How Derivatives Blew Up Our Economy—And Just Might Again

You’ve probably heard of derivatives. In 2021, they were reportedly worth $600 trillion in face value. Some critics say it was only $12.4 trillion if you count only the money “netted.” By comparison, the entire U.S. national budget in 2021 totaled $6.8 trillion.

“Derivative” as an adjective means to be hackneyed and stale or even plagiarized or stolen. So how can a small group of Wall Street banks, hedge funds, private equity and investment firms make trillions selling and trading in derivatives, and not necessarily the stuff they’re derived from? What are they exactly?

Private Equity Firms Profit Off the Backs of Working Women and Families

If you’ve ever wondered whatever happened to iconic U.S. businesses like Sears and Friendly’s Ice Cream, Samsonite Luggage and Zales’ Jewelry, or even Toys-R-Us, you’ll find distressing answers in Brendan Ballou’s Plunder: Private Equity’s Plan to Pillage America and Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner’s These are the Plunderers: How Private Equity Runs—and Wrecks—America. Both books describe private equity firms’ largely secret and little understood 40-year-long hit-and-run scam.

If you’re worried about the deteriorating appearance of downtown areas, hospitals or the housing market, if you’ve noticed a growing shabbiness, or if you’ve notice the government’s indifference, these books will help explain not only what’s wrong, but what we ordinary people can and must do to stop the steal—the real steal.

Why Barbie, Greta and You Should Invest in a Better World

Even when she’s got money to invest, a woman’s lack of knowledge often means she still entrusts her money decisions to men. Should she sell her diamonds and put them into bonds or real estate?

In the aftermath of Barbie, we must not discount the huge economic changes that have arisen for women since she was created in 1959. In the U.S., there’s a growing movement for wiser, more sustainable investing that better reflects women’s values. I’m hoping Greta Gerwig—whose film surpassed the $1 billion mark—will join.

In Traditional Economics, a Few Men Get Rich Quick and Easy—It’s Past Time for *Feminist* Economics

“The combination of the words ‘feminist’ and ‘economics’ was … laughable,” said Amherst professor and economist Nancy Folbre, now 70, reflecting in a video interview about the 1992 creation of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE). That combo is now gaining cred, thanks to the formidable work of Folbre and the bold individuals of IAFFE. 

“People don’t realize they can choose differently. We all believe in democracy. So why not democracy for the economic system?” asked Dr. Caroline Shenaz Hossein, associate professor of global development at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Why Banking for the Public Good Is No Pipe Dream

A trio of bank runs at Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), Signature and Silvergate Bank probably has you sitting up and paying attention, possibly biting your nails. Is this the beginning of another financial unraveling? How could a tech bank as important and big as SVB go broke? Wall Street goes by rules different from those applied to you and me.

How to Stop Taxing Our Families and Our Future

Children bring us happiness and shared hope for our future. Yet, the surest route to U.S. poverty is simply being a child or a mother. Other developed nations on average contribute $14,000 a year for toddler care. The U.S. invests $500. That’s not only stingy. It’s stupid.

Taxing women and their wombs hurts all of us. It’s a better plan to tax those who can best afford it.

As the U.S. Looks to Revamp the Farm Bill, Women Must Be at the Table

While the U.S. has created an omnibus Farm Bill for nearly a century, our mothers—especially when Native or women of color—have never had a say in where our government’s farm support money goes. Not until recently.

Now the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry is under the leadership of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Her hearings will mark arguments on the horizon we’d all be wise to notice. A whole new generation of younger, female, Indigenous, Black, Latinx and queer farmers are contending with land prices out of reach, and old attitudes that minimize the healthier, more sustainable production they seek.

Caring Work and Its Discontents

The basic problem in many fields today, including politics, is the discounting of so-called feminine skills we all count on—but generally fail to acknowledge by anything more than annual flowers and apples. Both nurses and teachers of any gender are paid as little money as possible, and command too few resources for taking care of their tasks. Because they care, this matters.