A group of Milwaukeeans has offered up a bold idea about how to fight the growing economic crisis: They may create their own currency.The idea, which was first put forth by community organizer Sura Faraj last fall, focuses on the Milwaukee neighborhoods of East Side and Riverwest and has not yet been brought to fruition. According to a November Newsweek article,
“residents benefit through an exchange system: 10 traditional dollars, for instance, nets them $20 worth of local currency. And when businesses agree to value the funny money like real greenbacks, they also get a free stack to kick-start spending.”
Also, since local currencies are only accepted within a particular community, the use of such a currency helps drive local commerce and sales.Local currencies are legal, provided communities don’t produce coins, the “funny money” doesn’t look anything like real American dollars, and no organization profits from the exchange of money. This idea is nothing new. Dozens of local currencies appeared following the Great Depression. Experts say there are roughly 2,000 of them in the world today. Take, for example, “Baltimore Hours,” in Baltimore, MD, which ran from 2001 to 2003. At its peak, the program had 200 members. “Time Bucks” has existed in Seattle, Washington for quite some time, while “Ithaca Hours” of Ithaca, NY is considered to be the most successful local currency in the United States, with over $110,000 worth of civic cash issued to residents since 1991. Think you can avoid the I.R.S. just because you’re not using greenbacks? Think again. All regular state and federal taxes still apply.