If credit unions and their penchant for winking at "common bond" membership restrictions drive you up the wall, prepare to go ballistic at the latest wrinkle in the movement's relentless drive for members.

Credit Union Moonshot is a campaign announced last month by the industry's largest trade group to increase credit union membership from 63.5 million today to 100 million by the year 2000. The project was so named because, according to the Credit Union National Association, "Like Neil Armstrong's historic message on July 20, 1969, Credit Union Moonshot would be |one small step for a man, one giant step for mankind.'"

To meet this astronomical target, credit unions must double their current rate of growth. CUNA thinks the industry can accomplish this by heavily recruiting 45 million people eligible for membership under existing common bonds - and by chartering new credit unions.

Doing the Right Thing

Why the big push?

"The fundamental reason for this is it's the right thing to do," said William C. Sterner, the trade-group vice president running the program. "A lot of people need reasonable financial services."

According to CUNA's reading of the financial cosmos, the banking system is in chaos and banks are abandoning their customers.

Mr. Sterner says everyone knows the superregional banks that swallowed smaller banks in Texas took money out of small towns but didn't lend any back! He predicts that this pattern will be repeated elsewhere, leaving communities without banks. Bankers, of course, think credit unions are trying to sit at their table without paying their portion of the bill. They'd like to see them taxed.

Setback for Bankers

They'd also like to see enforcement of a more rigid common bond, as evidenced by American Bankers Association participation in a lawsuit in Aurora, Colo., to block the Lowry Air Force Base Federal Credit Union from staying open and extending membership privileges to everyone in town after it closes in 1994.

Lowry won last week.

Meanwhile, Moonshot is not off to a stellar beginning. Some large credit unions, sensitive to the negative political reaction Moonshot might provoke, have declined to don their flight suits.

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