Wealth & Poverty

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Episode 657: The Tale Of The Onion King

15 hours ago

This show originally ran on October 14, 2015.

Vince Kosuga was an onion farmer back in the 1930s. A pretty successful one. But farming wasn't enough for him. He also liked to make bets on wheat and other crops.

Then he had an idea: Why not try his luck with the crop he knew best?

Today, an interview with Berkeley Economist Ulrike Malmendier, who has done pioneering work on the psychological effects of living through different economic events — and specifically the effect on our behavior and our willingness to take risk. Based on that work, what were the likely effects of the financial crisis, for us and for the economy?

There are now more job openings than unemployed people. The number of small-business owners that have job openings that they cannot fill is rising. The share of workers quitting their jobs each month is the highest in seventeen years. And of people who went from not having a job to getting a job in the past year, more than seven in ten were not even looking for a job the month before they got one — also a record high.

And that is good news for everyone involved.

1) The number of job openings has surpassed the number of unemployed people:

They were, once upon a time, a fixture in circus tents and at birthday parties, but today demand for clowns is down. Fewer people are interested in becoming clowns. Membership in the biggest clown associations has fallen.

Part of the problem is with the image of clowns projected in movies, cartoons, and books: instead of being fun, they're weird, or creepy, or downright menacing.

Faced with that kind of portrayal, clowns are looking for ways to counter this decades-long narrative. Stacey and Cardiff speak to one of them.

It's confusing times to work at the Federal Reserve. The playbook for steering the economy doesn't work like it used to. So what's changed? We crash a party of central bankers to get some answers.

Ten years ago, Financial Times reporter John Auther was so worried about the possible contagion from the collapse of Lehman Brothers that he went down to his bank to shift some of his cash to another bank, ensuring that more of it was insured by the government.

What he saw freaked him out even further. The bank was full of Wall Street professionals — the very people who knew firsthand just how bad the financial crisis really was — all standing in line to do what he wanted to do: move their own personal money to accounts protected by deposit insurance.

The Price Of Rice In Japan

Sep 13, 2018

The Japanese are eating less rice. Blame TV, the internet, burgers, Italian food, a growing economy. Blame the lunch ladies! Rice consumption in Japan is about half what it was in the 1960s.

But guess what? Demand for Japanese rice may be way down, but prices are going up. In fact, prices are now so high that Japanese people are buying imported rice, rather than the home-grown stuff.

This podcast sounded a lot different back when it started. Times were different too. In early September, 2008, the housing crisis was underway, but Lehman Brothers was still in business. It was an economy on the brink, fraught with menace and foreboding, but still standing. Nobody knew how bad it would get during that particular week.

New York University's School of Medicine recently announced that every one of its students will receive their education for free. They will graduate with no debt. As the school's benefactor, Ken Langone put it,

"The day they get their diploma, they owe nobody nothing."

NYU says medicine isn't diverse enough, in part because the high price of medical school dissuades people from low income backgrounds, who are often people of color. NYU also said the high cost of med school skews graduates to higher-paying specialties and away from primary care.

The U.S. economy is chugging along. Employers added 201,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate held steady at a low 3.9 percent. Average wages in August were nearly 3 percent higher than they were a year ago.

Who should get the credit for that strong performance?

At a campaign rally in North Dakota last week, President Trump boasted that he's responsible for the economy taking off like a "rocket ship."

But Trump's predecessor wants to remind everyone that the countdown began on his watch.

The Liars Of Romance

Sep 11, 2018

Newsflash! People lie when they're dating online. It's the downside of the anonymity offered by the Internet. In today's show, we cut through the web of falsehoods, to determine what kind of fibs people tell, and how often they tell them.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Until recently, it was a misdemeanor in Alabama for a certified professional midwife to deliver a baby. That changed last year, and there are now 12 certified professional midwives in the state. Pregnant women now have more options when it comes to birth, and because vaginal births cost less than surgical options like a Caesarean section, that change could lead to some serious cost savings.

In 2010, Martin Greenberg walked up to the 13th hole at a golf course owned by Donald J. Trump. He was competing in a charity golf tournament, and this hole was a special one. It was the location of the million dollar hole-in-one contest, so a million dollars was on the line. A police officer was standing by, just to make sure no funny business happened.

Greenberg pulled back his golf club, hit the ball, and got the hole-in-one. That was the easy part.

It's jobs day. The numbers look good. Employers added 201,000 jobs in August, and the unemployment rate is steady at 3.9 percent.

On today's show, The Indicator's Cardiff Garcia talks with Martha Gimbel, Executive Director of The Hiring Lab at Indeed, where she oversees a team of economists whose very mission is to analyze labor market data.

Over the last couple of days, you sent in truckloads of queries about the job market. Cardiff selected a handful and then Martha answered them, adding her own take on America's employment situation.

Why Aren't We More Productive?

Sep 6, 2018

Advances in technology have driven eye-popping advances in productivity over the last hundred years. As machines have replaced artisans, individual humans have gone from making a single item every so often to producing hundreds of lamps or chocolate bars or T-shirts every hour.

I can feel the warmth from the wood-burning oven just over my shoulder and catch myself intermittently gazing off into a heat-induced trance from the blaze.

Despite the place feeling crowded (probably another reason for the heat), it's eerily quiet inside: My table of five occasionally lowers our voices as if we were in the library. But a library this is not: Mozzeria is one of the most talked-about pizzerias in the heart of a vibrant San Francisco neighborhood, where wait times on Saturday nights can extend as long as two hours.

This episode originally ran on October 14, 2016.

In the early nineties, Subaru was in trouble. The cars were great. They ran forever. But sales had been slumping for years. Subaru was up against giants like Toyota and Nissan, and it was losing. It needed a way to stand out.

NAFTA-splainer

Sep 5, 2018

Cardiff just got back from vacation, and a lot's been happening with the North American Free Trade Agreement while he's been away. There was an agreement between Mexico and the U.S. Canada was in talks at one point, then out, then back in again. Officials flew back and forth. There were lots of headlines. And a deadline. Which was blown.

Phew!

A lot has happened, and we're all pretty confused about what's been going on. So Cardiff thought he'd call Soumaya Keynes of the Economist for a catch-up.

China has been at the center of a months-long debate about tariffs this year. The U.S. has erected trade barriers in two phases so far. Fifty billion dollars of Chinese goods are currently affected. The U.S. trade representative is talking about tariffs on a further $200 billion of imports, which could apply as soon as this week.

Back in 1907, America's financial system was pretty unsophisticated. There was no central bank, barely any kind of regulatory framework, and no backstop in case of a crash.

Meanwhile, the economy was growing fast, with people borrowing and investing at a dizzying rate. And when people lost confidence in a kind of unregulated lending institution called a trust, panic spread through the economy.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter made a campaign promise: I'm giving dairy farmers a break. And after he won, he set out to raise the price of milk. But the government couldn't just buy milk. They had to buy something storable that used a lot of milk. So the government started buying up as much cheese as people wanted to sell at the new price.

Aging Up

Aug 30, 2018

There's this perception that successful entrepreneurs are invariably youthful, full of ideas and energy, and unburdened by responsibilities that come with middle age. Pair that with the idea that as we get older we decline cognitively, and it makes sense that we think of entrepreneurship as a young person's deal, right?

Ben Jones at the Kellogg School of Management doesn't agree.

Episode 783: New Jersey Bails Out

Aug 29, 2018

Note: This episode originally aired in 2017.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Tuesday that made national news. California will eliminate cash bail. That means people charged with crimes will no longer have to pay cash — not tens of thousands of dollars, not one dollar — to get out of jail as they await their trials.

Mind The Pay Gap

Aug 29, 2018

There are essentially three reasons why women make, on average, 20 percent less than men in the U.S.

They are job choice, child care, and negotiation.

Francine Blau, an economist at Cornell, has done deep research into the gender pay gap, and joined us to dig into those reasons.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Most products in this world are vulnerable to creative destruction: as new products are developed, they make old ones obsolete.

But there are some exceptions to this rule. There are products that persist, resisting change while economic evolution continues on without them.

Like the graphing calculator.

The Venezuelan economy has collapsed. Years of economic mismanagement and a deepening political crisis have led to a recession that has almost no parallel in recent memory.

But explaining just how bad things have gotten is also really hard because the normal economic indicators that we use to measure a country's economy have started to sound so so unfathomable — 25,000% inflation, for example — that it feels impossible to get our heads around them.

When food starts making people sick all across the country, before there's a national announcement or a public panic, there's a rapid response team of germ detectives that jumps into action to try and save the day, and sometimes, to save the harvest too.

Louise Fraser showed up at a hospital in New Jersey one day, sick with E. coli. The really bad kind. The kind that can kill you. At the same time, all across the United States, hundreds of people were getting poisoned by the same thing.

Sun Tzu's book on battlefield strategy, "The Art of War", has been required reading for the thoughtful military officer for more than 2,500 years. Today, though, among, the books biggest fans are American business people, many of whom regard it as an essential guide to business strategy. It's no accident that Donald J Trump himself echoed the book's title in his own work, The Art of the Deal.

Beyond GDP

Aug 23, 2018

Gross domestic product, or GDP, has been a wonderful indicator — the indicator, really, for knowing how the economy is doing at any given moment.

But it was invented during an earlier time, back when the economy was simpler and the goods it produced were less varied. As Diane Coyle argues in her book, the economy has evolved and GDP may no longer be enough for understanding its many dimensions.

Diane tells Cardiff why we should appreciate what GDP has done for us, but she also suggests some alternative measures of the economy.

This episode originally ran on March 15, 2013.

Sometimes your success depends on how your competitors behave. People judge you not just by your product, but by the product that your rival down the street makes.

This is a problem for Lou Caracciolo. He's trying to make high-quality wine, from grapes he grows in New Jersey. But Jersey wine already has a reputation — and fancy isn't it. On today's show: Can New Jersey become the next Napa?

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