Marketplace - American Public Media

Sports contracts can pay more when they pay later

Wed, 2015-07-01 11:00

Just like the lottery, sports contracts can pay more when the profits are spread out over time. For example, let’s consider two of, arguably, the most bone-headed (or brilliant?) sports contracts of all time. The deal to fold the St. Louis Spirits has been called one of the best sports deals of all time. The contract has been so profitable that it’s used as a textbook example by business school professors. During basketball season, the deal inspires sports reporters to ask, “Would you believe a team that doesn’t exist still makes $17 million a year?”

The contract, signed in 1976, gave a small but lucrative portion of the NBA television broadcast revenues to three men. Dan and Ozzie Silna, who made their fortune in polyester, and their lawyer, Donald Schupak, owned a pro basketball team called the Spirits of St. Louis. The Spirits played for the American Basketball Association, or ABA. It competed with the NBA for players and fans. The two leagues took turns suing each other. From 1973 up until the end of the ABA in 1976, Michael Goldberg was general counsel for the ABA. “The league lurched to the finish line, kind of a bankrupt organization, exhausted, both mentally and physically, and hoping against hope that there wouldn’t be another ABA season because we didn’t know if we could muster ten teams to have a league and what have you,” says Goldberg.

Eventually, the ABA and the NBA struck a deal to combine forces. Four teams -- the Nets, the Pacers, the Spurs and the Nuggets -- would buy their way into the NBA. Those teams also had the responsibility to compensate the other ABA teams that didn’t make the cut. In the end, only St. Louis stood between the four teams joining the NBA. “St. Louis is holding the cards because unless they agree to something, this merger’s not going to happen for anti-trust and other reasons,” says Goldberg.

St. Louis held out for the best deal. But the teams didn’t have extra cash to sweeten the pot. So the owners of the Spirits got creative. They negotiated a cut of TV revenues expected in the future. And, here’s the kicker. They got the rights ‘in perpetuity.’ “That is something that they wanted,” says Goldberg, “because, I think that perhaps they saw, down the road, that this would be a way for them to get more money than they could have gotten from these four teams had they just kept negotiating a dollar figure.”

St. Louis negotiated a deal for one-seventh of broadcast TV revenues from each of the four teams joining the NBA. Over the years, that fraction has reportedly paid out around $300 million and counting. But back then, who knew? “The concept of cable television -- Turner Sports, ESPN -- these things didn’t exist. And it’s easy today to say, ‘Wow. They made a bad deal.’ But in those days it was not viewed upon that television would be the be-all and end-all as it is today for all sports,” says Goldberg.

The business landscape is always changing. That’s a lesson we see again in another notorious deal. It’s been more than 10 years since slugger Bobby Bonilla retired from baseball. Nonetheless, for the next 20 years, the New York Mets will pay him more than $1 million a year.  “It’s very easy to look at from hindsight," says J.C. Bradbury,  author of "Hot Stove Economics: Understanding Baseball’s Second Season.” 

"You go and say, ‘Well, the Mets are paying Bobby Bonilla over a million dollars a year to not even play baseball. How silly is that?’” says Bradbury. But he says teams defer payments so they can afford new, and hopefully better, players. And that’s just what the Mets had in mind.

“The Mets were building a championship team around that point in time. And what they were looking to do was defer some of Bobby’s money,” says sports agent Dennis Gilbert, who negotiated the contract for Bobby Bonilla. The Mets would spend some of that deferred money on players. But some of it went into investments. “They had a fund. Or, at least, they thought they had a fund. They were investing with Bernie Madoff, and it didn’t work out the way they thought it would,” says Gilbert.

Gilbert structured Bonilla’s payment like an annuity. Here’s where his negotiating skills mattered. He locked-in the interest rate at 8 percent. With interest, the Mets will pay Bobby Bonilla $30 million instead of $6 million. I asked Gilbert for advice in negotiating contracts. “You listen well," he says. "You find out what would benefit the person that you’re negotiating against. Find out how they’ve negotiated historically and be a good counter-puncher.”

Sometimes a team will have its own financial motivations for trying to postpone a payment as long as possible.  “Teams want to off-set the financial obligation as long as they can," says Michael McCann, who directs the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire.  "And also, in some cases, they realize that the player will no longer be on that team when that amount of money is paid. Either the player is traded. Or perhaps the owner sells to a different owner who inherits that financial obligation.”

Deferring payments can work well for athletes too. But most of them (and most lotto winners) want the money now, even if it means there’s less of it. But Bobby Bonilla didn’t mind waiting to get paid. According to J.C. Bradbury, Bonilla “basically said, ‘I don’t want to have the opportunity to spend that money. I’d like to make sure that my kids have money later on. So limit the amount of money I have now.’ It’s worked out quite well for him,”  Bradbury says.

Even if they involve a lower interest rate, deferred payments could work well for other athletes too. “I think there’s some logic to the idea that players may be better off when they turn 35, 40, 50 -- to get a substantial amount of money coming in -- it may be a very valuable piece of money for them,” says McCann. In 2009, Sports Illustrated reported that within five years of retirement about 60 percent of former NBA players are broke. And in pro football, the numbers are even worse. In which case, a deferred pay-day can be the preferred way to get paid.

Bobby Bonilla's $1,193,248.20 yearly check

Wed, 2015-07-01 09:44

Here's some baseball and Wall Street news all rolled into one.

Wednesday is payday for former Major League Baseball player Bobby Bonilla. Bonilla, who hasn't played an inning in the big leagues since 2001, gets a check for $1,193,248.20 from the New York Mets every July 1st from now until 2035.

It's a deferred payment deal the Mets ownership agreed to because — and this is the amazing-slash-terrible part — they were getting more from their investments with Bernie Madoff than the Bonilla deal would cost 'em.

2015, the year of the high U.S. dollar

Wed, 2015-07-01 05:37

Even with hints that an interim resolution may be possible for Greece, the dollar is still up — Today, a euro costs $1.11.

This hurts the way profits of U.S.-based, multinational companies are booked — When the U.S. dollar is strong, American companies doing business overseas often show their profits hurting in their quarterly reports. 

So why does a high dollar seem to make corporations look better according to another key measure that investors love to watch?

Here to resolve the paradox is a man who knows his way around a balance sheet, Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan.

Click the media player above to hear Allan Sloan in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

PODCAST: The strong dollar

Wed, 2015-07-01 03:00

With emergency funding drying up, the Greek government sends a letter to creditors saying it might accept terms of a bailout. More on that. We'll also talk to Allan Sloan of the Washington Post about how the strong dollar is ironically helping U.S. businesses.

Career colleges face new "gainful employment" rule

Wed, 2015-07-01 02:00

Starting Wednesday, career and vocational programs are facing tougher regulations years in the making. The new so-called “gainful employment” rule is meant to crack down on programs that load students up with debt for courses that don’t lead to decent jobs. The rules especially target for-profit colleges, which often make close to 90 percent of their revenue from taxpayer dollars.

A career education program could become ineligible for federal student aid if typical graduates have to spend more than 20 percent of their discretionary income paying off their loans, or more than 8 percent of their total income.

“It’s designed to ensure that taxpayer dollars don’t fund career education programs that consistently leave students with debts they can’t repay,” says Pauline Abernathy with the Institute for College Access and Success.

In anticipation of the new rules, Abernathy says some colleges already have cut failing programs, reduced tuition, and improved job placement.

Some schools will also raise admissions standards, says Robert Kelchen, assistant professor of higher education professor at Seton Hall University. Earlier this week, the University of Phoenix, one of the largest for-profit colleges, announced it would introduce some academic requirements for its degree programs.

“If a student can barely get through the program, and doesn’t seem to be a good bet to get employment, that’s the kind of person that the college might want to discourage enrolling,” Kelchen says.  

Failing programs will have a chance to improve before the money gets cut off.

We're so over you, millennials

Wed, 2015-07-01 02:00

Move over, millennials. Marketers are zeroing in on the next generation — people still under 18 — whom they’re calling centennials.

Advertising giant WPP has just announced a new partnership with the Daily Mail newspaper and Snapchat. Why Snapchat? It has a reputation as THE app for teens. So that’s where advertising money is going. 

But these aren’t your father’s ads. They blend in with Snapchat videos from your friends.

“Consumers are consolidating their time into a handful of apps," says Julie Ask, a vice president, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "They tend to be apps that are social media, instant messaging,” 

Ask says these kinds of ads are the best way to reach busy, distracted teens.

Another reason advertisers like apps like Snapchat? It helps them get around government regulations against advertising to the very young. Especially since apps like Snapchat don’t verify ages. 

“So once you get past the lack of age verification, it is the wild west,” says Adam Hanft, CEO of Hanft Projects, a brand strategy firm.    

That’s extremely creepy for, say, a parent of centennials. But for advertisers? It’s gold.

Puerto Rico's exodus: vicious cycles and silver linings

Wed, 2015-07-01 02:00

As Puerto Rico slides deeper into financial distress, flirting with default on July payments on its $72 billion debt, Puerto Ricans are leaving the island. They have been for a decade, in the largest outmigration since the sixties. 

“There’s so much uncertainty about what’s going to happen in Puerto Rico, it’s kind of crazy,” says Carlos Aponte, a 29-year-old native of San Juan who moved to New York last year so that his wife could pursue her medical residency.

The job opportunities here are a world away from on the island.   

“My first job that I got here, I got paid twice as much as I was making in Puerto Rico, and you feel a lot safer,” says Aponte.

Aponte and his wife are not going back any time soon, and his ties to the U.S. have grown stronger as more of his family has moved as well. “Ten years ago they were all in Puerto Rico,” says Aponte. "Now most of them have moved here and those that haven’t are probably looking to move.”

Edwin Meléndez, director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York says, “There has been a dramatic, tremendous exodus of Puerto Ricans to the United States.”

The number one reason, according to the Pew Research Center, is work. Unemployment on the island is over 12 percent.

U.S. tax credits incentivizing companies to locate factories in Puerto Rico once made the island a hub for manufacturing. Those tax credits expired in 2006. Throw recession on top of that, and the island hasn’t recovered. Outmigration since 2000 has reduced Puerto Rico’s population by 200,000 — a trend expected to continue for decades. According to Pew, the population is expected to drop to around 3 million in 2050, down 20 percent from a peak of 3.8 million in 2000.    

Meléndez says this creates a vicious cycle: “There are fewer jobs, people leave, and as people leave there is less demand and there is less jobs and so forth.”

Isabel Rullán co-founded ConPRmetidos, a group that’s trying to promote investment and growth in Puerto Rico. She sees a silver lining in the exodus: “To have so many Puerto Ricans around the world gaining experiences, working in international companies, becoming part of international networks, we’re starting to look at Puerto Ricans leaving the island as assets that we have.”

Even if they don’t return to the island, Rullán envisions them helping out, linking businesses on and off the island, or offering expertise. 

For his part, Carlos Aponte would love to return, but he says the time is just not right.   

“There’s a debate about whether the people who are leaving are being cowards, forgetting about the island and not staying to commit to it,” he says. “It’s easy to say but so hard to.”

Please place cash in the overhead compartment

Wed, 2015-07-01 01:59
115

That's about how many countries Apple Music and the Beats 1 radio station are available in. The streaming service launched Tuesday to solid reviews, but that doesn't mean it's the right one for you. Confused by all the different options out there to stream music? We're here to help with a chart that will help you decide.

12 percent

That's about how high the unemployment rate is in Puerto Rico. The country is also currently burdened by $72 billion in debt, which has led to a spike in outmigration. Many Puerto Ricans have found work and a new home in the U.S., which some experts say adds to a vicious cycle of jobs leaving the country, while others see it as Puerto Ricans creating a larger global stamp on the economy.

$75,000

That's how much one passenger was carrying in cash at a security checkpoint at the Richmond, Virginia, airport. There's nothing illegal about carrying that kind of cash on domestic flights, the Washington Post reports, but it does arouse suspicion. Often the cash is seized.

18 years old

If you're older than the above age, move over, advertisers aren't interested. Or at least, they're less interested. People younger than 18 have been deemed "centennials" and are the latest group catching advertisers' attention. Which also means a lot of attention is being paid to the tween app of choice: Snapchat. Experts say one reason Snapchat appeals to advertisers is that the app doesn't do much to verify age, and that means a loophole in regulations around targeting ads to children below a certain age.

10 seconds

That's how long a user will have to watch a video ad in order for an advertiser to pay Facebook for the ad time. As the Wall Street Journal reports, it's part of a new option offered to advertisers following complaints about being charged for videos that auto-played with little to now user engagement.

The secret work life of bees

Tue, 2015-06-30 13:37

The USDA estimates that honey bees are worth $15 billion a year in agricultural value. The bee is responsible for as much as one in every three mouthfuls of food that we eat.

Because of the honey bee’s importance, many agriculture officials and farmers are alarmed by something called colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon where bee colonies suddenly die off in huge numbers. In a new issue of New York Magazine, David Wallace-Wells explains why bees are dying off en masse.

“It’s a tough life,” Wallace-Wells says. “Imagine being transported around the country all year on a truck, never being able to eat a balanced diet, and being sprayed with chemicals all the time that are designed to kill you.”

Up to 90 percent of honey bee colonies are transported in trucks, as he describes, from one industrial farm to the next. Once they arrive, they’re let out of their cages so they can pollinate the local crops. Once they’ve done their jobs, they’re scooped up and sent to the next farm.

“They’re not well suited to this life. This is not what they were evolved to do,” Wallace-Wells says. “So all of these strange conditions that they’ve been put in sort of freak them out. Some scientists have found they respond to the stress by foraging earlier and earlier, which they’re really bad at. Then when they come back without much food, (and) the whole colony sort of freaks out and collapses.”

Greece misses debt repayment deadline

Tue, 2015-06-30 13:08

The Greek love of drama was on full display today. As the minutes ticked down to a deadline for the repayment of a massive loan to the International  Monetary Fund, the Greek government sent a startling new message to its creditors: can we have another bailout, please? 

The creditors refused and Greece became the first developed country to fail to repay an IMF loan on schedule. This is not a default — at least not immediately — so Greece is not yet officially bankrupt. But its crisis is intensifying; its banks are shuttered, ATM cash withdrawals are severely restricted, more multi-billion euro debt repayments are looming and agreement between the country and its creditors seems as elusive as ever. 

Officer training for mental health in short supply

Tue, 2015-06-30 13:00

It’s no coincidence the newly appointed head of the Cook County Jail is a clinical psychologist. Like other jails around the country, Chicago has a large number of inmates who have a serious mental illness, so corrections officers end up dealing with a lot of mental health crises.

To Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, keeping people with mental illness in jail is like sending preschoolers to a college calculus class: they just don’t belong there.

“As opposed to running mental health hospitals, as opposed to having community resources,” he says, “we’re going to take this group of people [and say] — 'Let’s see, where shall we put them? Let’s put them all in jails.'”

As sheriff, the jail is ultimately his responsibility. Jails are designed to hold people for short stretches, Dart points out, after they’ve been charged with a crime but before they’ve been convicted.

“It presents obvious challenges to all of us to take a population that wasn’t meant to be in this environment,” he says.

Cook County Corrections Academy cadets

Alisa Roth

I visited the Cook County corrections academy recently, on one of the last days of the cadets’ training. After a short review of concepts like different kinds of mental illness, and how to reassure inmates that officers are there to help them through their crises, the cadets get to practice what they’ve been learning. Dart is one of loudest voices in what’s become a national conversation about mentally ill in the criminal justice system.

He points out that Chicago closed half of its public mental health clinics in 2012. And he regularly tallies the number of mentally ill inmates in Cook County on his Twitter feed. (On June 4, for example, he tweeted that at booking, 39 percent of inmates self-reported having a mental illness.) It’s because the jail is now a de facto psychiatric hospital that Dart thinks all corrections officers need to be trained on how to deal with mental illness.

Sherie Yarbrough, a corrections officer who has been working with mentally ill inmates since she started with the department in 2000, is teaching one of the sessions. She explains the scene to a team of three cadets, two men and a woman.

“I’m having a problem with the detainee, his name is Bruno,” she says. “Bruno is about to jump. I don’t know. I called the CIT [Crisis Intervention Team] unit in because I can’t talk him down. So hopefully you can. Alright? If you don’t, he going to fall and break his neck.”

Another corrections officer, Angel Garcia, is playing Bruno. He has a big bushy beard, and he’s wearing a black ski cap. Standing on a chair in the corner of the classroom, Garcia/Bruno starts to shout at the officers. 

Officer Angel Garcia

Alisa Roth

“Stay right there,” he says. “Don’t come up these stairs!”

He’s a pretty good actor, and he actually manages to look a little wild-eyed as the cadets approach him.

“What’s going on, man? What’s going down?” says one of the cadets. “My name is Officer Downs. I’m here with Officer Salas.”

Before Downs can introduce the third cadet, though, Garcia/Bruno interrupts.

“Well, Officer Downs, well guess what?” Garcia/Bruno shouts. “It’s about to go downs. I’m serious, man. I’m about to go downs this cliff right here. I’m gonna jump…”

This goes on for a while. Downs keeps trying to calm him down, and Garcia—as Bruno—gets more and more upset. Finally, the woman cadet, Salas, starts talking, and Garcia/Bruno starts to settle down a little. When it’s all over, Yarbrough, the veteran officer, debriefs the cadets, talking them through what they did right and what they did wrong.

“We have to use everything that’s in our arsenals,” she says. “Sometimes male detainees respond to female officers differently. When she started talking to him, he calmed down a little bit.”

When Yarbrough started working in the jail more than a decade ago she said there was no special training on how to deal with mentally ill inmates. And it was terrifying.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she remembers. “I was scared of the inmates, I was scared I might lose my job. I was…I didn’t want to make any bad decisions, didn’t want to tell anybody to do something wrong.”

The training she helped with today is supposed to help these new cadets be better prepared than she was. Ultimately, the idea is to improve outcomes for inmates with mental illness by stopping a suicide attempt or by having officers use force less frequently.

Officer Sherie Yarbrough 

Alisa Roth

Carl Alaimo is a psychologist who’s in charge of mental health training at the academy; he used to run the jail’s mental health services. He says educating officers makes a huge difference in how they respond to mentally ill inmates. Take an inmate who refuses to get out of bed, say, or leave his cell.

“Normally that’s considered disobedience,” he says. “‘You’re not listening to me.’ But in the case of a trained officer, they’re going wait a minute, maybe something else is going on here."

A handful of states, including Indiana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, have opted to provide mental health training for correctional officers. And more and more counties and states are beginning to follow their lead.   

“It’s not as widespread as we would like it to be. It’s fairly sporadic,” says Ron Honberg, of the advocacy organization, the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI. The training represents a real about-face for corrections officers, he says. “It really sort of flies in the face of their traditional training. They’re taught to keep their distance, they’re taught to speak in a way that calms the person down, they’re taught to reassure the individual and it becomes a win-win proposition.”

A win-win proposition for both the inmates and the officers, since an appropriate response by the officer can keep volatile situations from escalating. And, sometimes an officer who is reassuring instead of threatening can convince an inmate to get treatment. Better outcomes that can mean less time in jail or prison, less violence, and—for the correctional facilities—fewer lawsuits. 

Roth's reporting on mental illness and the criminal justice system was supported by a Soros Justice Fellowship

Facing huge debt, Puerto Rico weighs its options

Tue, 2015-06-30 12:59

Puerto Rico's legislature plans to vote on a budget proposal on Tuesday that would cut hundreds of millions of dollars in spending, in an effort to stave off a looming debt crisis that is larger, by several factors, than the one that bankrupted the city of Detroit.

Unlike Detroit, the U.S. territory cannot declare bankruptcy, because it is treated like a state under federal bankruptcy law.

Still, Puerto Rico's governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla told The New York Times, and then the world, that the commonwealth can no longer pay its debts, which total more than $72 billion. He wants to delay debt payments and negotiate more favorable terms with creditors — in essence, what bankruptcy would have facilitated. 

"This has been a slow motion crisis since 2006," says Juan Carlos Hidalgo, a Latin America policy analyst at the Cato Institute. "The Puerto Rican economy has entered a death spiral, investment is flowing out ... and the cost of getting new debt has risen significantly."

In recent years, Puerto Rico has tried to slash its way out of the problem by making spending cuts. It recently raised its sales tax, and previously had cut some corporate taxes to encourage companies to locate to the island.

Still, the territory's problems persist, because of the magnitude of its debt load in relation to its struggling economy. Unemployment is near 14 percent. This has caused a lot of Puerto Ricans — who are U.S. citizens — to relocate to the mainland, plummeting real estate values on the island and worsening the economic malaise.

"Poverty is already very high. Very few people have jobs," says Barry Bosworth, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who thinks the U.S. government will eventually have to intervene in order to find a more permanent solution to Puerto Rico's problems.

"They need some oversight" to renegotiate debts in an orderly way, says Bosworth, "and frankly, some financial relief from the current situation that they've gotten into."

"The question is, who pays?" asks Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for the Commonwealth Financial Network, a wealth management company.

Debt holders in the U.S. could be on the hook, including many Americans who may not realize that they hold Puerto Rican debt in their mutual-fund portfolios. It is very likely that debt holders will eventually have to take a write-down on some of the debt, or renegotiate interest rate terms that are more favorable to Puerto Rico, Bosworth says.

"So there can be a solution that works for Puerto Rico, in writing off some of the debt...and also works for the investors as a whole," he says.

Londoner crowdfunding cash for Greek bailout

Tue, 2015-06-30 12:59

Here's the latest entry in "Hey, let's see if we can crowdfund this thing." 

There's a new account on Indiegogo called the "Greek Bailout Fund" set up by Thom Feeney, a 29-year-old from East London.  

Courtesy Indiegogo

Here's an excerpt from the page

"[1.6 billion euros] is what the Greeks need. It might seem like a lot but it's only just over [three euros] from each European. That's about the same as half a pint in London. Or everyone in the EU just having a Feta and Olive salad for lunch."

The thing is getting some traction.

Nearly 443,000 euros have been pledged so far — 1.4 billion to go.

Of course that's just the payment that was due today.

University of Phoenix to shrink enrollment

Tue, 2015-06-30 12:59

One of the biggest colleges in the country is about to get a lot smaller. The University of Phoenix has announced plans to close programs, shrink its enrollment and introduce new admissions requirements for students.

The entire for-profit college industry has been under pressure for years now, as lawmakers, regulators and student advocates have pushed back against a business model that left many students deep in debt — often without degrees to show for it.

When the University of Phoenix was founded in 1976, every student had to be at least 25 and have a full-time job, says spokesman Mark Brenner. Then about 10 years ago, Phoenix ditched those requirements and started recruiting as many people as possible. Enrollment swelled, but so did complaints of abusive recruiting tactics, outsized student debt and dismal graduation rates.

Now admissions standards are coming back.

“We’re looking at ways to provide the right diagnostics to make sure that the students that are coming to us have the best chance to be successful,” Brenner says.

Brenner would not elaborate on the new requirements, but says students who aren’t deemed college-ready will be offered remedial training. Phoenix will also close some campuses and retire most of its associate degree programs. 

The university is preparing for the new “gainful employment” rule taking effect July 1, says Ben Miller with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. Career education programs will have to prove their graduates earn enough to afford their loan payments, or risk losing access to federal student aid.

“Phoenix knew a lot of its associate degrees would not fair well under gainful employment, and so it closed them down rather than suffering the reputational risk of having failing programs,” Miller says.

Students are also demanding a better return on their tuition dollars, says Corey Greendale, who tracks the for-profit college industry at First Analysis.

“There are so many forces that are causing institutions to focus on outcomes,” he says. “A lot of this would be happening, I think, regardless.”

Working hard for the money — will overtime help?

Tue, 2015-06-30 12:58

President Obama proposed Tuesday to expand overtime eligibility to salaried workers. Currently, fewer than one in 10 workers qualify, but the proposal would boost that to four in 10.

Under the current rules, salaried workers making more than $23,660 a year are ineligible for overtime pay, under federal law. The White House plan would boost the threshold to any worker making up to $50,440.

The change affects nearly five million workers, according to the Labor Department. The affected workers include those in many sectors, such as law, public relations, professional services, retail and manufacturing, says Ross Eisenbrey of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.  

Most of the affected workers are women, says labor economist Daniel Hamermesh, emeritus professor at the University of Texas-Austin. He expects employers to respond by partially cutting back overtime hours for affected workers.

The upshot is, labor will get more expensive, he says. And some overworked Americans will work less. The White House bills this change as “middle-class economics.”

“Will this by itself make us walk away smiling and thinking that all is well with the labor market? No,” says Paul Osterman of the MIT Sloane School of Management. “But it’ll contribute to that.”

Correction: The audio version of this story misstated Ross Eisenbrey's name. The text has been updated. We regret the error. 

Pushing back against a new wave of piracy

Tue, 2015-06-30 12:52

It's popcorn time, and the TV and film industry doesn't like it.

Popcorn Time is one of many new programs that allow users to stream movies without paying for them, causing serious concern in the movie industry (Netflix says piracy has become one of its biggest competitors).

When users log onto Popcorn Time, they can stream a bunch of old and new movies and TV shows. They can watch any of the titles with just one click, or swipe of a finger. There's now even a Popcorn Time app so users can watch stuff on tablets and phones. 

But streaming any one of those movies or TV shows like this would be illegal, says lawyer Michael Schlesinger, who works for the International Intellectual Property Alliance. 

Schlesinger, whose trade group tries to shut down apps like Popcorn Time, says in the industry, the effort to end piracy is often called “a game of whack-a-mole.”

Popcorn Time is an especially hard mole to whack. The people running Popcorn Time are spread out across the globe and tend to remain anonymous. There are also multiple versions of the Popcorn Time program. One iteration claims to be run with “love by a bunch of geeks from all around the world.”

Robert English, in Canada, claims to be one of the geeks. We tracked him down via his Twitter account. English has been quoted all over the place, and he downplays Popcorn Time's importance, saying it isn’t the first, and won't be the last, streaming site out there. “The content is already out there, for the most part,” he says, “We don't add anything new. So I don't think we make much of a difference.”

One big differences between Popcorn Time and other pirate sites is that even if it is shut down, it can quickly pop back up again. The program is open source, which means the code is public. Anyone who downloads it can modify the code and become the author of their own version.

English says he thinks Popcorn Time is legal, and he is not worried about people streaming stuff for free. He says, “I'm sure piracy hurts everybody, but I'm sure everyone still makes a lot of money.”

This is a pretty common sentiment for people born anytime after, say, the early 80s. Millennial Michael Krynski is 29. Here's how he sums it up: “We're like the Napster Generation. We just expect things to be available online. Everything we're looking for.”

Krynski runs a blog all about how to stream content for free. Most of his readers are under 30, and he says, “They have money, but they don't want to give money to companies that are still in this old school distribution model.”

What is really scary for the movie industry, and streaming sites like Netflix, is that Popcorn Time is sleek and user-friendly. You are not poking around some back alley of the Internet, fending off viruses. Popcorn Time has big pictures of movies, and a nice design. It looks kind of like Netflix. And it has new TV shows and movies, some still in theaters.

So what are the repercussions for streaming something on Popcorn Time? Joseph Gratz, a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property, says, “Well, certainly the copyright infringement police aren't going to come and get you.”

However, Gratz says, the movie and TV industry does sometimes send threatening letters, and a few people have been caught and had to pay settlements—hundreds, even thousands of dollars. But it is a lot of work to track down illegal streamers. And programs like Popcorn Time are working on ways to anonymize users, making them even harder to track.

Kate Bedingfield, with the Movie Picture Association of America, says, “I don't think anyone thinks we are going to eliminate piracy entirely.” She says right now the industry is focusing on improving its streaming services. That is why it supports wheretowatch.com. The site tells you where to stream movies legally. Bedingfield says there are now over 400 legal options to stream movies and TV in the United States.

But the competition is stiff. These services have to be better than free. Out on the seven seas of the Internet, that is a pretty hard pricing model to beat.

The Greek debt crisis by the numbers

Tue, 2015-06-30 10:40

The need-to-know numbers about the Greek debt crisis, explained by Paddy Hirsch.

Produced by Preditorial | www.preditorial.tv

Writer and Host: Paddy Hirsch

Director and Edtor: Rick Kent

Director of Photography: Anton Seim

Producer: Mimi Kent

President Obama extends overtime pay to more workers

Tue, 2015-06-30 03:00

A new move from President Barack Obama aims to make more Americans eligible for overtime pay. The proposal, announced Tuesday, could mean bigger paychecks for up to five million workers.

Employees with a salary of $23,660 a year or more can be considered management and barred from time-and-a-half pay, even if they work more than 40 hours. The proposed change from the Obama administration would raise the bar to $50,440. And it'll move in the future to keep pace with inflation and wage growth.

Dan Hamermesh, Professor Emeritus of economics at University of Texas at Austin, doesn’t think the overall effects will be very large. Many workers will get small wins: either get a slight bump in take home pay or have slightly shorter hours for the same salary.

“It will also, I’m pretty sure, create jobs,” he adds. “If an extra hour becomes more expensive, some employers are gonna wanna hire more people.”

This is all likely to raise costs for companies, which is why business advocates aren’t happy.

A change like this does not require approval from Congress, but it’s not a done deal yet. It’ll be open for public comment and could take several months to finalize.

Mark Garrison: Right now, employees with a salary just under $24-thousand dollars can be considered management and barred from time and a half pay. The rule change from the Obama administration would raise the bar to a little over 50-grand. And it'll move in the future to keep pace with inflation.

Dan Hamermesh: I don’t think this is a huge thing. I think it’s beneficial. I don’t think the effects will be very large.

University of Texas economics professor Dan Hamermesh says many workers will either get a small bump in take home pay or have slightly shorter hours for the same salary.

Dan Hamermesh: It will also, I’m pretty sure, create jobs, because if an extra hour becomes more expensive, some employers are gonna wanna hire more people.

This is all likely to raise costs for companies, which is why business advocates aren’t happy. A change like this does not require approval from Congress, but it’s not a done deal yet. It’ll be open for public comment and could take several months to finalize. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

PODCAST: Greek credit cards

Tue, 2015-06-30 03:00

Greece and the faulty assumption that everyone has access to a credit card. We'll check in on how Greek citizens are handling the banks being shutdown there. Plus, the Export-Import Bank’s charter expires at midnight Wednesday: we look at how this leaves it in an awkward state of limbo. And Apple's new music streaming service launches today. We'll talk about what to expect.

 

 

Pages