John Ransom

You knew it would take a little while, but federal government over-reach has gone so far now as to try to regulate the affairs of other, sovereign nations.

With the growing poverty problem in the United States and 25 percent of the American public either un-banked or under-banked there’s a great benefit to the financial products that are being offered by the sovereign nations in Indian Country, who understand better the needs of the customers for their products than the fat cat Senators in DC who will leave the town richer than when they arrived.   

This week the Senate Banking committee held hearings under the spine-chilling name Opportunities and Challenges for Economic Development in Indian Country.

“Opportunities” for whom? “Economic Development” that benefits whom?

Not for Native Americans, that’s for sure.

Hey, there may be a recession on but a US Senator still has to make a buck.

Native Americans, without federal assistance, are already providing valuable banking services for those Americans who are otherwise neglected by traditional financial institutions.

For example the types of loans that tribes offer help people with immediate short term needs like car repairs, utility bills, or child care.

But not content with the disaster that they have created in the rest of the country, the Senate, still under Democrat control, is now making a land-grab to regulate banking operations in Indian Country too, while denying them the basic tools for self-sufficiency like municipal bond offerings.

It doesn’t matter to Senators that under the constitution, various laws, court decisions and, oh yeah, treaty obligations the US has with sovereign Indian nations, that the federal government does not have the authority to interfere in Native American affairs.

“The United States has both a moral duty and a legal obligation to the tribes,” says Senator Jonathan Windy Boy, a Democrat state senator from Montana and former Chippewa Cree Tribe Vice-Chairman. “It’s unconstitutional and violates long-standing treaties that allow us to govern our own affairs.”

Since when has a little formality like the law stopped this round of Senate Democrats from doing anything they like?

But where the law has been unsuccessful in keeping government hands off Native banking, perhaps public opinion might work.

Zogby today released a poll that shows that 55 percent of adults “say that, in general, they feel the federal government already has too many regulations, while a quarter (25%) say there is just the right amount.”

Democrats still haven’t heard that message despite huge- and I mean really freaking big- electoral defeats they have suffered in Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Nevada and Colorado  

The Zogby survey also showed that 88 percent of adults think the “U.S. Government should keep its word and honor Native American treaties it has made with the nation’s Indian tribes.”

Instead of looking to try to regulate existing banking services, says Dante Desiderio, executive director of the Native American Finance Officers Association, Congress should give the tribes the same financing abilities that other governments in the US enjoy.

“Other state and local governments typically provide roads, water, parking to attract businesses with no challenges to their bond offerings,” says Desiderio. “State and local governments routinely finance golf courses, marinas and convention centers. Even the new stadiums are built with the proposed use tax-exempt financing.” But he says that when tribes try to finance basic services like water systems and reservoirs, they are disallowed from using the basic tools of the municipal bond market.

“Conflicting views as to what Congress intended,” concludes Desiderio, “are paralyzing the ability of tribes to access the low-cost benefits of tax-exempt financing—the very benefit that was intended for tribes by” a Congressional act passed in 1982.

It’s time the federal government lived up to its word and gave the tribes the same tools that every other state and city has, rather than trying to stick them with the same regulatory nonsense that has killed retail banking in these United States.   


John Ransom

John Ransom is the Finance Editor for Townhall Finance.
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