The Fed — charged with ensuring the public good — serves as a bank for the banks, offering them deposit accounts (interest-bearing since 2008), low-interest loans and funds transfers at minimal cost, and it buys mortgage-backed securities and other assets to boost banks’ business. But the banks then decide how much to lend, to whom, for what purpose and on what terms, all in pursuit of private profit. They also charge lucrative fees for maintaining deposit accounts, processing checks and card payments and covering overdrafts. Millions of Americans who cannot afford these fees and minimums are left to depend on exploitive check-cashing services, payday lenders, pawnshops and prepaid cards to receive income, borrow money and pay bills.
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