During the previous year of 2009 many of us found ourselves baffled by the media barrage of accolades on behalf of Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers and Ben Bernanke. Extolled as the economic saviors to the masses, a sizable number of people would instead consider them among the architects of the economic meltdown and ongoing destruction of the middle and working classes.
A survey of the more thoughtful, brilliant and constructive economic thinkers is in order. The following women have made significant contributions during 2009, and throughout their lives, to inform and enlighten us on important aspects of the national and global economy.
ANNIE LEONARD: STUFF HAPPENS
The intrepid Annie Leonard, longtime sustainability activist who cogently detailed The Story of Stuff; an analysis of the social and environmental costs of stuff, from inception, production and distribution to our doorstep, returned again in 2009 with a lucid analysis of cap and trade.
Her lively discussion, while not quite as humorous as The Onion's take on karma offsets, sets the stage for a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes machinations of Wall Street's speculative answer to environmental degradation.
(I suspect many would agree with my reservations on the belief that Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and ExxonMobil should be the go-to guys for environmental and ecological sciences.)
NOMI PRINS: IT TAKES A PILLAGE
Prior to becoming the distinguished Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, as we now remember him, he first electrified the nation in 1914 when he wrote Other People's Money, exposing the network of interlocking directorates which controlled the banking and financial services industries, presaging the important circumstances which would lead to the Great Crash of 1929.
In the same spirit, Nomi Prins, Senior Fellow at the policy think tank, Demos, and former managing director at Goldman Sachs, once ran the institutional analytics group at Bear Stearns in London, and now is the energetic financial journalist responsible for Other People's Money: The Corporate Mugging of America (chosen as a Best Book of 2004 by The Economist, Barron's and The Library Journal), strikes again in 2009 with what is arguably the best recounting of the present and future meltdowns, It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bonuses, Bailouts, and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street.
Ms. Prins, who is a staunch advocate for financial regulatory reform and has long pushed for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, excels at explaining the interlocking financial activities which led to the economic catastrophe we face today. She fully comprehends the predatory nature of Wall Street and easily elucidates the reader on what transpires there.
ELIZABETH WARREN: TOXIC AVENGER
As amazing as it sounds, someone in the US Congress had a brilliant inspiration when they appointed Professor Elizabeth Warren of Harvard University to Chair of the T.A.R.P. Congressional Oversight Panel.
Professor Warren, a no-nonsense law professor who has spent much of the past thirty years studying the economics of middle class families, displays a "no holds barred" attitude when it comes to explaining to both congress and the American public the actual performance of our economic leaders and their imposition of their toxic assets strategy.
Named by Time Magazine in their 2009 list as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, Professor Warren is like a wind storm of fresh air among the usual obfuscatory politicians in Washington.
KATE PICKETT: INEQUALITY BECOMES HER
One can walk down almost any city street in America, or many other cities across the planet, and observe examples of extreme luxury and extreme poverty within a short distance of each other.
The major obstacles to progress on most levels, be they economic or psychological, are exhaustively covered in the superlative new study on inequality: The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better.
Professor Pickett, co-author of this outstanding book along with Richard Wilkinson, is an academic epidemiologist at the University of York in the United Kingdom.
They explain the wide-ranging problems existing in unequal societies (the United States and the United Kingdom, for example) as compared to the better quality-of-life and psychological wellbeing as exhibited in those societies with a considerably smaller gap between the richest and the poorest.
An outstanding graphical display is afforded to anyone interested in perusing the site they established to promote this wonderful study.
CATHERINE AUSTIN FITTS: CUI BONO?
Thought to be a radical by some, the relatively conservative background of Catherine Austin Fitts belies her routinely brilliant and indepedent analysis of the American economy, long described by her as a "pump-and-dump" scheme.
Her bold forthrightness has established her as a true maverick on financial market exposition while explaining those underlying and subtle forces frequently overlooked.
Ms. Fitts, a former managing director and member of the board of directors of Dillon Read & Company, served as Assistant Secretary of Housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the first Bush administration, and can often be heard on disparate of networks as Air America and George Noory's Coast to Coast radio program, where Noory routinely calls upon Ms. Fitts for her expert pronouncements on confusing and bewildering economic events.
As president of Solari, Inc., an investment advisory firm, she offers up a unique economic philosphy as a counterpoint to our present predatory system.