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<p>Everyone knows what an agenda is, but not everyone is necessarily aware of how many organizations also have hidden agendas. A good example of that came to light recently when the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) came out of the woodwork to file a lawsuit against NCUA for repealing the Community Action Plan (CAP). Who in the world is NCRC? I for one never heard of them until they went after NCUA. But some credit unions have certainly heard of them. A number of them are NCRC members. Which credit unions, how many, how big, serving who, located where, are all questions that remain unanswered because NCRC will not disclose anything about its credit union representation. One of many questions a Credit Union Times reporter wanted to ask credit unions that are members of NCRC is why did they choose to join this organization and how do they feel about the charges NCRC is levying at credit unions? Where’s the hidden agenda? Like every not-for-profit association, NCRC has to have issues to deal with. If they don’t, members begin to ask themselves, why belong. Without issues, associations don’t get new members. So NCRC, like all associations, strives to make sure they have issues on the front burner at all times, even if they have to create them. NCRC’s fuss over what credit unions are doing and should be doing (at least in the opinion of NCRC officials’ minds) is simply that group’s attempt to grab some spotlight time at the expense of credit unions. And although yet to be proven definitively, there are those like me who are convinced NCRC has been given a nudge into that spotlight by one or more individuals who either carry a grudge against credit unions and the CU industry’s leadership or who have a hidden agenda of their own. Can you guess who? Before NCRC decided, or was prodded into suing the NCUA, it should have considered some very basic facts about credit unions and their ability to serve low-income persons. Credit unions can’t serve persons of low, middle, high, or no income, unless these persons are first eligible to belong to a credit union. Up until current NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar swung into action, serving the underserved was a lot of talk and not much action, at least from an NCUA perspective. It’s as simple as one, two, three. One, credit unions have to find a way to make the underserved, the low-income individuals, and those of modest means, eligible for credit union membership. Chairman Dollar has put his money where his predecessor’s mouth was. Getting those most in need into the fold quickly and efficiently and in large numbers had to be a first priority. Two, credit unions have to strive to turn those newly-eligible 16 million individuals (a number sure to go up substantiality with Dollar’s newly announced initiative, “Access Across America”), into actual members. That’s no small challenge. Credit unions can’t force someone to join. Three, once credit unions get an OK to serve potential members, then convinces them to become actual members, they will need to actually provide these new members with the products and services that they need and probably can’t get any place else. In other words, first someone must become a potential member, then a member, and then be served. NCRC and others operating on the same hidden agenda don’t seem to realize that simple fact of one, two, three. If down the road, the 16 million, or whatever the number becomes, remain potential members and no more, then NCRC and everyone else holding credit unions’ feet to the fire has a legitimate gripe. But for now, NCRC needs to stop looking for self-interest ways of making a name for itself by attacking credit unions and instead give the plans and programs of Dollar et al an opportunity to work without any artificial hammers such as CAP. Speaking of CU attacks, Woodstock Institute spokesperson Malcolm Bush, who is also a member of the NCRC board, made a fiery, anti-credit union presentation at the NCRC annual meeting in Washington D.C. the day after CUNA’s GAC ended. Had not this publication gotten wind of the meeting, Bush’s nonsense would have gone unreported in the credit union press (seepage 30, CU Times, March 6th). Why “nonsense?” For starters, he takes isolated quotes from CUNA’s Renaissance Commission report completely out of context. He had hundreds to choose from but selected only those that supported his false premise that credit unions have decided not to serve those of modest means. Renaissance concluded quite the opposite. What credit unions did decide is that they don’t need more regulation to tell them to do what they are already doing and want to do even more, especially as Dollar’s leadership strives to remove impediments to that goal. Bush hangs his hat on data gleaned from the Chicago area, which just happens to be where the institute is located, and on his two years experience as a CU member. The largest credit union in that area, by far, is United Airlines Employees Credit Union, one of the few closed membership CUs remaining. United cannot serve anyone but those connected to United Airlines. But I have no doubt that that credit union is serving its entire membership from 747 pilots to those employees who tidy up the plane. Bush also seems to think that poverty is a common bond (where will the money come from?) and that if the CU helps poor people become prosperous, the CU should toss them out so the numbers look good for his purposes. It wouldn’t take much to refute most of what Woodstock and NCRC are charging credit unions with if there was room to do so. So stay tuned! Suffice it to say at this point that they have their own agenda and credit unions happen to be the current scapegoat. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]</p>

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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