Wealth & Poverty

Ways to Connect

CBO vs. POTUS

Jun 12, 2018

The Congressional Budget Office has a long history of disputes with the White House, including the current administration. It has withstood them all.

On this episode of The Indicator, we speak with Alice Rivlin, the first-ever director of the CBO. She explains the origins of the CBO, why it matters, and why the complaints about it from the Trump administration are different from those of the past.

A 4-year-old kid is given a marshmallow and a choice: either eat the marshmallow in front of her, or wait a few minutes (after the adults leave the room) and be rewarded with a second marshmallow. If the child can successfully wait, she can expect a bright future — or at least a brighter future on average than if she had not waited.

Note: This is the second episode in a series on elections and how they can be gamed. The first episode is #845: REDMAP. (You can listen in any order!)

Florida should be a swing state. But for the past 25 years, most of its representatives have been Republicans. That's because Republicans drew electoral maps that favored their own candidates. They gerrymandered.

Positively 23rd Street

Jun 8, 2018

Radio reporter Sally Herships, a native New Yorker and longtime friend of the show, has been obsessed with a particular block in midtown Manhattan. Given the crowds and the traffic and the tourists, every inch of the block should be attempting to sell something. Instead it is littered with empty storefronts.

What explains these perplexing retail deserts, both in New York and throughout the rest of the country?

A few weeks ago, a tweet about retirement advice caused an uproar on Twitter. Here's what it said: "By 35, you should have twice your salary saved, according to retirement experts." People had feelings about this tweet. And with good reason; it quickly became clear that a lot of people feel like that kind of goal is impossible to achieve. So we wanted to know: how much do people at that age actually have saved? And how much should they save? We asked experts — including the inventor of the 401k himself — what they think.

We're in the middle of a dinosaur boom. Commercial diggers are combing the hills of the high plains, hoping to find fossils and strike it rich.

But what happens when you put a price tag on a scientific relic that could spark new discoveries about early life on earth? The market has the answer.

Today on the show: science faces off with business, and the T-Rex that started it all.

This year, Social Security will not make enough money to cover its expenses--it will have to dip into its savings. That savings is slated to run out by 2034. As baby boomers retire, the Social Security equation is changing. Today on the show, we look at possible fixes.

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

Grant Blankenship / GPB

There’s something people think they know about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP.

It’s the idea that people who use what we used to call food stamps spend their once monthly benefits on groceries almost immediately after they get them. When you look at averages, that’s true, and for some it can mean some lean and hungry days at the end of the month before the next round of SNAP benefits.

 

 


The U.S. economy has been humming along for the last few years, but its momentum can mask the financial fragility of millions of Americans adults. A survey by the Federal Reserve reveals just how precarious situation is for a surprising number of people — and how vulnerable they are to the regular ups and downs of the economic cycle.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Chalk it up to the law of unintended consequences.

The Federal tax reform that passed this year was intended to provide tax relief. The perhaps unintended effect was a potentially massive disruption in one of the private solutions to public sector problems often beloved by Republicans and Democrats alike.

 


Vaccines are expensive to develop and it can take decades to get them to market. This means promising vaccines often sit in laboratory freezers during major epidemics. That is what happened during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people. Today on the show, how that grim equation may be changing.

Episode 845: REDMAP

Jun 1, 2018

Local elections used to be a low-key affair in Blue Hill, Maine. So residents of the small town were shocked, in 2010, when a candidate for the Maine State Senate was targeted by a flood of negative ads.

The ads claimed he had canceled the town Fourth of July fireworks show and nobody in town knew who was paying for them.

The Most Surprising Number In Friday's Jobs Report

Jun 1, 2018

The U.S. unemployment rate dipped to 3.8 percent last month, an 18-year low. But a more dramatic drop occurred in black unemployment, which fell to a record low 5.9 percent, suggesting that African-Americans are also benefiting from job gains in this booming economy.

Every month, the Labor Department gives us the latest read on how many jobs the economy is creating. That figure has huge influence — it can move stock markets and interest rates — and it can also be way, way off. Today, we talk to an economist who used to help put out the monthly jobs report. She explains how to read that number, which indicator might be better to look at...and why some people might need to calm down about jobs day.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

The latest in our Macon Conversations series: Meet Charise Stephens and Scott Mitchell. In their conversation, Charise and Scott tackle the challenges of overcoming the prejudice you are raised with.

Updated at 10:26 a.m. ET

As the country has clawed its way back from the worst recession in generations, companies have been creating plenty of jobs. Employers added another 223,000 positions last month alone, the Labor Department said Friday. And the unemployment rate ticked down to 3.8 percent, the lowest since 2000, from April's 3.9 percent.

When economist Tim Harford was planning a trip to China, he realized he would not be able to access a lot of the online services he has come to rely on: no email, no maps, no internet search. He started to wonder what the value was for these services and he came across a study that look at just that: It put a dollar amount on how much these services are worth to us.

Link:

Using Massive Online Choice Experiments to Measure Changes in Well-being

Bob Axelrod was teaching political science at the University of Michigan in the 1980s, and he was obsessed with one idea: how to get countries to cooperate. Back then, it looked like the United States and the Soviet Union might be headed towards nuclear war. Axelrod wanted to figure out how to keep that from happening. And he found inspiration in an unlikely place, computers that could play chess, and one of the greatest thought experiments of all time, the prisoner's dilemma.

Money For Moms

May 30, 2018

A fascinating and ambitious new experiment has just launched after six years of careful design by economists, neuroscientists, and other scholars. For the first time, researchers will be investigating the causal effects of lower incomes on the brain development of babies and toddlers.

Dodd Frank was a post-financial crisis bill that put a lot of regulations in place for banks and lending practices. Today, we look at what last week's Dodd Frank rollback does (or undoes) and what that will mean for the financial sector and the economy as a whole.

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

The quarterly earnings calls of public companies, when the management speaks to financial analysts, are rarely noteworthy events.

By convention and regulatory requirement, the managers try not to say anything new that might rattle the company's share prices. Meanwhile, analysts representing financial institutions often lead their questions with obsequious comments.

Colquitt, Georgia has a population of about 2,000 people. And like a lot of small towns in America, Colquitt had been struggling with a shrinking population, and the departure of manufacturing, and the decline of farming, and all the other economic troubles that plague small towns. And then Joy Jinks stumbled across a bizarre way for the town to try and save itself.

Today on the show, the residents of Colquitt, Georgia, stake their future on writing, directing, and starring in a musical.

The financial activities of Michael Cohen — Donald Trump's personal lawyer — caught the eye of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Agency, FinCEN. Then, it was reported that some of the files on Cohen had disappeared. Today on the show, we look at FinCEN, what it does, how it does it, and what the Cohen news could mean for financial regulation going forward.

One out of five Americans say they personally know someone who has been addicted to opioids or prescription painkillers, according to a new report about the economic well-being of U.S. households.

The Federal Reserve report, based on a national survey, also found that exposure to opioid addiction was twice as likely among whites, regardless of education level, as among African-Americans.

Note: This episode originally aired in 2015.

The most valuable thing about a yellow taxicab in New York isn't the car. It's actually this little metal shield bolted to the hood. It's called a taxi medallion. There are only about 13,000 taxi medallions in existence. And Gene Freidman owns over a thousand of them.

Not too long ago, these medallions were selling for $1.2 million each. Gene Freidman liked to boast about how much he paid for them, often with borrowed money.

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