Business

Planet Money
3:49 pm
Mon July 23, 2012

Why Public Pensions Are About To Look Less Healthy

Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 5:26 pm

On Friday, Planet Money's Caitlin Kenney told Morning Edition listeners how public pension plans are going to look a lot less healthy very soon. A new study shows just how bad they might look, even as it offers some caveats to its own results.

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Planet Money
10:51 am
Mon July 23, 2012

Olympic Economics, The Pre-Games Show

The 2012 Olympic Games in London are expected to cost £9.3 billion ($14.5 billion).
FABRICE COFFRINI AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 11:35 am

The 2012 Summer Olympics in London starts in four days with the carefully choreographed opening ceremony. But a related spectator sport is already well underway: Dissecting the economic impact of the games.

A show we did in February looked at how big an economic boost cities really get from hosting the Superbowl, and much of the same analysis is being applied to this year's games.

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The Two-Way
10:27 am
Mon July 23, 2012

Stocks Are Sliding On Fears About Europe, Other Worries

Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 3:16 pm

Stocks fell sharply on Wall Street this morning as traders reacted to word that Europe's debt crisis may be deepening and that China's economy may slow, Bloomberg News says.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 200 points, or a little less than 2 percent, after an hour of trading. Other indices were also off.

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Business
6:39 am
Mon July 23, 2012

Rifts Emerge Amid 'Frac Sand' Rush In Wisconsin

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 2:52 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In this country, there's an ingredient that's key to the success of new oil and gas technologies. That crucial ingredient is ordinary and plentiful, but only found in a few places and obtaining it almost always causes friction.

From Wisconsin, Laurie Sterns dent us this report.

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Technology
5:14 am
Mon July 23, 2012

Silicon Valley Boot Camp Aims To Boost Diversity

As part of the New Media Entrepreneurship camp, participants paid a visit to Google.
Joshua Cassidy KQED

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 2:30 pm

If there is a founding ethos in the world of high-tech startups, it's this: The idea is everything. Facebook's initial public offering might have seemed like the perfect illustration. A simple concept, conceived by a college student, became a $100 billion empire in just 8 years.

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Economy
7:35 am
Sat July 21, 2012

LIBOR Spotlight Shifts To U.S. Regulators

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There's another dimension to that unfolding LIBOR scandal which cost Barclays, the British bank, its CEO and $450 million in fines after it was revealed that the bank had been manipulating international lending rates. Attention has shifted to why U.S. financial regulators, who knew about the rate rigging, didn't move to stop it more swiftly.

We're going to put that question to Robert Smith, correspondent for NPR's Planet Money. He joins us from New York. Robert, thanks for being with us.

ROBERT SMITH, BYLINE: My pleasure.

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Business
4:22 pm
Fri July 20, 2012

Romney's 1040: Tax Terms An Accountant Would Love

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 5:17 pm

For weeks, Democrats have been trying to call voters' attention to the financial dealings of Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Supporters of President Obama, the Democratic Party's candidate, have been suggesting that Romney has exploited tax shelters and offshore accounts to build and protect his wealth in ways that average taxpayers would never be able to do.

They are demanding Romney release many years of tax returns.

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Planet Money
2:02 pm
Fri July 20, 2012

Episode 388: Putting A Price-Tag On Your Descendants

Waves pound a sea wall in Pacifica, Calif., during a storm in 2010. Small assumptions can make a big difference when putting a price-tag on future disasters.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 10:32 am

  • Listen to the Episode

Given a choice between $50 now and $100 in a month, many people would take the money now. But offered $50 in a year, or $100 in 13 months, they'd wait the extra month to double their money.

The lesson: People have a "present bias," says Frank Partnoy, a professor of law and finance at the University of San Diego. "So people have more impatience in a one-month time period than they do in a one-year time period."

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Around the Nation
12:20 pm
Fri July 20, 2012

For Stockton, Calif., Bankruptcy 'Freezes Everything'

Many cities around the country are faced with growing costs and shrinking revenue. Despite making sweeping cuts, Stockton, California recently became the largest city to file for bankruptcy. Host Michel Martin talks with Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston about how she's managing a city that's operating in the red.

Business
4:39 am
Fri July 20, 2012

GM Retirees Face Friday Pension Deadline

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 2:42 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

You've got to escape from your Escape.

Now, today is an important day for more than 40,000 salaried retirees of General Motors. They're facing a major financial decision. This evening marks the deadline for accepting a pension buyout.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton explains.

TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: The GM retirees have two choices: either take a lump-sum payment - which can range from 400,000 to $800,000 - or their pensions will be shifted from GM's books to the private insurance company Prudential.

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Economy
4:39 am
Fri July 20, 2012

Tough Austerity Plan Incites Spanish Protesters

Originally published on Fri July 20, 2012 2:42 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Spain, hundreds of thousands demonstrated in scores of cities yesterday, protesting austerity measures meant to pull the government out of the red. Sales tax is going up, and civil servants are taking pay cuts. All this as Europe readies a bailout of Spain of up to $125 billion.

Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: About 100,000 Spaniards flooded Madrid's center once the sun went down on another 100-degree day.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR CANNONS)

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Planet Money
3:44 am
Fri July 20, 2012

Public Pensions Are About To Look Less Healthy

Originally published on Sat July 21, 2012 11:06 am

The health of public pension plans — the retirement plans for teachers, firefighters, police officers and other state and local governments — has gotten plenty of attention lately.

Some plans are hurting, and numbers from state and local governments suggest their public pension plans are underfunded by about $1 trillion.

But that gap between what they owe and what they have on hand today is about to look bigger — much bigger, in some cases.

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The Salt
5:19 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

As Drought Kills Corn, Farmers Fight Over Ethanol

Stunted corn grows in a field next to a cattle feed lot in rural Springfield, Omaha, Neb.
Nati Harnik AP

We often talk about the "farm lobby" as though farmers spoke with a unified voice. And it's true, they usually try to.

But an unusually bitter and public fight is breaking out right now between the farmers who grow corn and other farmers who need to buy that corn.

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Planet Money
2:29 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate)

A marijuana cigarette in British Columbia. Our panel of economists agrees that criminalizing pot is a huge waste of resources.
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Wed October 3, 2012 12:18 pm

Tuesday's show presented the common-sense, no-nonsense Planet Money economic plan — backed by economists of all stripes, but probably toxic to any candidate that might endorse it.

You can still listen to the show, but we've had some requests for a post with our six-step plan spelled out in brief.

So here they are, along with a few words about each of the economists who helped craft it:

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The Two-Way
10:17 am
Thu July 19, 2012

Mixed Signals: Sales Of Existing Homes Dipped, But Prices Rose

While sales of existing homes fell 5.4 percent in June from May, their median price was up 7.9 percent from a year earlier.

In addition, the National Association of Realtors reports, the supply of existing homes available for sale continued to shrink — including the number of "distressed" homes on the market because of foreclosures.

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Planet Money
9:35 am
Thu July 19, 2012

Wait, Investors Paid Germany To Hold Their Cash?

Monument to headier times: The euro logo outside the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. The International Monetary Fund has warned of possible deflation in parts of Europe.
Frank Rumpenhorst AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 4:00 pm

On Wednesday, investors paid Germany to hold on to their money for a couple years.

That's right: Germany got to borrow more than 4 billion euros (about $5 billion), and instead of Germany paying interest to its lenders, the lenders are paying Germany. This a lot like Citibank paying you a smidgen to carry a balance on your credit card or to take out a loan (without also charging you interest).

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The Two-Way
8:48 am
Thu July 19, 2012

Jobless Claims Rose By 34,000 Last Week

There was a 34,000-increase in the number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits last week, the Employment and Training Administration reports.

It says 386,000 people filed claims, up from 352,000 the week before. "The 4-week moving average was 375,500, a decrease of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average of 377,000."

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NPR Story
4:41 am
Thu July 19, 2012

Interest Rate Scandal Follow Up

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 8:01 am

An influential group of bankers comes up with the critical interest rate known as the LIBOR. The world uses it as a benchmark for how much to charge consumers on mortgages and other loans. For more on how the rate is set, Renee Montagne talks to Gillian Tett of the Financial Times.

Economy
2:03 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

Rethinking Economies: Ideas For 'Fixing The Future'

Raquel Rodriguez and Sylvia Barrios work at Yo Mama's Catering Cooperative, the first worker-owned catering business in Austin, Tx.
JumpStart Productions LLC

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 12:42 pm

In the documentary Fixing the Future, reporter David Brancaccio traveled across America to talk to people who are working to reinvent the American economy. Through innovative approaches to creating jobs and wealth — like time banking, worker cooperatives, local currencies and community banking — Americans are rethinking how we measure prosperity and calculate GDP.

NPR's Jennifer Ludden talks with Brancaccio about new experiments in the economy of the future.

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The Two-Way
9:26 am
Wed July 18, 2012

Housing Starts Hit Four-Year High; Bernanke Heads Back To Capitol Hill

In Phoenix earlier this month, workers were framing this new home.
Matt York AP

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 9:57 am

There's more evidence that the housing sector is on the mend and may be the sector of the economy that's got the most going for it these days.

According to the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development there was a 6.9 percent increase in "housing starts" last month. At an annual rate of 760,000, ground-breaking for construction of single-family homes, apartments and condominiums the pace hit a four-year high, The Associated Press says.

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Business
4:33 am
Wed July 18, 2012

Would-Be Homebuyers Appear To Be More Confident

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 9:57 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And the nation's homebuilders are feeling more optimistic than they have since March, 2007, just before the beginning of the Great Recession. What's more, the National Association of Home Builders' Housing Market Index has posted its largest one-month gain in roughly a decade.

NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: David Crowe, the chief economist at the Home Builders Association says things are definitely looking up. It's a trend that began last September.

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Economy
4:33 am
Wed July 18, 2012

Fed Chief Gives Gloomy Economic Review

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 9:57 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

We begin our program with two very different views of the economy. Two observers of the economy think the long-term looks very good, as we'll hear in a moment.

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Economy
4:33 am
Wed July 18, 2012

Economic Update

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 5:58 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

If Ben Bernanke is frustrated by the economy, as he seems to be, he might look at a recent issue of The Economist magazine. Editors there see enough strength that they saw fit to print an illustration of Uncle Sam as a bare-chested muscleman.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's talk about that and more with regular guests on this program, Zanny Minton Beddoes of The Economist. Welcome back to the program.

ZANNY MINTON BEDDOES: Nice to be here.

INSKEEP: And David Wessel of The Wall Street Journal. Hi, David.

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Around the Nation
4:33 am
Wed July 18, 2012

Politics Weighs Down San Bernardino's Economic Problems

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 1:41 pm

The city of San Bernardino, Calif., is expected to declare a fiscal emergency, and officially file for bankruptcy on Wednesday. The declaration would be the third by a California city in recent weeks. Some analysts believe San Bernardino's problems may be more about its dysfunctional local politics.

Business
4:33 am
Wed July 18, 2012

Are Pagers Obsolete?

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 9:57 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This next story is for people who go for old-school technology. If you're the kind of person who owns a tube television - not one of those flat screens - nothing wrong with that. Or maybe you're the kind of person who has an old Walkman with cassette tapes hiding in a drawer somewhere. Maybe you even still use it. And if you're holding on to technology that others have deemed obsolete, you are not alone.

Reporter Tracey Samuelson found some dated devices in a place that might surprise you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEEPING)

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Economy
4:53 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Bernanke: U.S. Economic Growth Is Slowing

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 5:16 pm

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told lawmakers that progress toward bringing down the nation's high unemployment rate will be "frustratingly slow." He reiterated previous statements that the Fed stands ready to do more, but declined to be specific about what it would do. Bernanke also defended the Fed's role in addressing the manipulation of a benchmark interest rate by at least one big bank.

Planet Money
3:23 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Dissecting Federal Spending With An Eye On Cuts

Lawmakers have begun a debate on how to tackle the budget deficit, though Congress is unlikely to act until late this year.
KAREN BLEIER AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 2:42 pm

On January 1, some pretty nasty budget cuts and tax increases are scheduled to kick in if Congress doesn't act first: The Bush tax cuts would vanish for everyone, along with a bunch of other long-standing tax breaks, and $1 trillion would be slashed from wide swaths of the budget over 10 years (including defense).

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NPR Story
1:46 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

States Make Tough Calls To Close Budget Gaps

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 2:30 pm

Over half of U.S. states will have to close a combined budget gap of 55 billion dollars, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in the 2013 fiscal year. To avoid raising taxes, most states are implementing continued cuts to deal with budget shortfalls.

Business
12:37 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Debt, Debt And More Debt: Is Democracy To Blame?

The marble statue of Plato stands in front of the Athens Academy in Athens. The ancient Greek philosopher had his doubts about democracy.
Dimitri Messinis AP

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 1:03 pm

High-profile experts are staging two separate Washington press conferences Tuesday to demand action on public-debt problems. One group is targeting state budget crises; the other, the federal budget mess.

If the ancient Greek philosopher Plato were still alive, he might hold a third press conference to declare: "It's hopeless. I told you so. Democracy will always degenerate into chaos because people will vote for their immediate self interests, not the long-term good."

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The Two-Way
10:19 am
Tue July 17, 2012

In 'Dour' Report, Fed's Bernanke Says Economy Has Decelerated

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 2:10 pm

"The U.S. economy has continued to recover, but economic activity appears to have decelerated somewhat during the first half of this year," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke tells Congress this morning in testimony prepared for his semiannual report on economic conditions and monetary policy.

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