Credit Unions Shine in Tough Times
by Helping Consumers, Businesses
By State Representative
Andy Coulouris, D-Saginaw
Coulouris speaks at the 2009 MCUL Capitol Day Event held in Lansing’s Anderson House Office Building. As chairman of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee, Coulouris had high praise for credit unions and their grassroots advocacy efforts in Michigan.
September of 2008 is already starting to feel like a long time ago. I remember sitting up in bed on a Sunday evening, watching as CNBC – broadcasting live from their newsroom – delivered the play-by-play of the Lehman Brothers collapse. The reporters and commentators conveyed an explicit panic about what might happen next. What did this mean for Wall Street, our capitalist system, our government and our democracy?
Fast-forward more than a year: Though we are still navigating the wake of the Lehman collapse, we have begun to answer the important questions. Our capitalist system is still operable, if only due to direct government intervention. Government has recast itself in response to the crisis. Wall Street is forever changed, but institutions are rebuilding to accommodate the new order of things.
Still, Main Street – particularly Main Street in Michigan – has not been able to regain its footing in a meaningful way. Besides staggering unemployment, high rates of foreclosure and depleted 401(k) plans, the men and women who live on Main Street feel burned by the institutions in which they once trusted. To make matters worse, a risk-averse credit market has largely shut out small businesses, further compromising our ability to fully recover.
It turns out that credit unions have a special role in times like these. They have a unique opportunity to be a beacon for consumers and small businesses, and to be the institutions deserving of public trust and affording small businesses a chance to thrive. When there are precious few institutions in which the public is willing to place their trust, credit unions remain faithful to their public missions and democratic roots.
Credit unions are uniquely positioned to benefit from the trust they have earned over the years in our communities. But the position of trust comes, as you might imagine, with a great deal of responsibility to the public. Perhaps never before has more light been shined on the positive role credit unions play in our society and economy; perhaps never before have we asked more of our credit unions.
I am thankful that Michigan’s credit unions have remained as robust and engaged as they have, even in times like these. I am hopeful that credit unions will continue to strive to fill the gaps in our economy left by the near-collapse of our financial markets.
I cannot think of an institution more inherently poised to serve these roles than a credit union. Thank you for being that beacon and safe harbor for Main Street. We need credit unions more than ever.