans Against Gun Violence” had threatened the bank with a public protest if it did not “stand against gun violence by ending its NRA promotions.”
It doesn’t end there.
After socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez compared immigration detention facilities on the southern border to concentration camps, banks began announcing they would stop lending to private companies that run the detention centers. AOC took credit for the outcome.
Even individual activists are being targeted by banks for their political beliefs.
JPMorgan Chase was accused in May of unilaterally closing the bank accounts of numerous activists. Enrique Tarrio, Joe Biggs, Laura Loomer and Martina Markota each had their bank accounts closed within weeks of one another. They say they weren’t provided a satisfactory explanation for the closures.
The effort to take down legitimate businesses and law-abiding individuals is a thinly veiled attempt to stifle dissenting views.
It assaults basic liberties and fundamental rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Preventing private parties from doing business with each other strikes at the foundations of American capitalism.
The fact is, banking discrimination is illegal under federal law. The Office of the Comptroller of Currency’s official policy on banking regulation states, “The Agencies will not tolerate lending discrimination in any form.”
Decades ago, leftist organizer Saul Alinsky suggested using mega-corporations to enforce a socialist policy agenda.
We now see what that would mean.
Forcing detention facilities to close their doors would create de facto open borders for an endless stream of illegal immigrants.
Blocking petroleum producers, pipeline manufacturers and operators from the banking system as “climate change” activists insist would spike oil and gas prices.
Deplatforming politically incorrect books would essentially ban them for anything but cash sales.
All of these policies would be imposed without an act of Congress.
Congress must act to prevent this dystopian future from becoming a reality.
Republican members who called out Obama’s Operation Choke Point in the past should use whatever leverage or authority they have to ensure these clear violations of U.S. banking law are terminated for good.
The federal government provides the banking system guarantees in order to ensure public confidence in our financial institutions.
In return, financial institutions should treat all law-abiding Americans and lawful businesses fairly and equally — even those some consider deplorable.
-Curtis Ellis is policy director for America First Policies.