You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.

by Rickey Gard Diamond
This post first appeared in Vermont Woman, (Holiday, Nov/Dec) 2014. 

I remember when I decided I had to get my college degree: A working mom with three kids at the time, when I graduated I would owe about $8000, or in 1980, the equivalent of what I might pay for a car. I decided to invest in me, knowing the degree would open doors that would stay shut otherwise.
Remarried, about five years later I got bad news; my husband’s job was eliminated. We contacted all our creditors and arranged partial payment plans while he looked for employment. Everyone was understanding and nice—except one.
The ironically named People’s State Bank that held my student loans was nasty. I had faithfully all but repaid, but in response to my story, their man refused any half-measures and threatened penalties, or else. We paid them somehow the next few months.
And I still remember the satisfaction I felt, placing my last check payment inside an envelope I addressed to: The People’s State Bloodsuckers. Ever since, we’ve made it our practice to use local, community banks and credit unions.

How Much, Too Much
People’s State Bank became Pinnacle Bank became Civitas Bank became Citizens Bank of MidAmerica and is now the absurdly named Fifth Third Bank. Our era has given us overly complex bank upheavals.
And student bank loans have gotten much bigger and been used by an increasing number of students. A recent Senate hearing heard testimony that about eight banks dominate that market—shades of too-big-to-fail? Student debt nationwide now outranks our nation’s credit card debt for the first time, at over $1.2 trillion. A trillion is a thousand billions, each billion a thousand millions.
With universities running themselves like profit-seeking corporations, and more importantly with the nation’s state governments encouraging the trend by reducing state education funds, college costs for students have skyrocketed. The national college boards publish tuition trends at their website, and from 1990-91 until 2013-14, national tuition costs on average more than doubled. Family incomes did not.
Here in Vermont, 63 percent of our students now need loans. Part of that might have to do with UVM’s ranking seventh in the top ten most expensive state schools (U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 28, 2014). This year’s in-state tuition costs $16,226. (University of Pittsburgh came in first at $17,772.) Board members at UVM and your local legislator need to drive some back roads in Vermont and look around.
This year’s average Vermont student debt is $28,299. We rank #13 in debt amount nationally, and not all students finish. The Project on Student Debt says the national average debt of graduates is $29,400, and from 2008 to 2012, average debt of combined government and private loans grew by 6 percent a year. Since Vermont’s tuition is relatively high, we should assume future state grads will be looking at considerably more, not less, than the state average most recently reported.

Loan Zombies
The mean fellow I met at People’s Bank years ago might have gone on to work in Washington, D.C., because by 2005 the bankers’ lobby had successfully changed the bankruptcy law to make banks’ student loans “non-dischargeable.” Bankruptcy, the last-ditch chance that people have when bad things happen—when their health fails, or the economy crashes—goes back to ancient times and literal slavery or “jubilee,” the forgiving of debt. In modern times, debtor’s prison was replaced by a court of law that could find debts impossible to repay. But since 2005, declaring bankruptcy in court will not free you from student loans: Not even your death will free your poor co-signers from your debt obligation.
I think maybe this explains the appeal of all those zombie movies. You can’t kill these loans. You can’t buy a home or start a business with these loans. They turn you into the walking dead.

Equal Output
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) came out with a new study in July, adding new light to the issue for women, saying: “Although women and men pay the same tuition for higher education—and tend to take out the same amount in loans—women are more burdened by their student loan debt after graduation. Just one year after graduation, women are paid on average 82 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid,” an 18 percent wage gap.
Even controlling for factors like chosen major, type of job, number of hours worked each week, AAUW still found a 7 percent wage gap, no matter the field. They invited Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to their study’s press conference, and she called it “a one-two punch…. Women take on big debts to go to college, but they have less money to pay off those debts.”

That’s not even mentioning what happens later, should a female graduate be foolish enough to want to start a family. Without paid family leave or help with childcare costs, she’ll be a debtor further handicapped.

A Different Approach
But if we’ve been persuaded that banks lending money is the only way forward for education, then at least let it be the lending of our own money, set at an interest rate with terms we can control.
The only bank in the country now capitalized by its own state tax revenues, (and aimed at supporting local banks and employment) The Bank of North Dakota began offering state students a refinance rate of 5.34 percent fixed, or 1.73 percent variable (with interest not varying more than 1 percent a year). For students locked in at higher rates, refinance was a godsend.
But BND also sponsors and talks freely about four loan deferment programs, including for economic hardship and unemployment, and three loan forgiveness programs, the latter encouraging debt-reduced careers in teaching and STEM.
They offer scholarships awarded to the top fifth of their high school students who qualify and choose to attend school in North Dakota. Comparatively speaking, North Dakota’s tuitions are a bargain at $7,265 in 2014—at least partly because the BND returns dividends to the state’s general fund.
Quick. Somebody tell AAUW and Elizabeth Warren. Student debt is a woman’s issue—and public banking gives states a chance to revive education and a future. Local legislators should look to this state solution.

Rickey Gard Diamond is editor of Vermont Woman and is on the board of The Public Banking Institute.

The sexiest, most lovable statistician ever.

The sexiest, most lovable statistician ever.

You have to see this to believe it! Statistics, in the hands of Hans, tell a remarkable story, relevant to grandmothers and mothers! He shows in this video the difference between the means of “development” and the goal of development. Not money! He helps us see how the world’s peoples are not so different and can work for a better future. If you’re not into the subject, you might get bored–but stick it out to the end for a GRAND FINALE. Hosling is amazing, brave, funny and wise. This is only one of his many presentations that tell us remarkable stories about ourselves. Using data.

The Robin Hood Tax

Here’s good news. The Nation and Alternet report a majority of European countries are in favor of The Tobin Tax, also popularly known as the Robin Hood Tax. First proposed by a Nobel Prize economist back in the 70s, it would tax economic transactions a tiny amount and accomplish two important things. First, it would discourage the frenetic micro-second transactions we see today that undermines the stability of hedge funds and stock markets. And second, it would be a tax difficult to avoid and provide a needed source of revenue for programs for the well-being of the 99 percent. You know, the ones we’re always told we can’t afford.

England’s prime minister  is resisting, defending their huge financial sector from such horrors as a tiny tax–but even the courts think it is reasonable and legal–and most think it badly needed. They’re moving forward on it.

Alas, looking at our Congress and the influence of libertarian nutcase legislation, it seems unlikely to catch on here in the U.S. But hey, talk about it–and let’s see.

Eros was Gaia's sexy counterpoint in the beginning, not baby Cupid. Gaia created the earth, said the Greeks.

Eros was Gaia’s sexy counterpoint in the beginning, not baby Cupid. Gaia created the earth, said the Greeks.

I’ll  be presenting my Eros theory of the economy at the Gross National Happiness Conference at UVM in Burlington, Vermont, on May 29 & 30. I’m one of many dozens of presenters, and it looks like two (or four) great days focused on creating a movement. Learn about economics for passionate people and the planet. And then visit the Discover Jazz Festival in Burlington, a short walk away.

My workshop aims to empower those intimidated by economics. I devised a basic primer during my work with adult students as a professor of liberal studies at Vermont College; while my training is in writing and literature, I was concerned about language that shapes our thinking about economics, while mystifying it.

Literature’s powerful stories are often entwined with changing perceptions of value and money. As a journalist I have frequently written about economic policies and the persistent poverty of women; I’ve published a novel, Second Sight that examines the uses of violence, including economic violence, to control us. Women in particular tend to be intimidated and avoid economics. Yet few of either gender relishes admitting to what isn’t understood in a climate of experts’ mystifying language.

Gross National Happiness as a counter to the Gross National Product had long been part of my presentations at colleges and conferences. I’m excited about Genuine Progress Indicators recently being added to Vermont’s measures of how we’re doing, and the development of public banking. There’s much to celebrate when you understand what’s at stake and how many are already proposing new paths to a happier future.

Using images,  I’ll show blind spots in male-dominated economic thinking, especially one big omission—biology—ours and the earth’s. I love to deconstruct economics, and have fun unlocking the subject through language and story.

For instance, the earliest creation story of the Greeks said the goddess Gaia created the earth and its life. And next came Eros whose ability to inspire passion and love assured life would continue.  The ecological Gaia theory is now widely recognized: we have “green economists.” But  I argue that Eros must not be forgotten as Gaia’s counterpart.

Eros is defined in the dictionary as sexual and creative drive, but also as “the sum of all instincts for self-preservation.” What might Eros mean to Gaia and our monetary economy? How might we reshape conversations about the economic realm? Is the economy really a war? Or, like our planet Gaia, a complex, self-regulating organism engaged in many sexy exchanges—our actual lives the real bottom line?

Check out the schedule for a two full days of learning–and have fun doing it. Come help build a movement, along with other terrifically happy and inventive, passionate people who care about our planet and all of its lifek–including yours! Here’s the link to what’s happening–register and please pass the news along.

Vermont Woman won its first national award for Rickey Gard Diamond’s investigative series.

The National Newspaper Association, the nation’s largest press association, established in 1885, conducts annual contests for U.S. newspapers’ best writing. Writing is judged by a panel of experienced newspaper editors and journalism professors. This year, for the first time, Vermont Woman was recognized out of a field of 2349 entries; only 135 newspapers in 36 states won awards, and Vermont Woman is honored to be among them. Here’s what judges said:

Vermont Woman, South Hero, VT

3rd place, Best Investigative or InDepth Story or Series, Nondaily Division, circulation 10,000 or more.

Making the Economy Our Own—Measuring a Successful Economy by WellBeing not Wealth, Rickey Gard Diamond. Judges’ Comments: “This series of articles, written for a specific community of readers, considers an alternative approach to our nation’s economic indicator reporting and to the overall structure of our economy. It is notable for its breadth and for its use of atypical sources.”

Contributing editor, Rickey Gard Diamond, wrote the series and began serving as the paper’s editor in Dec. 2011. She wishes to thank her sources, especially economist Stephanie Seguino, Ellen Brown of the Public Banking Institute, GNH-USA, author Gwen Hallsmith, and former-editor Margaret Michniewicz for her support, and also Suzanne Gillis, the paper’s publisher, and Jan Doerler, whose production team always takes such great care with its writers.

Diamond says, “Atypical sources, in this case, means women—who are often omitted from economic thinking, along with Mother Nature. To receive this kind of award for writing about this difficult subject—and to have made the economy a little more understandable for women and anyone who seeks new solutions—is very encouraging.” Here are links to her six award-winning articles:

(Nov/Dec 2010) Making the Economy Our Own (Part I):

The Most Important Thing Women Need to Know

(Feb/March 2011) Making the Economy Our Own (Part 2):

Measuring Well-Being, not Wealth

(April/May 2011) Making the Economy Our Own (Part 3):

The Growing Care Crisis

(June, July, Aug 2011) Making the Economy Our Own (Part 4):

Dollars, Dollars, Everywhere and Not a Cent to Spare

(Sept/Oct. 2011) Making the Economy Our Own (Part 5):

The Federal Reserve and Dollars on the Make

(Nov/Dec. 2011) Making the Economy Our Own (Part 6)

Avoiding Another Jackass Monetary Crisis:

This article first appeared in Vermont Woman, Feb/March 2011.

Editor’s note: Last month we examined the growing inequality of income in our country and the world and some of the reasons for it. This month, we look more closely at new national and state measures that could make a difference in how we think about economic “progress.”

Linda Wheatley of Montpelier and Ginny Sassaman, from Maple Corner in Calais, live in comfortable middle-class homes in small, closely connected communities—and in a state less affected by the Great Recession than most of the rest of the country.  So why do these two Vermont women, both mothers and self-taught economic thinkers, want to help transform the heart of our current economy?

“We literally ‘bumped’ into each other, out running,” explains Ginny about their initial accidental meeting. Linda, who had directed leadership programs with Vermont’s Snelling Center for Government, and Ginny, a trained mediator, found they were reading similar books; they had similar “weird” interests. Both had learned of Bhutan, a tiny country in the Himalayas, whose young king had declared in 1972 that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.”  More used to the U.S. economy’s depressions and recessions, they were excited to wonder.  Was there another path?

What exactly was the Gross National Product? It seemed important they learn. The two women formed a small study group that met weekly in Ginny’s kitchen. Within a year, they and a small group of like-minded recruits had named themselves Gross National Happiness-USA and organized an international conference held at Burlington College in Sept. of 2010.

Attended by 120 people interested in similar questions, the conference was sponsored by diverse players, including Vermont’s Peace Academy, the Vermont Community Foundation, the Gund Institute for Environmental Economics , Winooski Hydro. National Life Insurance, the Peace and Justice Center and the Morrell Family Foundation. With help from Tom Barefoot of Universal Microsystems in Waitsfield, another kitchen-table economist, they created a new webpage to make connections with others interested in a happier economic system.

The organization’s name, Gross National Happiness (GNH-USA), both echoes and challenges our country’s main economic measurement. Not only Linda and Ginny, but a growing number of economists worldwide, have come to believe the national accounting system has badly misled us. While numbers grow exponentially without limit, the earth’s resources remain finite. “For me, it’s urgent,” said Ginny. The present economic system is chewing up the environment….our children and grandchildren will pay a big price if we don’t find something that can resonate with people. People intuitively respond to the idea of happiness.”

Yet the necessity of “growth” to work an economy is at the heart of the GNP’s economic assumptions. It is a heart one might rightfully call black, because GNP counts nothing but money. And it counts money not at all in the way you might in your own checkbook. Eric Zencey, of Montpelier, a history and politics professor with Empire State, also took part in that Calais kitchen group and now serves on the board of GNH. At the fall conference, he explained the Gross National Product (GNP) literally adds up every dollar spent in the U.S., even the ones most of us would count as a debit.

If it costs someone money, then it counts as a plus in GNP. By contrast, work done out of integrity or love, as a caring family member, or a community volunteer, doesn’t count. The GNP cares only about money and it never ever subtracts. For example, cleaning up Katrina’s disaster, rebuilding, expending emergency help, rescuing, all counted as a boon to the GNP. Likewise, the high U.S. prison-incarceration rate raises GNP, though most Americans would tend to believe the cost of the highest incarceration rate among advanced industrial nations indicates some sort of social dysfunction. Shouldn’t it be a debit?

“Imagine doing this with your checkbook,” said Zencey at the organization’s first conference in Burlington last fall:  “Your paycheck is a deposit; but so is your mortgage bill and your electric bill—just add it all up like they’re all a plus. That’s what GDP does. It measures the commotion of money.”

That in itself is crazy. But wait a minute. Did Zencey just say G-D-P? What happened to GNP?

They’re related. GDP stands for Gross Domestic Product, another term used in national accounting systems, and used much more commonly than GNP since the 1990s. Nobel-prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz explained the change from GNP to GDP to an audience in NYC in 2008.

I’ll paraphrase: While GNP measures the incomes of the people of any nation, GDP more neatly measures the nation’s aggregate product. It leaves out the details of income disparities between the rich and the poor. In the 1990s it became clear economic activity in a nation didn’t necessarily stay in a nation. GDP became the more favored number. In some cases, the GDP of a nation can go up, while the incomes of most people go down.

Here in the U.S. since 1980, the GDP per capita income has gone up 67%, but the median income has gone up only 15%.  Most of our aggregate gains have gone to the wealthiest 10% of Americans, and the same is true of China, now the second largest economy, with a median income ranking 62nd . So there is a political edge to these national accounting issues. It doesn’t pay to remain ignorant of them.


Linda and Ginny and their kitchen cabinet set out to discover how an economy in the black works. But more importantly, they also wanted to learn how economies can operate in the red—meaning not the red of accounting books’ debits, not the red of yours and my checkbooks—but the living red color of human hearts. What is an economy for, after all, if not for people’s well-being?

They learned they were not alone in asking this question. Economic thinkers all over the world are arguing a large change in our point of view is needed. They found themselves in alliance not only with the King of Bhutan, who has created a whole government department for measuring his country’s happiness, but with the conservative President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy. Sarkozy appointed two Nobel-prize-winning economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, to devise new measurement methods this year, a report published in December of 2010.

Interestingly, the commission included recognition of the suspicion of “official statistics” for many of us:

[T]here often seems to be a marked distance between standard measures of important socio economic variables like economic growth, inflation, unemployment, etc. and widespread perceptions. The standard measures may suggest, for instance, that there is less inflation or more growth than individuals perceive to be the case, and the gap is so large and so universal that it cannot be explained by reference to money illusion or to human psychology. In some countries, this gap has undermined confidence in official statistics (for example, in France and in the United Kingdom. only one third of citizens trust official figures, and these countries are not exceptions), with a clear impact on the way in which public discourse about the conditions of the economy and necessary policies takes place.

GDP’s reports of “growth” in the face of continued job loss, dropping home values and shrinking retirement funds turns citizens into cynics.  Stiglitz commented on why expansion of national measurements and greater transparency would make a difference shortly before he headed up the French commission, saying: “The reason I’m interested in this subject is that accounting affects behavior. In the 1990s, we had bad accounting and as a result we had bad behavior. Information affects behavior. It affects what we strive for.”

Similarly Ginny and Linda talked about the ways we can’t see, until we start measuring. Linda said it neatly, “What you measure is what you get,” and Ginny illustrated what she meant in personal terms. “When gas prices went up, all of a sudden, we were all interested in seeing what cars got better gas mileage. We looked at the stickers on cars. When I go on a diet, I start looking at calories and the labels on food packages measure how well I am doing.  That can help guide my decisions.”

Different data gathering could help state and national decision-making.  GNH-USA has adopted “four pillars” of commitment, similar to Bhutan’s. These are: equitable and sustainable socio-economic development; the preservation and promotion of cultural values; the conservation of the natural environment; and good governance. Some data is already being gathered in these areas, but thinking more systematically about cooperation and a goal of happiness for Vermonters could expand that data base and give a fuller picture to apply to state and national policy-making. (See sidebar for how Vermont and others are already gathering data.)

For now, GNH is organizing working groups, aimed at sharing what they’ve learned. They also would welcome facilitating what they’re calling, “Happiness Circles,” aimed at simply getting people together to talk about what it means for them. “We’d love for people to get in touch with us, and be involved however they can,” said Linda. “We’re hoping that this path into economics will appeal to women, too.”

“One of the things I find personally rewarding,” admitted Ginny, “is just thinking more about happiness. I’m not so sure we know that much about it.”

Perhaps we haven’t been encouraged or reminded to think about it often. We take for granted Thomas Jefferson’s bold argument for our American right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  The last important American politician to bring GNP’s absurdity to Americans’ attention for change was Robert Kennedy in 1968.  Kennedy spoke at the University of Kansas, saying:

“[For too long] we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values to the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product—if we should judge America by that—counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife*, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. (*note: Charles Whitman, a student at the University of Texas killed 16 people from a tower on campus in 1966; that same year Richard Speck murdered eight nurses.)

“Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country: it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”

Without much media attention, the state of Maryland recently adopted new accounting measures called the GPI, or Genuine Progress Index. They will gather wider data on the well-being of its citizens and natural resources and their measures will include women’s and men’s non-monetized work now impossible to see and value.

“Women have willingly gone the uneconomic path,” mused Ginny as our interview closed, “because taking care of people, children, the elderly, is emotionally such satisfying work.”

“Women traditionally live longer, too,” answered Linda. “I wonder what we might find about correlations between longevity and happiness?”

In other words, GNH-USA hopes to see Vermont join Maryland in asking some interesting questions, and lead our nation in a more inspired, creative and happy economic direction.

Contributing editor, Rickey Gard Diamond, lives and writes in Montpelier. In 2008, she presented on economic language at NOW’s Conference for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Atlanta. 

Want to find out more?

Bhutan has made happiness its economic goal since 1972. The Centre for Bhutan Studies has made the country’s statistical methodologies available at conferences and a website. This link discusses indicators, or how information can be gathered to reveal changes over time.

Our neighbor Canada has become a leader in the west for gathering a wider range of economic data. Not bold enough to hope for happiness, they have created a database they call the Canadian Index of Wellbeing; “Measuring What Matters.” Visit their web page to see the areas of data-gathering they’re examining; Britain begins a project this year.

The Gund Institute at UVM, under the leadership of Robert Constanza, has already conducted a study of Burlington and Chittenden Country (from 1950-2000) and estimated its status using the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), the methodology which Maryland adopted in 2010. It was published in 2004 in Ecological Economics to demonstrate the feasibility of such analysis even at a local level.

The state of Maryland is the first state to adopt the Genuine Progress Index (GPI) as an additional measure to augment GDP. Here’s how it works.

In December Britain’s conservative Prime Minister David Cameron charged the Office of National Statistics to begin collecting data on well-being. The New Economics Foundation, based in Britain, has long urged this, and twice compiled reports they call The Happy Planet Index, examining 143 countries and 99% of the world’s population.  As Time Magazine reported: “How does the U.S. fare in HPI terms? Not so good. It sits pretty far down the list at 114. The U.K. is 74, behind Germany, Italy and France. Topping the chart is Costa Rica, which has long life expectancy, high life satisfaction, and a per capita ecological footprint one-fourth the size of the U.S.”

Read more:,8599,1957746,00.html#ixzz19nv11RVo

Or go directly to the source:

The U. S. has funded new statistics as well, though its politics raise questions. On page 562 of Obama’s Healthcare bill is a provision for Congress to oversee development of 300 “key national indicators.”  On Dec. 16, Congress appointed an 8-member commission with backgrounds ranging from conservative politics to preventative medicine. The commission will collaborate with the Academy of Sciences in a “public-private partnership,” using $70 million of our tax-dollars, yet only one woman, Marta Tienda, a sociology professor from Princeton, will serve and they’ll use private funds as well. Called The State of the USA, this not-exactly grass roots or woman-populated effort is expected to post indicators this summer.  Will they include Mother Nature and Your Momma?

(This article first appeared in Vermont Woman, Sept/Oct 2011)

My education about money began with my high school trip to Washington, D.C., where I learned that the U.S. Mint stamps our coins and the Bureau of Engraving prints big sheets of our government’s money. But who places the order for printing those dollars? Who tells them how many to print?

If you look more closely at George Washington in your own wallet, you’ll find the explanation. You’ll also learn why there’s never enough. Your dollar bill is labeled a Federal Reserve Note. Who, or what, is the Federal Reserve?

The Fed is the U.S. central bank in charge of our monetary policy. Created by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, the Fed is actually our third central bank; our currency was the subject of much debate until the 20th century. The Federal Reserve System now works hand in glove with the U.S. Treasury. Think of the Federal Reserve as our nation’s banker. It’s where we, the people, represented by our Treasury, deposit our tax payments to the government, and where the Treasury writes out checks to pay for government business. Simple enough.


SIDEBAR: What does the U.S. Treasury do?

The Department of the Treasury manages federal finances, currency and coins; collects monies due to the U.S. and pays all its bills; manages Government accounts and the public debt; supervises national banks and thrift institutions; advises on domestic and international trade and tax, financial, monetary and economic policy; enforces Federal finance and tax laws; investigates and prosecutes tax evaders, counterfeiters and forgers.

Our Treasury hasn’t always worked in tandem with a central bank. Presidents Jefferson and Jackson believed a private central bank was dangerous and worked to end them. Abraham Lincoln wanted a central bank, but issued Greenbacks directly from the Treasury to win the Civil war. Greenbackers lost later elections to supporters of the Federal Reserve Act. John F. Kennedy was the last President to issue a currency directly from the Treasury – in the form of silver certificates.

The Board of the Federal Reserve, five Governors in all, is appointed by the President for terms of 14 years. Its current chairman is Ben Bernanke. But the Federal Reserve is far more than one bank, or one board. It is a system of 12 regional banks, all privately owned, overseeing other private banks. This system serves as your bank’s banker, too.

The most powerful regional bank is the New York Federal Reserve. When the 2008 bailout was proposed late in George W. Bush’s term of office, Tim Geithner at the New York Fed sat next to then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson when those deals were cut to save Wall Street banks. Now Geithner has moved over one seat and taken Paulson’s place, while the man at his side, William Dudley, took Geithner’s place. All three men worked first with Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment bank often nicknamed “Government Sachs.” They call this “continuity.”

 (Editor’s note: In 2008, Stephen Friedman, former chairman of Goldman Sachs, was given a waiver to chair the board of the New York Fed without giving up his job at another investment company. He was forced to resign when he made $3 million on his Goldman shares with a single insider phone call.)

 The Federal Reserve describes itself as “an independent entity within the government, having both public purposes and private aspects.” It is supposed to keep bank meltdowns from happening, setting the interest rate for all the nation’s banks. It also makes money available to banks at a discount when needed. Despite its official-sounding name, the Fed’s purpose is to create a profit for its banks’ shareholders. They are in business, not government, interested in profit, not public service.

In 1997, the largest shareholders of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York were Chase Manhattan Bank, Citibank and Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. Citibank belongs to the Rockefellers, and the Morgan fortune has run Wall Street since the turn of the 20th century. J.P. Morgan is the gentleman caricatured in your Monopoly game with a mustache and monocle. Monopoly gaming continues on Wall Street. In 2000 Morgan and Chase merged into mega-big Morgan Chase. In 2008, Citibank was bought by Bank of America, growing even larger, and in 2009, another Morgan arm, Morgan Stanley, bought up Smith Barney. These are all global investment brokerage banks.

That word global matters. The New York Fed’s board works to deliver profits – most often in developing countries, not here. Yet the New York Fed enjoys a particularly close relationship with the U.S. Treasury. By contrast, the government is not a shareholder in the Federal Reserve System. The system’s complexities mask an insider setup for enhancing private fortunes. At the end of 2010, the Fed’s 12 reserve banks held $2.4 trillion in government debt, mortgage-backed securities and other investments, according to a combined financial statement it published in March 2011.


The Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury print money only after the Fed first conducts “open market operations.” This means it auctions government “securities,” a broad name for Treasury bills, notes and bonds. These are all names for “loans” of varying lengths of time, but unlike loans, bonds can be traded worldwide, a global commodity.

The Fed’s own website acknowledges the New York Fed plays “a unique role.” All the “open market operations” – the buying and selling of U.S. government securities to influence money and credit conditions in the global economy – are carried out by the New York Fed. When the U.S. Treasury decides to “intervene in the foreign exchange market, it is the New York Fed that carries out the intervention.” (Foreign exchange markets and the dollar’s devaluation was the subject of the previous article in this Vermont Woman series.)

The New York Fed conducts daily conference calls with “primary dealers” (think Goldman Sachs), after which they call in the Treasury in Washington. Then, depending on who wins the daily 10-minute auction, the Fed credits the accounts of its commercial member banks, and our Treasury agrees to pay them interest on the bonds, or money they have lent us.

Your dollar bills are literally “bills,” created as “credit.” The back side of credit is debt. Our dollars come into circulation through a global credit card minus the plastic.

“Purchasing bonds” is a fancy way of saying those “primary dealers” just arranged to broker our debt, sold to the highest bidder; in the old days, Goldman Sachs might have received a certificate of the “bond,” or an agreement that “binds” the debtor. (The word “bondage,” a form of indentured slavery, grows from the same root.) So our Treasury is held by its bonds, purchased by the highest bidder and then traded around the world. Only then can dollars be printed as “notes.” A note is another word for debt.

Am I sure about this? When I first learned about this currency sleight of hand, I didn’t believe it could be true. I would fact-check and discover in what way it was wrong. But all the economists I read, and the Federal Reserve itself, confirmed that we live with this indebted system of money creation. Money created out of debt can only be paid by expanding the economy in future, further exploiting Mother Nature on a global scale, and laboring ever more to pay back the principal, plus interest added on.

No wonder there is never “enough.”


My initial disbelief found credibility in a similar reaction from a Texas Representative elected in 1929, the year of the Great Crash. For 40 years, Wright Patman chaired the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Currency, and for 20 of those years, he sought to repeal the Federal Reserve System. The Congressional Record of the House of Representatives (pages 7582-7583) records his September 29, 1941 speech. Compare his plain-spoken words to the mysterious mumblings of Allan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke at the Fed.

When our Federal Government, that has the exclusive power to create money, creates that money and then goes into the open market and borrows it and pays interest for the use of its own money, it occurs to me that that is going too far. I have never yet had anyone who could, through the use of logic and reason, justify the Federal Government borrowing the use of its own money… I am saying to you in all sincerity, and with all the earnestness that I possess, it is absolutely wrong for the Government to issue interest-bearing obligations. It is not only wrong: it is extravagant. It is not only extravagant, it is wasteful. It is absolutely unnecessary… I believe the time will come when people will demand that this be changed. I believe the time will come in this country when they will actually blame you and me and everyone else connected with this Congress for sitting idly by and permitting such an idiotic system to continue. I make that statement after years of study.

All of this feels shocking, but here’s something even more amazing. The money, which our banks loan out, doesn’t actually exist in a vault somewhere, as you might have assumed from the name Federal Reserve. Instead it is created on the accounting books, as a “fiat” currency. Fiat means something like Captain Picard’s command on Star Trek: “Make it so” – although banks possess no holodeck, only the power Congress has given them.

A booklet published by the Chicago Federal Reserve in the1960s, “Modern Money Mechanics,” puts it simply: “The actual process of money creation takes place primarily in banks… Banks do not really pay out loans from the money they receive as deposits. If they did this, no additional money would be created.”

Ellen Brown explains, in her wonderfully readable book Web of Debt, that contrary to popular belief, loans become deposits, rather than the reverse. You might feel like Alice in Wonderland reading this, going through the looking glass where everything is backwards. But the Fed’s own booklet says it too: “Banks can build up deposits by increasing loans… so long as they keep enough currency on hand to redeem whatever amounts the holders of deposits want to convert into currency. This unique attribute of the banking business was discovered many centuries ago. It started with goldsmiths…”

Europeans traded in gold and silver coins, Brown reveals. These were hard to transport and could be stolen unless locked up. So goldsmiths offered safes and provided paper receipts for the stored gold. These eventually came to be traded, easier to handle than cartloads of bullion. Over time, goldsmiths noticed only a few people at any one time came back to get their gold. So they began loaning it out many times over, though it wasn’t theirs, by keeping only a fraction on reserve for those who might come for it. Naturally, they got rich pretty quickly. They also got used to loaning out what wasn’t really there.

Wealthy goldsmiths soon gained legal sanction for their “fractional reserves,” becoming bankers. Bankers gained not only the right to charge interest for their issues of paper receipts for more gold than they had, but eventually a monopoly on issuing national currencies, as first happened in England in 1694.

If you’re wondering why a nation needs to “borrow” its currency, why it can’t just issue the money it needs, you’re not the first. You have, in fact, hit on a long-standing historical argument in the U.S., beginning with the Revolution, Shay’s Rebellion and the abolishment of two central banks. In the shadow of the Great Depression, just 16 years after the Federal Reserve System was installed to prevent banking crashes—unsuccessfully—Wright Patman called out a Governor of the Federal Reserve Board, Marinner Eccles. He asked him to explain how the Federal Reserve got its money.

“We created it,” Eccles answered.

“Out of what?”

“Out of the right to issue credit money…That is what our money system is. If there were no debts in our money system, there wouldn’t be any money.”

This helps throw light on that debt ceiling argument in Congress. Private fortunes and other central banks lend us “their” money and charge us interest for using our own dollars. Web of Debt author Brown explains that the federal debt hasn’t been paid off since the presidency of Andrew Jackson nearly two centuries ago. Since the Treasury no longer issues certificates backed by silver or gold or even interest-free greenbacks, our debt is really just another name for our country’s money supply. I hate saying it, but Dick Cheney may have been right when he said the federal debt doesn’t really matter – though surely it matters what we choose to go into hock for, and to whom we are bonded and owe added interest.

SIDEBAR: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been at the forefront of demanding more accountability from the Federal Reserve. He helped win the recent move to audit the Fed, and thanks to an amendment he added to the recent Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Protection Act, the Fed is now required to be less secretive in its “interventions,” which are handled exclusively by the New York Fed. In April, under the new rule, Sanders discovered they had bailed out the Bank of Libya: a troubling revelation in the face of our military conflict there. He said, “It is incomprehensible to me that while creditworthy small businesses in Vermont and throughout the country could not receive affordable loans, the Federal Reserve was providing tens of billions of dollars in credit to a bank that is substantially owned by the Central Bank of Libya.”


Despite what my high school visit to Washington taught me, most of our currency is never printed; it’s electronically entered in banks’ accounting books. Even post-2008, few Americans understand that the Federal Reserve System is only backed by private accounting numbers and our indebtedness. Vermont’s Senator, Bernie Sanders, has begun to unveil the secrecy of this system, by demanding an audit by the Government Accountability Office; in late July, the GAO found not only the $700 billion bailout we heard about on the news, but behind the scenes what Sanders called “a jaw-breaking $16 trillion in financial assistance to some of the biggest financial institutions and corporations in the world.”

A growing number of reformists on the left and the right hold this present monetary system at least partly responsible for the upward sweep of money to a very privileged clique at the top of that economic pyramid on your dollar bill. With a currency created out of debt to the richest global fortunes, consider that eyeball looking at you as “truth in lending.” Only a pyramid scheme could create a national currency out of everlasting debt and a misnamed façade to give the public false impressions. It’s still hard to believe, I know, so go ahead and do your own fact-checking.

We’ll never know what would have happened if Wall Street had been left to fend for itself in 2008. In history, the wealthiest banks and its patrons have generally been protected by nations. A fascinating recent book, The Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed, brings to life those global central bankers behind events we generally think of as political. It shows how the Great Depression grew out of World War I reparations, negotiated by financial elites in Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. These men knew each other well and often worked together, though more often they each sought to come out as the nation on top.

This biographical account of macroeconomics shows a privileged and exclusive male world where private fortunes finance nations, and where “meltdowns” and failures can bring nations to their knees with resulting violence. Its history is littered with frauds, scandals, and suicides over fortunes lost, and it becomes clear Hitler’s rhetoric could only enter the mainstream of Germany when its middle class had been decimated by punishing payments of debts too high to pay. The cost of the urge to come out “on top” did not accrue to nations’ central bankers, but to their nations’ people, who suffered hardships and the viciousness of hatred and war.

Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke’s tight relationship with Wall Street must help in those daily market operations with “primary dealers,” now grown bigger than ever with taxpayer help. We can’t know, of course, because minutes of meetings at the Fed are still not public. Until recently, Americans paid little attention, put to sleep by the mumbling drone of the Fed’s evasions. There are signs of more Americans waking up – including women with new dollar dreams to tell us about.


For further reading on:

Sanders and the Fed

The Fed’s Profits

The New York Federal Reserve Bank and Open Market Operations

Ellen Brown’s Web of Debt

Wright Patman

The Great Seal on Your Dollar

Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance

Photos of the Fed

The National Coalition for Men projects its fears on imaginary women.

This editorial first appeared in Vermont Woman, Summer 2012 (Vol.5, No.7/8)

Vermonters fresh out of winter hibernation feel a natural inclination to smell the flowers and have some fun. And given the joys of this summer issue of Vermont Woman—we’re going to Paris, and out on the Waterfront, and biking in the mountains—I so hoped to leave behind the hoary frosts of my heart. But Republicans keep appearing in my nightmares—I, who have voted Republican in the past, when Republicans included the likes of Jim Jeffords. Republicans were formerly our allies, when the Violence Against Women Act first became law in 1994, and when it was reauthorized twice in the past. But somehow this year VAWA became “controversial.”

The bill passed the U.S. Senate with important new provisions to protect immigrant women, Native American women and LGBT victims; Republican women voted for it and helped the bill pass. Meanwhile, Concerned Women of America, a far-right religious lobby founded by Beverly LaHaye, expressed grave concern over the dangers of what it called, “Leahy’s bill.” CWA pointed out that our state’s senior senator had been behind many of the inclusive changes—which made me proud of Leahy, and of us for electing him.

Wrong Worries

Apparently CWA feared that any provision that acknowledged the right of a lesbian to be as safe as a hetero would somehow undermine the sacred bond of marriage, especially when you were an immigrant woman, or a Native American woman married to a white man. It’s hard to see the connections, until you remember denial, and notice that Phyllis Schlafley’s Eagle Forum brought out its arguments, too, smelling of moth balls and crocheted doilies.

Did these ultraconservative women mention violent men who stomp on “sacred,” and an American culture that glamorizes violence? No, I don’t think so, but they did claim that the bill the Senate passed would strengthen “the feminist power structure,” by which I suppose they mean women who refuse to be doormats.

When the bill reached the U.S. House, Republican leadership stripped it of Leahy’s inclusionary improvements, and passed a new version that Democrats such as veteran U.S. Rep. John Conyers called, “a flat-out attack on women.” By this, he meant not only the women who are victims of violence, but a generation of volunteer and professional women who have sheltered and counseled them.

Conyers said in The Hill, “The truth is that this could have been a bipartisan bill, just as it has been in two prior reauthorizations. For nearly a year, we conferred with our Republican and Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate. This bipartisan group worked with survivors, advocates, and law enforcement officers from across the country and identified what programs were working and what could be improved. However, the Republican House Leadership decided to introduce a measure that ignored nearly all of these negotiations and turned their back on hundreds of organizations.”

Wrong Organizations

The Republicans chose to embrace other organizations, however, and women should know about them. In addition to CWA and the Eagle Forum, the National Coalition of Men had demanded “gender-inclusive language” for the law, despite VAWA’s name and its intended mission. Apparently the coalition found that a bill focused on women, and stopping violence against them, went too far. It demanded “accountability measures” in response to “fraud and abuse,” though it presented no evidence or testimony to support its call for “needed reform.”

When I went to NCM’s website, curious about it, I discovered its lead article for that day praised Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He is suing for damages for all he “suffered” when charged by New York officials with attempted rape of a maid who had cleaned his hotel room. Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund, and a potential candidate for the presidency of France, faced disgrace when other charges by other women in France came in. But, said the author of the NCM article, Strauss-Kahn was making a comeback, and “It’s about time!”

Author Eric Ross, “Ph.D.,” celebrated Strauss-Kahn’s courage, but mostly his having the money to pursue a court case, which most similarly abused men cannot afford, you see. The long article is accompanied by a cartoon illustration of four shapely and crafty-looking models with the headline, “Women of Golddigger.” The frequency of false accusations by women underlies the article’s assumptions, as does the natural proclivity of women—especially immigrant women of color—to enrich themselves at men’s expense.

Here is a quote from the article, which also manages to defame Catherine MacKinnon, the legal scholar who first made it possible for women to sue for sexual harassment on the job. Ross doesn’t bother to spell her name correctly, and then he misquotes her.

Ross claims: “We simply may not, cannot have false allegations of rape in America, because our most esteemed legal scholars, such as Katharine A. MacKinnon [sic], have told our lawmakers ‘any heterosexual sex is rape of a woman.’ So, evidence does not count, as long as the woman says it is rape….”

Stay Posted

The petulant horror of this allegation, so sophomoric in its methods and tone, hardly seems to warrant an adult response—until you realize Republicans in our elected Congress just gave this organization and its claims legislative credence.  To take women out of the Violence Against Women Act in the name of “equity” requires that you minimize men’s real and criminal violence, documented in crime reports, and that you discount identification with women’s lives and their accounts.

One of the rejected amendments to the House version sought inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in its provisions.  A 2010 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, had found nearly 45 percent of LGBT domestic violence survivors were turned away by a shelter and 54 percent of LGBT survivors seeking an order of protection were denied help. The final bill left them out—along with immigrant and Native American women.

NCM trumpeted its victory with a news release: “House Approves Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the version that really can help all people and put the lid on corruption.”  The question is just which “all people” do Republicans mean to help? And whose “corruption” should we voters question? Stay posted for developments as a still male-dominated Congress hammers out a law and threats of more budget cuts.

This editorial first appeared in Vermont Woman, April/May 2012 (Vol. 8 No. 5/6 ).

Loretta Preska, a Bush-appointed federal judge, will have a special place in hell. I speak of the place that former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reserved for a woman who didn’t help other women.

Justice Preska in late 2011 ruled against “family work-life balance” in a class action suit against Bloomberg, L.P., the financial media giant owned by New York’s mayor. Nevermind plaintiffs weren’t asking for that; they just wanted fair pay for equal work. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  had found discrimination as pure and simple as Lilly Ledbetter’s case against Goodrich in 2007. Oh, but come to think of it,  Lilly lost her sex discrimination case, too, thanks to other Bush appointees on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs at Bloomberg deposed lots of evidence. The EEOC documented how Michael Bloomberg compared maternity leave to giving guys time off to practice their golf swing. When told by a female employee that she was pregnant, Bloomberg told her what to do: “Kill it,” he said. His Human Resources manager openly remarked that a mother’s place was at home, while another manager accused women, who took maternity leave and then chose not to come back, of stealing from Bloomberg’s wallet. “They ought to be arrested,” he exclaimed, while still another asked rhetorically, “Who would want to work in an office full of women?”

The charming details of women’s work life at Bloomberg didn’t get the same media play as Sandra Fluke’s treatment,  possibly because Justice Preska set aside the devil in those details—and don’t forget that in this case the devil owned a huge media company.

Instead Preska reframed the Bloomberg case in a way that reminds me of how women’s access to birth control through Obamacare somehow got recast as Catholic bishops’ freedom of conscience and the rights of individual conscience to reject government mandates like—you guessed it—Obamacare.  Perhaps those who feel strongly enough should have to the right to abstain from purchasing auto insurance to drive, too. Did Jesus ever buy insurance?  If the Occupy movement were arguing this stuff, Fox News would be screaming anarchy.

Reframing Bias

Judge Preska, like a Dr. Frankenstein, had to resuscitate a dead court rule to accomplish her ruling. A decade ago, discrimination lawsuits were stymied because of no suitable “comparator” to mothers—namely a pregnant man. Over time, courts sensibly gave up their search for a comparator in these cases, instead allowing plaintiffs to prove discrimination by introducing evidence of stereotyping—say, like comments about moms belonging at home.

But Preska not only insisted on comparator evidence as the basis of the case, but rejected the obvious comparison between those who took maternity leave and those who did not. Instead, she compared the women plaintiffs’ salary growth to that of other employees who took similarly long leaves; and voila! Compared to men who were seriously ill or disabled, the salary disparity found by the EEOC disappeared.

“The law does not mandate ‘work-life balance,’” Judge Preska wrote, and you can almost hear her self-righteousness lecturing us:  “It does not require companies to ignore employees’ work-family tradeoffs—and they are tradeoffs—when deciding about employee pay and promotions.”  In other words, because Bloomberg’s male employees hardly ever “decided” to get pregnant, it’s only natural they were paid more. See?

Joan Williams, in a blog on Moms-Rising, wrote about Preska’s abandonment of anti-discrimination law rooted in the 1970s, saying it’s “a really, really devastating setback for women. It’s open season on mothers….Studies show what dooms women economically in the United States is not being a woman—it’s being a mother.”

The latest such study appeared in  The Hastings Law Journal.  “The Motherhood Penalty” (Correll, Benard and Paik) opens this way: “If you give people identical resumes, one a mother and the other not, the mother is 79 percent less likely to be hired, 100 percent less likely to be promoted, offered an average of $11,000 less in salary, and held to higher performance and punctuality standards.”

An old mother like me says, Now you tell me! We should legally contest discrimination like that.  But I also argue for actively creating a wiser family-work balance, and Preska be damned. For that we need new laws to set policy for a saner, happier and reproductively sustainable world. For that we need a far more far-sighted vision of the world our progeny will inherit. That old vision the guys at Bloomberg want to carry to full term?  Kill it.

This issue of Vermont Woman is as full of pregnant and formerly pregnant women as the world is. There are women business owners with young children, women helping other women give birth, history-making moms at the statehouse and grandmothers passing the bar exam. Without women willing to be mothers, our economy would collapse. Not having a dependable supply of young, healthy, well-socialized workers would be bad for Mr. Bloomberg on Wall Street, and worse for our communities on Main Street.  It isn’t enough to demand American women pay for their own pills and aspirins. Mothers—and dads—both at home and at work—should expect something better of the economy in return.

Meanwhile population growth outstrips the world’s natural resources. You’d never know that to listen to U.S. political theater and mainstream media chatter this season. Nor do you hear of the penalty mothers suffer economically, whatever their decisions.

Read more

Kunin has run out of patience and it's good

This pre-publication review first appeared in Vermont Woman, WINTER Feb-March, 2012.

I began reporting on Madeleine Kunin soon after she first became Lt. Governor of Vermont  in 1978.  I was then editing a newspaper committed to poverty issues for Community Action. I remember my first time interviewing her on these subjects, finally turning off the tape recorder to remove my reporting hat. I had no intention of being objective when I told her how much her election had personally meant to me as a young woman. I was inspired.

In 1985, a year after Kunin became the first woman governor of Vermont, Sue Gillis began a new newspaper for Vermont women; I became its editor and aimed at women’s empowerment. Governor Kunin was right there for us, supporting the effort with a personal letter that still hangs in my office.

This past week I read the galleys of Kunin’s third book, expected to be out in book stores early in May. We’re the first to report on it—thank you, Chelsea Green Publishers—because, again, I am inspired.  I want every young parent and every grandparent to read it. Look for A New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Familyas soon as spring arrives.


Here is why the book matters:

After serving as governor, Kunin became Deputy Director of the U.S. Education Dept. and was later appointed ambassador to her native Switzerland. When Hitler had risen to power, her widowed mother had brought Madeleine and her brother to the U.S. for safety; they were Jewish. Kunin writes frankly of her mother’s doing piecework at home to make ends meet, and of her gratitude for public schools and colleges that made her education possible.

Kunin’s first two books, one the memoir of her time as governor (Living a Political Life) and the next her account of U.S. women’s political history (Pearls, Politics and Power) are both solid reads that every young woman and every library ought to own. But I confess neither of these were page-turners and in places disappointed me. I was angry for her when I wished for more outspokenness. I thought maybe it was just our different upbringings. She was from a better neighborhood in Switzerland, while I was raised in a working-class Italian home. Maybe that accounted for my wanting more passion and a few more zealous hand jabs.

Cutting to the Chase

This third time out, however, the Governor delivers. She remains an elegant and cool ambassador; never once does she use that old label, sexism. But she gets in some good zingers. And she minces no words for what is needed: revolution. This time she emotes and argues and chats and gossips and asks frank and thoughtful questions of a surprising range of eloquent women and men. They grant us memorable answers and some very smart strategies. Her work brings us a life-time of research and experience.

Now 78, Kunin perhaps grows aware she hasn’t that much more time to make changes she sees must be accomplished. Perhaps she had stronger support in her second spouse, credited in her dedication: “For John, my first reader, editor, constant supporter—and a feminist.” However you account for it, Kunin gets off some sharp comments, completely keeping in style. She remains the grand dame of politics for the benefit of women and families; a believer in government by and of and for all of the people—half of them female and nearly a quarter of them children.

Families and U.S. economic competitiveness is her topic.  She has run out of patience. Early in the introduction she writes about the unprecedented pressures that make family and work an easily-tipped balancing act for American parents.

“Marches, Tweets, letters, lobbyists—every possible means has to be employed to convince the country that these issues are not only “women’s” issues, not only “children’s” issues, which can easily be dismissed with a gentle pat on the head. These are gut economic issues.” Yes, the lady said gut. Yes, she means bucks.

Kunin says this to a nation she describes competing in a global marketplace against workers in over a 150 other nations with strong work support programs: job flexibility, family leave insurance, early education excellence and affordable childcare. She examines the diversity of those other nations’ governments and businesses, their solutions and their problems, always in the context of possibilities here. Our working families run a handicapped race, she argues, forced to pass their children back and forth like balls in play, convinced by our culture that they are in this economic race alone.

This is good neither for workers nor business and certainly not good for developing human capital, our children, and our economic future. Investing in struggling families would not only increase the available talent pool for American business, it would enable women to participate more widely in leadership. She cites numerous studies and numerous financial allies who gained greater economic success with more diversity. This isn’t fantasy: companies lose money and needed skills when they fail to see and support their employees’ whole lives.

Kunin draws on many business leaders, as well as academics and international experts. She believes how well we address these issues today, both through government and private action, “will determine how well we do as a nation tomorrow.”  Some surprises in this included the details of funding what American women have been told is unaffordable. She goes behind the political action of small American successes in California, Washington and New Jersey to discover methods for winning what I would have believed unwinnable.

Building coalitions of more than the usual suspects, her sources inform. She aims at bipartisan support and even bridges the divide between conservative evangelicals and feminists. Her approach doggedly seeks knowledge of what has worked and of what might possibly succeed.

Some Surprises

Early on, she writes this. “Caution: You cannot be too angry.” For instance, she reveals American corporations which operate in other countries must provide family benefits befitting a host-nation’s legal standards. In other words, they grant foreign employees extended paid parental leave, remaining quite profitable, while at the same time they exclude their own American workers. Here whenever a baby is born, parents are forced to punt, out of their own savings, and get back to work as soon as possible, baby be damned.

Babies are our future, she says—and by that she doesn’t mean only our personal babies, our personal future–but the nation’s babies, which equal the nation’s future. We know more now than ever about the crucial significance of those early years’ learning and brain development. Undervalued children become expensive adults. She cites a 2008 Dept. of Defense study of 17-24 year-olds in Mississippi. The study found that 75 percent of them would not be fit to serve as privates in the Army. The three most common reasons for their unfitness was failure to graduate from high school, a criminal record, and physical unfitness, most often obesity.

By contrast, exactly the kind of quality childcare services most American families cannot find—especially at affordable rates—are already being provided to 300,000 lucky American children and their families. The Department of Defense again, seeking an advantage for attracting volunteer soldiers, has quietly been building exactly the sort of licensed childcare support system that American parents would die for—but should they SET ITAL have END ITAL to, literally?

Theirs is an excellent model, Kunin reports, providing a “gold standard” for what is possible. Twenty years ago, 70 percent of their facilities were cited for fire and safety hazards. Today a full 98 percent are top-rate licensed education centers for children six-weeks-old to 12. This licensure rate (with a raft of standards) compares to 8 percent for private daycare. The centers also provide good-paying jobs, not minimum wage ones, with benefits for educators well-trained in child development. Good jobs for early childcare educators not only assure job-readiness for an important workforce, but better assure a smart and ready future. It would make equally good economic sense for other sectors in our country.

One of the most important things Kunin did when she was governor was to appoint women to key cabinet positions, even when their resumes didn’t look the way they were supposed to. SET ITAL Vermont Woman END ITAL got noticed when we first noticed that story, missed by other media. Women worked differently, we said, and Kunin demonstrated this in her priorities, not only naming an unprecedented number of women, but expecting her whole team to collaborate, more than jockey for power, as she coordinated government departments in new ways. Kunin discusses this candidly in her book. For her, politics was not the same old warfare, but something more inclusive and systemic. We thought this a female trait.

But Kunin says now that women alone can never create the needed change. She remembers her own political mentor, the surprising Emory Hebard, a conservative Republican who first gave her a chance. And in that same spirit, she calls on young fathers and grandparents, business owners, financiers, churchgoers and governors to become more conscious and join in a similar collaboration—giving another kind of chance. This one is for young American families and their potential for productive, innovative work. All of us have a country and an economy at stake in this book.