Marketplace - American Public Media

When owning an apartment means paying $13,000 a foot

Mon, 2015-01-19 01:30
1 percent

According to anti-poverty charity Oxfam, the wealthiest 1 percent will soon own more than the rest of the world's population. As the BBC reports, the findings coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

76 percent

The portion of Americans who count protecting the country from terrorism as a top priority in the new year, according to a new survey from Pew, neck-and-neck with improving the economy. That's a marked change from last year, which pegged job creation and the economy as the top priorities by far.

50,000 jobs

Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber Technologies Inc. stated that his company would add 50,000 jobs to the European economy this year, taking 400,000 cars off the road in the process. As reported by the WSJ, Kalanick's comments at the Digital Design Life conference come at a time when Uber is facing major obstacles in entering the European market.

1928

The year the Model Municipal Traffic Ordinance was created, providing a template for the regulation of roads nationwide. Most notably, the suggested model included laws against jaywalking, which were pushed through by the automotive industry. Vox has the full secret history of the petty law that ceded control of the road.

100 billion pounds

That's how many pounds of sand are used for oil and gas fracking every year, much of it from the Midwest. And in states like Wisconsin, mines often go uninspected, fines are modest, and some rules have lapsed.

One-fifth

That's about how many U.S. malls have a vacancy over 10 percent, a problem number that turns into an all-out "death spiral" by 40 percent. The New York Times has a fascinating look at the way malls die and the strangely beautiful husks that are becoming more common.

$100 million

New York City is notorious for expensive real estate, but the market for pricey apartments just got more ridiculous. A penthouse at One57, a luxury high rise, recently sold for a record breaking $100 million dollars. As Quartz reports, the previous record was held by Ekaterina Rybolovleva, the daughter of a Russian fertilizer billionaire, who paid $88 million for an apartment in 2012.

A quasi-healthy job market for 2015

Fri, 2015-01-16 14:56

The economy is now consistently producing more than 250,000 jobs per month. Unemployment hit 10 percent at the pit of the recession, but it has now fallen to 5.6 percent – and there's no reason to think it won't keep  improving for a while.

Yet the labor market still has some pain points: Long-term unemployment is higher than at any time since World War II, millions are not even looking for work and real wages are stagnant for most Americans.

Still, it's hard to call it a "sick" or "still-recovering" economy with unemployment this low and job-creation this strong.

"Unfortunately, for many, the purpose of work is survival," says William Rodgers, a Rutgers University economist who studies the changing American workforce. The economy  is producing too many jobs that pay the bare minimum, Rodgers says, and don't offer a way up the economic ladder. Work should offer more, he says.

"If we're creating workplaces where people aren't paid enough to meet their families' needs, aren't able to enjoy themselves, be creative – that's lower productivity, that's lower economic growth," Rodgers says. 

The post-recession employment landscape has been fundamentally altered because of the financial crisis, labor-saving technology and perpetual corporate cost-cutting, according to Susan Lambert, a University of Chicago professor of social work. 

One key change, Lambert says: the rise of part-time low-paid jobs, often temporary, with unpredictable schedules and too few hours. She says this "just in time" type of staffing is spreading in retail, manufacturing, academia, journalism and beyond.

"People have a greater sense of insecurity," says Lambert. "It makes it very difficult for people with unpredictable, unstable schedules to maintain employment. Because at some point often they have to decide: their kids or their job."

But these employment trends are not some post-recession "new normal," counters Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist with the American Action Forum.

"The degree to which the world is fundamentally different – this gets floated about every five years, and it's always overstated to a great extent," Holtz-Eakin says. "A very bad recession and financial crisis didn't change the fundamentals of how economies grow and the way people benefit from economic growth." 

Maybe Obama should just 'Shake it Off'

Fri, 2015-01-16 13:33

It's a time-honored Washington tradition – the president's rivals offer rebuttals to the State of the Union before the president has even delivered it. That's even easier this year, because the president has spent the last few days previewing his speech as he introduces new policy proposals at events across the country.

House Speaker John Boehner attacked Obama's "free college" proposal in a novel way this morning, in an email with this subject line: "12 Taylor Swift GIFs for you."

He used a different GIF of Taylor Swift to illustrate his argument that the presidents plan will cost taxpayers too much money. 

You can find the whole list here.

 

Apparently John Boehner is a Taylor Swift fan.

 

 

Poor children, a new majority in public schools

Fri, 2015-01-16 12:57

We’ve passed a sobering milestone in this country. For the first time in at least 50 years, the majority of students in public schools are considered poor. That’s according to a new report from the Southern Education Foundation, which found that more than half of students in 2013 qualified for free and reduced-price lunch at school – a widely-used, if imperfect, measure of poverty.

“This is a defining moment,” says Steve Suitts, vice president of the foundation.

We tend to think of poverty as a problem concentrated in rural areas or the inner city, he says. Those boundaries are falling away.

“Even in the suburbs, low-income students are now 40% of the student population in the public schools,” Suitts says. “It’s everyone’s problem.”

Google stops Glass production, at least for now

Fri, 2015-01-16 12:32

Google announced that it will stop the production of Google Glass … but is this the end for the glasses or the beginning of something bigger? Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson shares his thoughts.

“This is the perfect example of how Google’s design and product philosophy can fail,” says Johnson. “The company had this kind of incredible idea of augmented reality where you could put data in front of you sort of while you’re going through life. And we’ve been imagining this since, what, the first Terminator movie?”

When Google Glass came out, it wasn’t a fully developed product. Google delivered the technology, tethered it to your phone and expected people to make stuff for it. It was controversial, expensive and raised concerns about privacy. “I think it was a misstep for the company," Johnson says, "I think they should have developed it in-house, as Apple would have done.

"I mean, think about Steve Jobs when he released the iPhone. That piece of hardware was so perfectly finished. It was ready for prime time and everybody who touched it became an evangelist," Johnson says. "Everybody who touched the Glass did not become an evangelist, and I think that was part of the problem for the company.”

Although production is stopping, Johnson believes the technology is here to stay and will transform as Tony Fadell from the home automation company Nest takes over Google Glass.

 

 

Free shipping a boon for Alaska's Amazon customers

Fri, 2015-01-16 12:24

With online retail taking a bigger chunk out of brick-and-mortar businesses, shipping and fulfillment services are becoming a commodity in their own right. How fast can you get it to my doorstep?

One place you might not expect online retail to be turning into a way of life, though, is rural Alaska.

"We're good for a couple weeks,” said Betsy Brennan after opening up a box with a few dozen rolls of toilet paper. Brennan works at a radio station in Nome, three blocks from the Bering Sea, and hundreds of miles from Alaska’s road system. She has an auto-order set up through online retail giant Amazon’s Prime service so that office essentials like paper towels, printer cartridges, and coffee arrive regularly by mail.

Prime’s popularity is exploding across rural Alaska because of the free shipping that comes with the $99 annual subscription fee. Brennan set up her household account two years ago for things one could easily take for granted in places that are accessible by road. 

“Really heavy items like flour,” she explained. “All kinds of food items that we pay a lot more for locally. Or very similar.”

For thrifty shoppers with discretionary income, the most cost-effective way of running a household used to be loading up on supplies at wholesale stores in Anchorage, then mailing them back home, or packing them into checked bags on commercial flights.

For Brennan and others, the service is a huge time-saver, and that is a big part of the appeal for placing online orders. “It comes, many times, right to your doorstep.”

Prime also does not charge anything extra for heavy items, even if they may not be eligible for two-day delivery. “We had a friend that ordered a wood-splitter through Amazon Prime,” Brennan said matter-of-factly, “a fairly heavy item." She summarized a few other orders from around town: dozens of bags of potting soil, bird-seed, and a $1,200 grill. A local sled-dog racer had even started ordering pallets of dog food.

Amazon is not a shipper itself. Instead, it takes advantage of where the U.S. Postal Service and freight companies already go. In doing so, it is bringing eCommerce further into markets where it has not had much of a foothold. For example, Unalakleet, 145 miles from Nome (by air), with around 700 residents, including Jeff Erickson, who has been using Amazon more and more over the last six years.

Recently, he ordered a mattress. “Three days later I hear somebody struggling up my stairs, and it's the UPS boy who's dropping it off,” Erickson recounted, sitting near a window in the library of Unalakleet’s one school.

He was disappointed because the box was smaller than he had expected, and he figured there had been a mix up with the order. Luckily, Erickson hauled the package up to his bedroom before opening it. “I got my knife out, made a tiny split in it, and all the sudden I had an instant California King-sized mattress that exploded in my face,” he says.

Overall, Erickson estimates he gets about 30 percent more purchasing power for all shipping fees that are no longer an expense. Before finding out his mattress was eligible for Prime shipping, he was prepared to bite the bullet and pay six or seven hundred dollars in freight fees. At $99, Prime is a bargain for rural customers.

Both Erickson and Brennan think that if Amazon knew what a steal they were getting, the company would put an end to Prime. 

But others disagree.

"Amazon is incredibly data-savvy,” explained R.J. Hottovy, a senior eCommerce analyst for research firm Morningstar. “I am absolutely sure they see higher penetration rates in rural markets, and I think part of that is by design.” Hottovy thinks the company is trying to build customer loyalty, and has decided it is worth losing money right now on mattresses and wood-splitters if that means recruiting long-term users.

Plus, Prime entices customers with free shipping to get them to use ancillary services like music and video streaming. Although that is not the case in Unalakleet, where 3G service only became available last month. We just suffer with bandwidth and speed issues out here,” said Erickson. “We're using Amazon Prime for the free shipping."

For the bargain-hunters out there eager to get the most bang for your buck, I recommend buying the JET 20x80 Geared Head Engine Lathe. It may cost $23,999 and weigh 8,514 pounds, but the price for having it mailed to your doorstep if you're a Prime member? Zero.

Fun fact Friday: Millions #TBT to their MySpace days

Fri, 2015-01-16 11:47

Leigh Gallagher with Fortune Magazine, and Sudeep Reddy with the Wall Street Journal talk with David Gura about the week's top stories. 

What else did we learn this week?

Fun fact: 50.6 million people still visit MySpace each month.

Thanks, millennial nostalgia. MySpace's most trafficked day of the week is Thursday due to people trying to find their old pictures to post on Instagram for “Throwback Thursday” or #TBT. 

Marketplace Tech's Silicon Tally quiz discussed this fun fact and others, including one about a glitter delivery service.

Silicon Tally: Et tu, glitter? Fun fact: The $2 bill has a historically dirty reputation: It’s the standard bet at a racetrack, often the amount of a political bribe and used to be standard payment for a lady of the night.

Coming soon: An entire documentary about $2 bills.

Why are there so few $2 bills? Fun fact: Sylvester Stallone is the actor who has the most Golden Raspberry nominations, which recognize the year’s worst in film. He's gotten 30.

Apparently he’s not a fan of the awards show, but they’re not a fan of him either.

The Razzies: Lampooning Hollywood for 35 years Fun fact: 30 to 35 percent of water pumped through the pipelines of utilities worldwide is lost to leaks and bursts.

The leaks add up to about 8.6 trillion gallons of water lost worldwide each year.

'Smart' devices used to hunt for water leaks Fun fact: “Wake me up” by Avicii is the most Shazam’d song of all time with 15 million-plus Shazams and counting.

At least someone is benefiting from that incessant earworm.

Shazam CEO: Introducing visual 'Shazaming'

Swiss move on franc catches currency brokers off guard

Fri, 2015-01-16 11:42

Fallout continues from the Swiss National Bank’s decision to stop pegging its currency to the euro. As the franc rapidly rose in value, many investors were caught off guard and suffered large loses.

In many cases, those trades were heavily leveraged, meaning customers might have to put down only a small percentage of the trade's value as a deposit. If they can’t pay their losses, their brokerage firms will be left holding the bag in some cases – and a handful are now raising zn alarm about their own financial health, says Boris Schlossberg of BK Asset Management.

Outside of brokerages and some financial institutions, don't expect the franc’s ripple effect to spread very far, says Nick Bennenbroek, head of foreign exchange strategy at Wells Fargo. However, in situations like this, uncertainty in one market can spread to others, and volatile exchange rates can be problematic for companies operating across multiple currencies, says Kevin Jacques, a professor at Baldwin Wallace University and former Treasury official.

 

Major health care player gets ready to retire

Fri, 2015-01-16 11:09

The most important person in health care you've never heard of said Friday she plans to retire next month. Marilyn Tavenner runs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and oversees those two giant health care programs. What makes her job so important? To borrow a phrase from E.F. Hutton – when CMS talks, people listen. Why? 

The usual: money and power.

What DeSean Jackson Taught Us About Economic Mobility

Fri, 2015-01-16 11:08

Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles cut their star player DeSean Jackson over concerns that he still had ties to violent gangs in the Los Angeles neighborhood where he grew up. The incident highlighted the complicated connection between neighborhood, wealth, income, and the economic gaps that many people from poor neighborhoods can fall into when things go bad -- even after they've "made it." We revisit what the Jackson incident taught us, and talk to Jamelle Bouie of Slate, who writes about the connection between neighborhood, housing, race, and economic mobility.

Your Wallet: Leaps

Fri, 2015-01-16 10:52

We're exploring leaps in our economy, and in our lives. We want to know, did you ever collect yourself and go for it?

Maybe buy that house? Get married?

Or jump into a big new financial commitment ...

We want to hear the dramatic stories of your leap. How did you land?

 

Itinerant bees have an important role in economy

Fri, 2015-01-16 10:36

Most gaps, whether they're global or personal, are pretty easy to see, or visualize. But there's a major economic gap in agriculture that's invisible, for now. And that's because it's being filled. By bees. 

Without bees, we'd lose more than honey.... We'd lose billions of dollars from our economy – $15 billion each year in the U.S. alone and $100 billion globally.

And we might taste the gap, too: Without bees, our plates would be a lot less colorful. Bees are crucial to the farming of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, and meat (which relies on cattle fed on alfalfa, which depends on bees).

We spoke with Noah Wilson-Rich, founder of urban beekeeping business The Best Bees Company, about how to keep bees happy, healthy and productive in our economy.

He's trying to change the way most bees live now, which is a little bit like long-haul truckers.

About half of all honey bees in the United States live on flatbed trucks, in rest stops or on planes. They travel from crop to crop, pollinating flowers and collecting nectar for their own food throughout the year.

Bee travel is a function of monoculture crops: because there isn't enough food for bees in any one place, they move between agricultural hot spots. Bees pollinate almond blossoms in California, blueberries in Maine and then move on to cranberries, apples, oranges, lemons, traveling the country.

Wilson-Rich focuses on urban beekeeping as a way to keep bees healthy and stop all the travel. Bees, like most creatures, are healthier when they eat a varied diet. And recently, research has shown that bees produce more honey in urban settings than rural ones. 

Companies like The Best Bee Company integrate hives into cities, attaching them to homes, apartments, businesses and schools. 

As humans live more harmoniously alongside bees, Wilson-Rich says, the bee population will continue to increase, reaching levels that existed before colony collapse disorder depleted their number in 2006. 

To hear more about the bee economy, listen to the interview in the player above. 

Itinerant bees play an important role in economy

Fri, 2015-01-16 10:36

Most gaps, whether they're global or personal, are pretty easy to see, or visualize. But there's a major economic gap in agriculture that's invisible, for now. And that's because it's being filled. By bees. 

Without bees, we'd lose more than honey.... We'd lose billions of dollars from our economy – $15 billion each year in the U.S. alone and $100 billion globally.

And we might taste the gap, too: Without bees, our plates would be a lot less colorful. Bees are crucial to the farming of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, and meat (which relies on cattle fed on alfalfa, which depends on bees).

We spoke with Noah Wilson-Rich, founder of urban beekeeping business The Best Bees Company, about how to keep bees happy, healthy and productive in our economy.

He's trying to change the way most bees live now, which is a little bit like long-haul truckers.

About half of all honey bees in the United States live on flatbed trucks, in rest stops or on planes. They travel from crop to crop, pollinating flowers and collecting nectar for their own food throughout the year.

Bee travel is a function of monoculture crops: because there isn't enough food for bees in any one place, they move between agricultural hot spots. Bees pollinate almond blossoms in California, blueberries in Maine and then move on to cranberries, apples, oranges, lemons, traveling the country.

Wilson-Rich focuses on urban beekeeping as a way to keep bees healthy and stop all the travel. Bees, like most creatures, are healthier when they eat a varied diet. And recently, research has shown that bees produce more honey in urban settings than rural ones. 

Companies like The Best Bee Company integrate hives into cities, attaching them to homes, apartments, businesses and schools. 

As humans live more harmoniously alongside bees, Wilson-Rich says, the bee population will continue to increase, reaching levels that existed before colony collapse disorder depleted their number in 2006. 

To hear more about the bee economy, listen to the interview in the player above. 

The bee economy

Fri, 2015-01-16 10:36

Most gaps, whether they're global or personal, are pretty easy to see, or visualize. But there's a major economic gap in agriculture that's invisible, for now. And that's because it's being filled. By bees. 

 

Without bees, we'd lose more than honey.... We'd lose billions of dollars from our economy – $15 billion each year in the U.S. alone and $100 billion globally. 

 

And we might taste the gap, too: Without bees, our plates would be a lot less colorful. Bees are crucial to the farming of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, and meat (which relies on cattle fed on alfalfa, which depends on bees).

 

We spoke with Noah Wilson-Rich, founder of urban beekeeping business The Best Bees Company, about how to keep bees happy, healthy and productive in our economy. 

 

He's trying to change the way most bees live now, which is a little bit like long-haul truckers.

 

About half of all honey bees in the United States live on flatbed trucks, in rest stops or on planes. They travel from crop to crop, pollinating flowers and collecting nectar for their own food throughout the year. 

 

Bee travel is a function of monoculture crops: because there isn't enough food for bees in any one place, they move between agricultural hot spots. Bees pollinate almond blossoms in California, blueberries in Maine and then move on to cranberries, apples, oranges, lemons, traveling the country. 

 

Wilson-Rich focuses on urban beekeeping as a way to keep bees healthy and stop all the travel. Bees, like most creatures, are healthier when they eat a varied diet. And recently, research has shown that bees produce more honey in urban settings than rural ones. 

 

Companies like The Best Bee Company integrate hives into cities, attaching them to homes, apartments, businesses and schools. 

 

As humans live more harmoniously alongside bees, Wilson-Rich says, the bee population will continue to increase, reaching levels that existed before colony collapse disorder depleted their number in 2006. 

 

To hear more about the bee economy, listen to the interview in the player above. 

What exists between desire and fulfillment?

Fri, 2015-01-16 10:19

Instant gratification is the norm in today's economy. Online shopping, instant downloads, and increasingly-speedy delivery times all contribute to a want it now, get it now mentality that drives our spending and consumption. 

But what happens if you wait for something? According to Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, you might enjoy it more. 

A 2010 study in the Netherlands found that people surveyed before a vacation were happier than those surveyed right after a vacation, and even people on vacation. In that period of anticipation, waiting for the trip, people could imagine a perfect ideal, something that would likely not exist in reality. 

This kind of thinking inspires Pinterest boards of dream weddings, makes watching French TV shows and listening to Edith Piaf before a trip to Paris exciting. 

Dunn says that the period of anticipation while waiting for an experience is a form of free enjoyment -- a chance to maximize the time spent appreciating something you've already paid for. 

The same goes for smaller purchases -- new clothes, a visit to a restaurant -- and big financial hurdles. Dunn says that the same principles that allow people to enjoy the time before a vacation could be applied to a college savings account, or a retirement fund.

The key, Dunn says, is to make things more concrete: the details matter.  

One dreaded question: What do you do?

Fri, 2015-01-16 10:07

Throughout the recession a lot of Americans had work histories filled with gaps.

Bill Marshall is having one now.

It began this July when he was laid off from his job at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Marshall speaks to Marketplace Weekend from his home in Devon, Pennsylvania. 

He's says learned a lot from his gap, but he starts with one dreaded question.

 

Global gaps: income and wealth inequality

Fri, 2015-01-16 09:50

Wealth and income inequality has inspired discussion and sparked debate among economists for years. As these gaps widen in many global economies, the question of whether income and wealth inequality slow growth, and whether the gaps should be closed through policy, becomes more pointed. 

Branko Milanovic, a professor at The Graduate Center at the City University of New York and the former lead researcher on inequality for the World Bank, joined Lizzie O'Leary to discuss income and wealth inequality globally. 

Milanovic measures inequality worldwide through anonymous surveys, creating a global picture of what wealth and income gaps look like. Each country is assigned a score that ranks inequality in both income and wealth.

Wealth gaps, which measure accumulated wealth through investments and savings, are almost always larger and more significant than income gaps. Even the poorest citizens in the poorest nations are unlikely to be entirely without income, but are frequently without wealth. 

So how should we address inequality? 

Milanovic says that the consequences for these gaps are complicated, because there's no world government to regulate income and wealth distribution worldwide.

Within nations, modifications to social structures and policy can correct for systemic inequalities. Milanovic cites education, voting rights, and race and gender discrimination as touchstones that individual countries can address to quell income and wage gaps.

Globally, things are trickier. Migration is a key factor in global inequality, and is a major obstacle to overcome in places where border relationships are tense.

Milanovic says that future global income and wealth inequality is also dependent upon growth in China and India -- two places where large income and wealth gaps haven't slowed economic expansion. 

Tune in to the segment using the player above to hear more of Branko Milanovic's thoughts on wealth and income gaps in the global economy, and to hear the story of two people living and working in China who are experiencing the gaps there firsthand. 

 

Quiz: National champs on the field and in the classroom?

Fri, 2015-01-16 04:58

Ohio State’s football team won the first College Football Playoff, but its Graduation Success Rate rate lags behind other sports programs on its campus.

GSR is a NCAA metric that accounts for student-athlete transfers.

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Quiz: National champions on the field - and the classroom?

Fri, 2015-01-16 04:58

Ohio State’s football team won the first College Football Playoff, but its Graduation Success Rate rate lags behind other sports programs on its campus.

GSR is a NCAA metric that accounts for student-athlete transfers.

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PODCAST: Breaking the Google Glass

Fri, 2015-01-16 03:00

On Friday, new regulations go into effect governing the US relationship Cuba. Americans still can't visit willy-nilly, but there are now 12 categories of visitors who won't need a license to travel there, including family visits, educational, religious. And how does one get to Cuba, exactly? Plus, Google is ending sales of its Glass eyewear, the heads-up display that linked eyeglass frames to the internet. And sand from a few midwestern states is highly preferred for fracking, and large mines have turned parts of rural Wisconsin inside out. When officials in Trempealeau County tried to limit new mines, mining companies looked closely at how local government is structured in rural Wisconsin- and got creative.

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