Marketplace - American Public Media

3 ways Harvard President Drew Faust measures colleges

Tue, 2014-07-22 13:51

By 2015, the Obama administration will evaluate colleges on average tuition cost, low-income student enrollment, graduation rates and job earnings after graduation.

When they released this proposal last year, the higher education community generally disagreed with their criteria. One strong critic is Drew Faust, the president at Harvard University. Here are some measurements she thinks are important to consider:

Measurement: Jobs, but not salaries.

Faust is not opposed to focusing on kinds of work students can do after they graduate. However, she believes emphazing earnings at a first job distorts the picture.

"Some of our economists at Harvard have done analysis of this, and find that you really only begin to get an accurate reflection of lifetime earnings if you look at 10 years out. So I think they’re looking hard at more nuanced ways of measuring output of education.”

Measurement: The percentage of students on financial aid.

Of course, she cites the stats from Harvard: They accepted 5.9 percent of the 24,294 applicants for the entering class of 2014, and Faust says they have expanded financial aid programs so that those select few can actually afford to enroll.

"We have a financial aid policy that supports 60 percent of our undergraduates," she said. "They pay an average of $12,000 a year."

Faust also said that about 20 percent of Harvard's class makes no parental or family contribution at all.

Measurement: How digital-forward teaching is.

The big push at Harvard right now is digital — Harvard edX, where anyone can take classes from their computer. Faust says this provides acess to the knowledge and research for students, researchers and educators around the globe. 

"We get many students from Asia and Europe," she says, "and our students expect to live their lives and practice their professions and fields in a global environment."

Faust also says learning and "the fundamental value of learning and challenging ourselves in the realm of research and relating our research and teaching" are key principles to any education system. She thinks its better to focus on how education and learning can better a student, rather than how much they will make.

It's illegal to work in August...for Congress

Tue, 2014-07-22 13:39

We've all heard Congress is in recess more than it's actually in session, but there's more to the story.

It turns out Congress working during August is actually against the law.

Congress will recess for its summer break next Friday because the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 says it has to  according to the Washington Post.

In fact the House and Senate shall recess, "not later than July 31 of each year...to the second day after Labor Day."

Jeesh.

 

Inflation: A 'sweet spot' for consumer prices

Tue, 2014-07-22 13:39

The Labor Department released Tuesday its monthly measurement of inflation, called the Consumer Price Index. According to the report, prices inched up from May to June, but just barely. Overall, the CPI was up 0.3 percent last month. And if you take out volatile stuff like food and energy, as the Labor Department likes to do, prices rose just 0.1 percent.

Although inflation is still pretty modest right now, it doesn't always feel like it, says economist John Canally with the brokerage firm LPL Financial.

“Most of us drive past the gas station every day; most of us go to the grocery store and have to buy staples. On the stuff that we see every day, those prices tend to be rising at a faster rate than the rest of the price deck,” he says.

Meanwhile prices for stuff we don’t buy on a daily basis, such as a flat screen TV or a car, have actually fallen slightly in the last month. When you add all those trends up, inflation is sluggish. But so are workers’ wages. They're just barely keeping pace with inflation. Meaning, for the time being, businesses need to keep prices pretty low.

“It's really hard to get the price increases at the taco stand or at the burger joint or anywhere else to stick if people don't have enough money or enough wages to pay those price increases,” Cannally says.

With wages and prices at a sort of deadlock, the bogeyman of runaway inflation that we saw in the 1970s just is not a threat right now, says Mark Kuperberg, an economist at Swarthmore College.

“People need to chillax a bit about it - chill out and not worry so much,” he says.

While runaway inflation may not be a worry, we don't want to head toward deflation, either, warns Sarah Watt House, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

“We don’t want to see prices going down so low that nobody goes out and buys anything because they assume that prices will be cheaper tomorrow,” she says.

 We're trying to hang on to an economy where the prices aren’t too hot, aren’t not too cold, House says. “It’s the Goldilocks’ sweet spot.”

 

A 'sweet spot' for consumer prices

Tue, 2014-07-22 13:39

The Labor Department released Tuesday its monthly measurement of inflation, called the Consumer Price Index. According to the report, prices inched up from May to June, but just barely. Overall, the CPI was up 0.3 percent last month. And if you take out volatile stuff like food and energy, as the Labor Department likes to do, prices rose just 0.1 percent.

Although inflation is still pretty modest right now, it doesn't always feel like it, says economist John Canally with the brokerage firm LPL Financial.

“Most of us drive past the gas station every day; most of us go to the grocery store and have to buy staples. On the stuff that we see every day, those prices tend to be rising at a faster rate than the rest of the price deck,” he says.

Meanwhile prices for stuff we don’t buy on a daily basis, such as a flat screen TV or a car, have actually fallen slightly in the last month. When you add all those trends up, inflation is sluggish. But so are workers’ wages. They're just barely keeping pace with inflation. Meaning, for the time being, businesses need to keep prices pretty low.

“It's really hard to get the price increases at the taco stand or at the burger joint or anywhere else to stick if people don't have enough money or enough wages to pay those price increases,” Cannally says.

With wages and prices at a sort of deadlock, the bogeyman of runaway inflation that we saw in the 1970's just is not a threat right now, says Mark Kuperberg, an economist at Swarthmore College.

“People need to chillax a bit about it--chill out and not worry so much,” he says.

While runaway inflation may not be a worry, we don't want to head toward deflation, either, warns Sarah Watt House, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

“We don’t want to see prices going down so low that nobody goes out and buys anything because they assume that prices will be cheaper tomorrow,” she says.

 We're trying to hang on to an economy where the prices aren’t too hot, aren’t not too cold, House says. “It’s the Goldilocks’ sweet spot.”

 

What are companies doing with all that cash?

Tue, 2014-07-22 13:39

It’s like an episode of  “Hoarders.” Corporate America can’t stop collecting cash. 

“I think most CFOs would not admit they’ve hoarded too much cash,” says John Graham, finance professor at Duke University.  

He estimates that  companies have about 50 percent more cash on their balance sheets than they did 10 or 15 years ago.

Is it time for an intervention?  

“They did just live through the financial crisis,” he says. “They think they're being prudent, you want to hold your cash, in case it becomes difficult to borrow down the road.” 

Non-financial companies — like Microsoft and Merck — had a total of $1.6 trillion in cash at the end of 2013, according to Moody’s.

“A lot of money is effectively just sitting there.” says Richard Lane, a senior vice president at Moody’s. “And, where it’s sitting increasingly is offshore.” 

It’s locked up overseas, mostly to avoid U.S. taxes.

“I don’t need Apple to save money. My local bank or credit union will handle it for me just fine,” says David Cay Johnston, a lecturer at Syracuse University’s College of Law. Corporate hoarding affects the economy. 

“What you’re not seeing them do with this cash is invest in new factories and research operations, which would create jobs and fundamentally grow the business,” Johnston says.

There are signs companies are loosening up a little. Apple just made its biggest-ever acquisition, spending $3 billion to acquire headphone maker Beats. 

And activists are increasingly pressuring companies to give more of their profits back to investors.  

In a recent survey of CFOs,  about half said their companies are going to invest in their businesses soon. But the other half? They’re not budging.

Why Boeing and Delta are dueling over the Ex-Im bank

Tue, 2014-07-22 13:39

You'd think a giant company that buys planes would have a half-decent relationship with a giant company that makes planes. And, for the most part, Delta and Boeing have been business buddies over the years. But now, these two big guns of American aviation are lined up on opposite sides of one of the biggest policy fights rocking Congress: The debate over the Export-Import bank.

Big companies tend to get their way in Washington because opponents are usually weak. Think Wall Street versus Main Street, or cable companies against subscribers. Those aren’t real boxing matches, they're more like Mike Tyson fighting your Uncle Stewart. But Boeing versus Delta is a real matchup, and it has observers in politics and business riveted.

Among other things, the Ex-Im bank uses American tax money to help foreign airlines buy Boeing planes. Those airlines are Delta’s competitors, and Delta doesn’t like the idea of American money going to them. Recently Delta’s CEO testified on Capitol Hill, flanked by uniformed pilots and flight attendants, to say this practice should stop.

Boeing says the Ex-Im Bank helps Boeing compete internationally and create more American jobs. And the company has benefited for a long time from the Ex-Im Bank's support. But now, with Delta in the ring and Ex-Im Bank skeptics gaining power in Congress, Boeing’s long and cushy ride with the Bank is encountering some turbulence.

Mark Garrison: Big companies tend to get their way in Congress because opponents are usually weak. Wall Street versus Main Street. Cable companies against subscribers. Those aren’t real matches. That’s like Mike Tyson fighting your Uncle Stewart. But Boeing versus Delta, that’s a fight.

Richard Anderson: I have a about 100 Delta employees here with me that have my back today.

That’s Delta CEO Richard Anderson testifying on the Hill, flanked by uniformed pilots and flight attendants.

Anderson: I’m here to talk about their jobs, because the Ex-Im Bank takes their jobs.

Anderson’s talking about the Export-Import Bank. And he’s angry because Boeing has long gotten what it wants from the Bank, which, among other things, uses American tax money to help foreign airlines buy Boeing planes. And those are Delta’s competitors. The airline doesn’t like the idea of American money going to them.

Veronique de Rugy: It puts a face on the usually unseen victims of these government deals.

Veronique de Rugy is senior fellow at the Mercatus Center, and thinks of the Ex-Im Bank as corporate welfare. In aviation or any industry, when equally powerful companies face off, the outcome’s hard to predict, totally different than when a whole industry goes up against a set of regulations. Tom Tacker is an economics professor at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University.

Tom Tacker: I think it’s a big deal and it does make it more interesting.

It also puts the debate in the public eye. That matters, says UNC political scientist Frank Baumgartner.

Frank Baumgartner: In the fights that aren’t fair, nobody even knows about them. They’re done within the boardrooms or the committee rooms without any fanfare and the status quo remains what it is.

But with Delta in the ring and skeptics in Congress, Boeing’s long and cushy ride with the Ex-Im Bank is hitting unusual turbulence. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

Turning a new leaf can prove elusive in tobacco-built South

Tue, 2014-07-22 12:44

His mentor sat in a hospital bed, dying. 

Glenn Hayes walked into the room, and saw his old friend batting his hand in front of his face, as if waving away a persistent fly, and muttering. 

“What are you doing?” Hayes asked. The man, startled, smiled sheepishly and said “I’m biddin' tobacco!” 

The two men had spent decades as tobacco buyers for large companies. Though they didn’t smoke, they had lived and breathed the crop since childhood. And it was time to say goodbye. 

Hayes, born in 1936, had already said goodbye to his career in the tobacco industry when he retired in the '90s. But even by then, tobacco was already submitting its long farewell to many small towns peppering the belt from Kentucky to the coast - some it had sustained for centuries.

“We would get up before day. Before I went to school that morning, when I was 9 or 10-years-old, we would lay tobacco out for our parents to grade that day,” says Hayes. “And when we came in we’d tie it and stick it up; had to be done.” 

Hayes has come to the South Carolina Tobacco Museum in Mullins, South Carolina. Mullins was once the tobacco capital of the state, its warehouses once numbered 41, and $120 million would flow through this small town each fall in the early '80s. While tobacco is still grown in the state, a visitor from Charleston would likely now see more golden leaves on display in the museum than in roadside fields during the two hour drive.

“My first job was driving a mule when I was 8 or 9, and I thought I was somebody,” Hayes remembers in a drawl and with a chuckle. “We didn’t get paid, we had four families on the farm, and we divided the crop up – 25 acres of tobacco – and we all helped each other put in. About 80 percent of our income came from tobacco.”

People lived the crop’s ups and downs together, which Hayes says connected them in a way that’s rare now.

“I remember a farmer comin' to me one time, he said 'I got an awful crop, Glenn, I can’t help it,' and it wasn’t a good crop. But I wouldn’t’a told him that for nothin' in the world. He’d worked just as hard as the next man. If you could stretch a grade you did, if you could help him out you did," says Hayes. "We all did that.” 

Hayes's old friend Jimmy Daniel, who worked at a warehouse and is now passed away, put it this way in one of the museum’s archival recordings:

“It was hard work, like anything is. And if the farmer fared good then I fared good. If he catch the devil then I caught the devil too.”

Explains Reggie McDaniel, curator of the museum: “If the bids weren’t good and the tobacco was not good and the farmers didn’t get A1 top prices, the warehouse suffered along with the farmers. If the farmer 'caught the devil,' the warehouse 'caught the devil' too... That just means it all filters down, 'We all are taking a diminished return here.'” 

Hayes has become a painter in retirement, and often depicts scenes from the farms of his childhood – every detail corresponding to a memory and reflecting the vibrant role tobacco once played. 

In some paintings, his 9-year-old self is lifting sticks, holding bundles of tobacco ready to cure in a barn. In others, his middle-aged self is walking through rows of 300 pound piles of tobacco leaves, bidding as he goes.

Many of the paintings hang in the Tobacco Museum, whose rooms full of artifacts include hundreds of colorful unopened packs of cigarettes made by long-defunct companies, war bonds from WWII sponsored by Lucky Strike, a pioneer-era kitchen and a pre-WWI quilt made of flags, many of which came from countries that no longer exist.  There’s also a 100-year-old rebuilt tobacco barn inside the museum; it still smells warmly of tobacco. 

“It’s got a sweet, earthy smell,” says Reggie McDaniel, curator of the museum. “My dad used to say it smells like college.”

Why’d he say that?

“...‘cause it pays for your college!” McDaniel says with a laugh.

Tobacco marked the calendar and tobacco marked the social life.

“We had well-known orchestras and band leaders for one warehouse, the next warehouse would be square dancing and more country fare, and the third warehouse would be what we call beach music today for the African American community.”

Part of economic growth is what economists call "creative destruction." As new industries emerge, old ones die. There are booms and busts and growth moves from place to place, disrupting old ways of doing things and creating new ones. If people are lucky, they can move with it. 

But not everyone, and certainly not every place, can get out of the way. 

Mullins, South Carolina couldn’t get out of the way. 

Mullins, South Carolina caught the devil.  

It now has the highest unemployment rate in the state.

The devil might’ve been in Mullins all along.

Tobacco is addictive and deadly. It killed 100 million people in the 20th century.  As people began to realize that, smoking declined, and government subsidies were withdrawn. Tobacco farming became mechanized and then shifted overseas along with other industries like textiles. The population has been declining for 25 years now.

Antonio Williams is hanging out under a pecan tree in a lot full of rubble and weeds. They say it used to be a small mall before it was torn down. Sometimes people come here for daywork. Right now a few kids are running around, and a few old men are sitting on milk crates drinking. 

“The jobs are limited, all the textiles and companies have left and there’s no incentive for people to stay here,” he says. “It’s not for a young person here. My son is 17-years-old, he got a scholarship, A-B honor roll student, and I just wanna get him up outta here.”

When Hayes retired, he retraced his old auction route through south Georgia and eastern North Carolina, the border belt of Tennessee and Kentucky. “And when I went back to some of these small towns that had tobacco markets, and when these markets left they didn’t have anything left but a little town. They dried up. It’s sad to describe it like that but that’s how it was. You felt bad for ‘em.”

McDaniel, the curator and a descendant of one of Mullins’ founders, is steadfast. “We have a newspaper that was established in early days, and the motto on the front of the paper was ‘Pull for Mullins or pull out, no room for town knockers.’ So even though everything’s not perfect and flawless, we love our little town and it’s part of what we’re made of.”

The museum helps. One of Mullins’ last two remaining warehouses – a towering, cavernous space – holds an extensive antique mall. McDaniel praises the local cuisine at places like Webster Manor: “If you leave Mullins hungry it’s your own fault.” But for now, Mullins has more charm than visitors.

“The story of Mullins is the story of lots of small towns in the tobacco belt,” says Eldred Prince Jr., professor of American History at Coastal Carolina University in Conway and author of "Long Green, The Rise and Fall of Tobacco in South Carolina".

“Nobody – no sensible person – would lament the loss of tobacco as a substance. It has a lot to answer for in the illness that it has caused,” says Prince. “On the other hand, the culture that it inspired and created, there are some valuable things.”

To have entire towns working on the same thing, winning or losing together. And sharing work.

“We’ll go over and help you today at your farm and tomorrow you can come over and help us. 'Swapping work' it was called, it built neighborhoods like that.”

Of course, plenty of southern towns survived and even thrived after tobacco. They replaced tobacco fields with a Boeing plant or an auto manufacturer, or in many cases turned to tourism.

“We’re very much part of the sun belt here,” says Professor Prince. “But Mullins is still in the shade.” 

Turning a new leaf is elusive in tobacco-built South

Tue, 2014-07-22 12:44

His mentor sat in a hospital bed, dying. 

Glenn Hayes walked into the room, and saw his old friend batting his hand in front of his face, as if waving away a persistent fly, and muttering. 

“What are you doing?” Hayes asked. The man, startled, smiled sheepishly and said “I’m biddin' tobacco!” 

The two men had spent decades as tobacco buyers for large companies. Though they didn’t smoke, they had lived and breathed the crop since childhood. And it was time to say goodbye. 

Hayes, born in 1936, had already said goodbye to his career in the tobacco industry when he retired in the '90s. But even by then, tobacco was already submitting its long farewell to many small towns peppering the belt from Kentucky to the coast - some it had sustained for centuries.

“We would get up before day. Before I went to school that morning, when I was 9 or 10-years-old, we would lay tobacco out for our parents to grade that day,” says Hayes. “And when we came in we’d tie it and stick it up; had to be done.” 

Hayes has come to the South Carolina Tobacco Museum in Mullins, South Carolina. Mullins was once the tobacco capital of the state, its warehouses once numbered 41, and $120 million would flow through this small town each fall in the early '80s. While tobacco is still grown in the state, a visitor from Charleston would likely now see more golden leaves on display in the museum than in roadside fields during the two hour drive.

“My first job was driving a mule when I was 8 or 9, and I thought I was somebody,” Hayes remembers in a drawl and with a chuckle. “We didn’t get paid, we had four families on the farm, and we divided the crop up – 25 acres of tobacco – and we all helped each other put in. About 80 percent of our income came from tobacco.”

People lived the crop’s ups and downs together, which Hayes says connected them in a way that’s rare now.

“I remember a farmer comin' to me one time, he said 'I got an awful crop, Glenn, I can’t help it,' and it wasn’t a good crop. But I wouldn’t’a told him that for nothin' in the world. He’d worked just as hard as the next man. If you could stretch a grade you did, if you could help him out you did," says Hayes. "We all did that.” 

Hayes's old friend Jimmy Daniel, who worked at a warehouse and is now passed away, put it this way in one of the museum’s archival recordings:

“It was hard work, like anything is. And if the farmer fared good then I fared good. If he catch the devil then I caught the devil too.”

Explains Reggie McDaniel, curator of the museum: “If the bids weren’t good and the tobacco was not good and the farmers didn’t get A1 top prices, the warehouse suffered along with the farmers. If the farmer 'caught the devil,' the warehouse 'caught the devil' too... That just means it all filters down, 'We all are taking a diminished return here.'” 

Hayes has become a painter in retirement, and often depicts scenes from the farms of his childhood – every detail corresponding to a memory and reflecting the vibrant role tobacco once played. 

In some paintings, his 9-year-old self is lifting sticks, holding bundles of tobacco ready to cure in a barn. In others, his middle-aged self is walking through rows of 300 pound piles of tobacco leaves, bidding as he goes.

Many of the paintings hang in the Tobacco Museum, whose rooms full of artifacts include hundreds of colorful unopened packs of cigarettes made by long-defunct companies, war bonds from WWII sponsored by Lucky Strike, a pioneer-era kitchen and a pre-WWI quilt made of flags, many of which came from countries that no longer exist.  There’s also a 100-year-old rebuilt tobacco barn inside the museum; it still smells warmly of tobacco. 

“It’s got a sweet, earthy smell,” says Reggie McDaniel, curator of the museum. “My dad used to say it smells like college.”

Why’d he say that?

“...‘cause it pays for your college!” McDaniel says with a laugh.

Tobacco marked the calendar and tobacco marked the social life.

“We had well-known orchestras and band leaders for one warehouse, the next warehouse would be square dancing and more country fare, and the third warehouse would be what we call beach music today for the African American community.”

Part of economic growth is what economists call "creative destruction." As new industries emerge, old ones die. There are booms and busts and growth moves from place to place, disrupting old ways of doing things and creating new ones. If people are lucky, they can move with it. 

But not everyone, and certainly not every place, can get out of the way. 

Mullins, South Carolina couldn’t get out of the way. 

Mullins, South Carolina caught the devil.  

It now has the highest unemployment rate in the state.

The devil might’ve been in Mullins all along.

Tobacco is addictive and deadly. It killed 100 million people in the 20th century.  As people began to realize that, smoking declined, and government subsidies were withdrawn. Tobacco farming became mechanized and then shifted overseas along with other industries like textiles. The population has been declining for 25 years now.

Antonio Williams is hanging out under a pecan tree in a lot full of rubble and weeds. They say it used to be a small mall before it was torn down. Sometimes people come here for daywork. Right now a few kids are running around, and a few old men are sitting on milk crates drinking. 

“The jobs are limited, all the textiles and companies have left and there’s no incentive for people to stay here,” he says. “It’s not for a young person here. My son is 17-years-old, he got a scholarship, A-B honor roll student, and I just wanna get him up outta here.”

When Hayes retired, he retraced his old auction route through south Georgia and eastern North Carolina, the border belt of Tennessee and Kentucky. “And when I went back to some of these small towns that had tobacco markets, and when these markets left they didn’t have anything left but a little town. They dried up. It’s sad to describe it like that but that’s how it was. You felt bad for ‘em.”

McDaniel, the curator and a descendant of one of Mullins’ founders, is steadfast. “We have a newspaper that was established in early days, and the motto on the front of the paper was ‘Pull for Mullins or pull out, no room for town knockers.’ So even though everything’s not perfect and flawless, we love our little town and it’s part of what we’re made of.”

The museum helps. One of Mullins’ last two remaining warehouses – a towering, cavernous space – holds an extensive antique mall. McDaniel praises the local cuisine at places like Webster Manor: “If you leave Mullins hungry it’s your own fault.” But for now, Mullins has more charm than visitors.

“The story of Mullins is the story of lots of small towns in the tobacco belt,” says Eldred Prince Jr., professor of American History at Coastal Carolina University in Conway and author of "Long Green, The Rise and Fall of Tobacco in South Carolina".

“Nobody – no sensible person – would lament the loss of tobacco as a substance. It has a lot to answer for in the illness that it has caused,” says Prince. “On the other hand, the culture that it inspired and created, there are some valuable things.”

To have entire towns working on the same thing, winning or losing together. And sharing work.

“We’ll go over and help you today at your farm and tomorrow you can come over and help us. 'Swapping work' it was called, it built neighborhoods like that.”

Of course, plenty of southern towns survived and even thrived after tobacco. They replaced tobacco fields with a Boeing plant or an auto manufacturer, or in many cases turned to tourism.

“We’re very much part of the sun belt here,” says Professor Prince. “But Mullins is still in the shade.” 

A new and faster way of buying concert tickets

Tue, 2014-07-22 10:59

Buying concert tickets these days requires a lot of planning and speed.

You have to be on the dot when tickets go on sale, and even if you are, page loading, internet speed and the always-annoying captcha code can slow you down. Marketplace Tech's Ben Johnson may have a trick up his sleeve to get tickets faster and with less hassle.

Ticketmaster now has an app for buying tickets. Ben says the things that usually make people nervous about ticket buying — like giving out personal information — can be strengths when purchasing through an app.

"It knows your location, it knows your identity and that means you might get tickets faster and score better seats if you use the app," Johnson says.

Your smartphone can also help you find closer seats even when you've already purchased a ticket. iBeacon uses its technology to pinpoint your location using your mobile phone and ticketing apps use this feature to help you move up. Unfortnately if this option doesn't suit you, there isn't really an alternative, save for standing in line.

A new and faster way of buying concert tickets

Tue, 2014-07-22 10:59

Buying concert tickets these days requires a lot of planning and speed.

You have to be on the dot when tickets go on sale, and even if you are, page loading, internet speed and the always-annoying captcha code can slow you down. Marketplace Tech's Ben Johnson may have a trick up his sleeve to get tickets faster and with less hassle.

Ticketmaster now has an app for buying tickets. Ben says the things that usually make people nervous about ticket buying — like giving out personal information — can be strengths when purchasing through an app.

"It knows your location, it knows your identity and that means you might get tickets faster and score better seats if you use the app," Johnson says.

Your smartphone can also help you find closer seats even when you've already purchased a ticket. iBeacon uses its technology to pinpoint your location using your mobile phone and ticketing apps use this feature to help you move up. Unfortnately if this option doesn't suit you, there isn't really an alternative, save for standing in line.

Hospital agrees to pay $190 million for recorded exams

Tue, 2014-07-22 07:00

Johns Hopkins Health System has agreed pay $190 million to 8,000 women who were patients of a gynecologist found to be secretly recording their exams.

The women’s faces aren’t visible in the recordings and police don’t believe the images have been shared, but they have been traumatized nonetheless, says plaintiffs’ attorney Jonathan Schochor.

“They stopped seeing their doctors,” he said at a press conference on Monday. “They stopped taking their children to see doctors. They refuse to see a male OBGYN. Many refuse to see any OBGYN.”

If the settlement were divided equally, each woman might receive roughly $24,000, but compensation will be made after reviewing each patient’s case.

“T­­­he question is how do [they] allocate that fairly among the victims?” says J.B. Silvers, a former insurance executive and a professor at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management.

Counseling costs or lost wages might be taken into account. But Silvers says it’s a tricky, delicate problem trying to determine the amount of trauma each women may have suffered, especially with so many victims.

“We’ve done this with the World Trade Center, for instance, so this process isn’t new,” Silvers says. 

The doctor accused of making the recordings committed suicide after being discovered last year.

Where Europe stands on Russian sanctions

Tue, 2014-07-22 04:00

The European Union met on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of further sanctions on Russia after the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The U.S. says a missile fired from separatist territory brought down the plane. Russia's defense ministry says it sees no evidence of a missile, and suggested Ukraine's military could be at fault. 

With tensions mounting, President Obama has called on the EU to take a bolder stance -- Britain, France, and Germany say they would be ready to increase sanctions against Russia, but reaching a concensus could prove difficult. Given a disputed delivery of a warship to Moscow from France, some point out that stronger actions, not words, are needed.

Click the media player above to hear BBC Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.

PODCAST: American-made jobs

Tue, 2014-07-22 03:00

More on news that Johns Hopkins Hospital will pay $190 million in a settlement to victims of a gynecologist who secretly filmed patients' exams. Plus, a look at sales of existing homes in June -- With that number having increased in May, it's expected to continue an upward trend. Plus, a conversation with Beth Macy, author of "Factory Man," which tells the story of an American furniture company that managed to stay open even in the face of the competition shipping jobs overseas.

Other cities feel sting of Detroit bankruptcy

Tue, 2014-07-22 02:00

When a community needs to build a new school or a jail, it sells bonds on the municipal bond market. The bonds are a city’s promise to pay. But if one city doesn’t pay up in full, does bond money dry up for everybody else?

“I think it depends a lot on the city,” says Kim Rueben, a public finance economist at the Urban Institute. 

Rueben says some Michigan cities have to pay a premium in the bond market because they’re in the same state as Detroit. Many of them have the same problems. Ditto for some rustbelt, Midwestern cities:

"So, other places that are seeing similar demographic trends, in terms of aging populations and declining populations,” says Rueben.

What about cities without these problems? They can still sell bonds, but they have to work harder, according to Lisa Washburn, managing director of Municipal Market Advisers, a bond research company.  

Washburn says investors are justifiably skeptical: “So you want to know ahead of time what kind of risk you’re taking on.”

Still, Washburn says, there is a lot of demand for municipal bonds. Once investors decide they’re safe, that is.

 

 

More schools offer free lunches, but who's paying?

Tue, 2014-07-22 02:00

The Community Eligibility Provision, part of the National School Lunch Program, was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2010. It enables school districts in which 40 percent of children or more are eligible for free lunches to skip paperwork requirements and offer free meals to all students, regardless of their household income. Some educators say the provision could lower stress levels for low-income kids and help them focus on learning.

"Sometimes they worry about not having enough money to pay for their meal," says Dora Rivas, Executive Director of the Food and Child Nutrition Program for the Dallas Independent School District. "I think this is going to be a great benefit to them."

Rivas adds that paying for meals for all students in the district means officials will no longer have to spend time and money processing papers for families applying for the lunch benefits.

"Our funds are going to producing the meal instead of all the paperwork," she says.

The National School Lunch Program costs the government nearly $12 billion a year, a reflection of a troubled economy in which many working parents are unable to make ends meet.

"Most of the kids in the free and reduced price meals program are kids whose parents are working, working full time at very low wages, or working part time," says Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center. On an average school day, Weill says, some 21.5 million kids eat a free or reduced-price lunch.

Long-term unemployed suffer shaky re-employment

Tue, 2014-07-22 01:00

Even though the economy is improving, there are still about 3 million Americans who have been out of work for six months or more. Plus, research indicates that the longer they are out, the tougher it will be for them to get back into the workforce. Making matters worse: when they do find work, it often doesn't last.

Lori Barkley Struckman knows what that's like. At the end of 2011, she lost her job as an office administrator. For the next two years, she bounced around jobs that were temporary or part-time.

"I had five different jobs. But nothing full-time," she says.

Struckman finally landed a full-time position as an office administrator at a Twin Cities law firm earlier this year. Her rocky road to recovery would not surprise researchers like Alan Krueger, a professor of economics at Princeton University and former White House chief economist.

"The long-term unemployed, when they do find work, it's often inconsistent, it's often part-time, they often find a job that doesn't last very long," says Krueger.

Krueger and fellow researchers looked at government surveys of Americans who said they'd been out of work for six months or longer at some point between 2008 and 2012. When those individuals were surveyed again more than a year later, only 36 percent had landed work. Of that group, only 11 percent had steady, full-time jobs.

Krueger says a lot of these folks end up suffering the same setbacks, and unsteady employment, as new workers.

"If you look at workers just starting out, a lot of the jobs they find don't work out, they're transitory, it's a mismatch," he says. "They don't get along with the employer or their skills aren't right for the job."

And sometimes the stress of  having been out of the workforce for a long time persists, making it hard to hold onto a new job. 

"There's a lot of spiralling of all sorts of things, trouble with the children, trouble with finances, which affects every piece of your life. Do you still have health insurance? Were you able to keep your house? All those things are so stressful; you're just treading water," says Mary White, a job counselor with a nonprofit called HIRED in St. Paul.

Lori Barkley Struckman is familiar with some of those stresses. A layoff she suffered a decade ago, well before her more recent jobless spell, coincided with her divorce. When she returned to work back then, she was easily distracted.

"You're still thinking about all the other turmoil that's going on in your life. It's hard for you to concentrate. So that is a real task to just make yourself go, 'Okay you're here to work. Give it up,'" she says.

Faced with poor job prospects or additional layoffs, many long-term unemployed give up looking for work. Krueger's collaborator, Judd Cramer, a doctoral student in economics at Princeton University, says the expiration of extended unemployment benefits has contributed to that trend.

"We've seen the rate at which the long-term unemployed have exited the labor market has risen," Cramer says. 

Breaking down the fees and taxes in a plane ticket

Mon, 2014-07-21 13:29

The Transportation Security Administration is increasing the fees it assesses travelers to $5.60 per leg of your flight.

What's that mean? If a layover is more than four hours, then the TSA considers that to be two trips and assesses the fee again.  So, that could mean about $22 extra on your layover flight. That made us wonder what are we paying for air travel these days.... besides the actual airfare, that is.

Let’s say you’ve got a $500 round trip ticket from New York City to Los Angeles with a long layover in each direction, here's what you'll be paying.

(Numbers courtesy of Airlines for America.)

Fare: $500

TSA 9/11 Fee: $5.6 per segment x 4 = $22.40 

Federal Aviation Excise Tax: 7.5% = $37.50

Flight Segment Tax: $4 per segment x 4 = $16.00

Airport passenger facilty charge: $4.50 per segment x 4 = $18.00

Effective Tax Rate: 18%.  This can vary depending on how many layovers and how expensive your fare is.  If this example fare were for a direct flight, for example, it would be taxed at an effective rate of 9 percent. 

Flying international? International flights have a whole additional set of fees depending on the country and the airport, and these fees can range into the hundreds of dollars. 

And let us not forget the fees for some kind of basic rudimentary comfort, says airline analyst Robert Mann, Jr:

Want to pick your own seat? $0 to $25

What about a seat with legroom? $25 up to hundreds of dollars

Check a bag? $0 to $80

Oh, you want to carry on that bag? $0 to $100

Hungry?  How does $5 for a snack and $15 for a sandwich sound?

The TSA has said historically, it spends significantly more money on aviation safety than it receives from airlines or passengers.  However, the revenues raised from government fees and excise taxes do not directly go to their supposed purpose, says George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchDog.com.

“A lot of the money actually ends up in the general fund to reduce the deficit and never sees its way as was intended to improve air travel.”

Breaking down the fees and taxes in a plane ticket

Mon, 2014-07-21 13:29

The Transportation Security Administration is increasing the fees it assesses travelers to $5.60 per leg of your flight.

What's that mean? If a layover is more than four hours, then the TSA considers that to be two trips and assesses the fee again.  So, that could mean about $22 extra on your layover flight. That made us wonder what are we paying for air travel these days.... besides the actual airfare, that is.

Let’s say you’ve got a $500 round trip ticket from New York City to Los Angeles with a long layover in each direction, here's what you'll be paying.

(Numbers courtesy of Airlines for America.)

Fare: $500

TSA 9/11 Fee: $5.6 per segment x 4 = $22.40 

Federal Aviation Excise Tax: 7.5% = $37.50

Flight Segment Tax: $4 per segment x 4 = $16.00

Airport passenger facilty charge: $4.50 per segment x 4 = $18.00

Effective Tax Rate: 18%.  This can vary depending on how many layovers and how expensive your fare is.  If this example fare were for a direct flight, for example, it would be taxed at an effective rate of 9 percent. 

Flying international? International flights have a whole additional set of fees depending on the country and the airport, and these fees can range into the hundreds of dollars. 

And let us not forget the fees for some kind of basic rudimentary comfort, says airline analyst Robert Mann, Jr:

Want to pick your own seat? $0 to $25

What about a seat with legroom? $25 up to hundreds of dollars

Check a bag? $0 to $80

Oh, you want to carry on that bag? $0 to $100

Hungry?  How does $5 for a snack and $15 for a sandwich sound?

The TSA has said historically, it spends significantly more money on aviation safety than it receives from airlines or passengers.  However, the revenues raised from government fees and excise taxes do not directly go to their supposed purpose, says George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchDog.com.

“A lot of the money actually ends up in the general fund to reduce the deficit and never sees its way as was intended to improve air travel.”

Orange really is the new black (and white)

Mon, 2014-07-21 13:29

The quarterly earnings report from Netflix came out this afternoon and Netflix did just fine, making just about as much money as everybody expected.

But that's not really the point. The biggest takeaway?

Netflix's comedy-drama series "Orange Is The New Black" was the most watched show on Neflix So many people watched world-wide, the orange jumpsuits in the series have apparently become chic enough to irritate the sheriff in Saginaw County, Michigan.

"You see people wearing all-orange jumpsuits at the mall," he said.

The local sheriff has become so fed up that he's started ordering the old-style black and white striped uniforms for his inmates.

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