How a Would-be French Teacher Became an Economic Wonk

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Gwendolyn Hallsmith didn't set out to became an expert on sustainable development and monetary policy. Like many women I discovered in my research on economic women for Screwnomics, Gwen got here by simply pursuing what she held dear. She began by protesting threats to the environment, but says that eventually she saw protest alone wasn't enough. You needed a plan of action, a solution, or at least a goal with a community process for reaching it.

The result is a half-dozen books on community and city planning, sustainable development, currency, and local economies. She travels the world to speak to diverse people, who are looking for economic answers.  Most recently, she says in this interview with Crystal Arnold, on Money- Wise Women, a podcast radio show, Gwen spoke to a group in Costa Rica. She discovered there, people with similar goals of sustainability and community to those she fosters in her home state of Vermont. Importantly she fosters methods and action, as well.

What are a sustainable economy's parts? An economy and monetary policy that supports workers, a healthy environment and food system, and local investment in community and local small businesses is a goal. But we face barriers. She talks here about the female hands that help "hold up the sky," whose caring and work is routinely left out of the way we account for the economy.  About sexism in our value system, she says:  "It's not only concentrated in money, it's magnified." The Federal Reserve is part of the topic here, creating and enforcing an artificial scarcity. 

She's doing "An Economy for All of Us" education series on YouTube, and talks about it here. Her analysis uses a 5-part acronym she calls OMMMM, to name the economy's components in order of importance: Ownership, Money, Markets, Management, and Metrics. Her dissection is clear and accessible, and Crystal's comments and questions are more intimate that the typical talk. Listen to this woman-to-woman conversation here:

Fat Cats of America

My cat Azula knows I could have blogged every moment of every day this past week, reacting to: Scott Pruitt’s steady dismantling of the EPA; the Trump infrastructure proposal that promises to profit the wealthiest and further indebt the public; a White House staffed by wife-beaters without security clearance; indictments of lying Russian and American men paid to corrupt our faith in elections and facts; a social media which eats up our time while creating more billionaires and smears; and a Florida legislature voting down debate on gun control because surviving kids from our latest school massacre were actually protesting, Never Again!

How did America, the land of the free, get here? It boggles the mind. But one constant does connect it: fat cat money. Who exactly has it, and who gets to make the rules that govern money and us by essentially violent means? 

How much money should the fattest pale male cats have at their paws' disposal? As I write in Screwnomics, millions and billions sound alike, but they’re worlds apart.  Calculated in time, a dollar per second, one million adds up to 12 days. A billion is 13 YEARS. Meanwhile, the median US household (which most often these days includes two earners) is $59,039, or 16 HOURS of time. Half of us earn less and are hustling.

Up until 2016, the median had yet to catch up to where we were in 2008, before the crash, created by Wall Street’s richest. By contrast, Bill Gates, our richest fat cat, had a measly $43 billion in 2008. Now he’s worth $86 billion, or 27 CENTURIES of time. This isn’t due to his overtime pay.

I’ve nothing against Gates or cats, but I do have a problem with a system that so reliably moves money up to those who already have the most. It undermines democracy for us church mice. We need money control as much as we need gun control. The founding fathers never anticipated AR-15s or billionaires, but they did know of Kings—and declared themselves disobedient to despots.

So, be heartened by those young, caring Americans, who courageously wave our nation’s authentic power. American money can be put to much better use than more guns, more billionaires, more corrupt government and lies. Even Azula knows fat cats aren't healthy cats! 

—Rickey Gard Diamond