Economy

  Traditional economics measures the ways in which we spend our income, but doesn't attribute worth to the crucial human interactions that give our lives meaning.

Clair Brown, an economics professor at U.C. Berkeley and a practicing Buddhist, has developed a holistic model, one based on the notion that quality of life should be measured by more than national income. 

Her book is Buddhist Economics: An Enlightened Approach to the Dismal Science.

William D. Cohan is no knee-jerk advocate for Wall Street and the big banks. He’s one of America’s most respected financial journalists and the progressive bestselling author of House of Cards. 

He has long been critical of the bad behavior that plagued much of Wall Street in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, and because he spent seventeen years as an investment banker on Wall Street, he is an expert on its inner workings as well.

Today nearly half of all Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, and income volatility has doubled over the past thirty years. Banks, with their high monthly fees and overdraft charges, are gouging their low- and middle-income customers, while serving only the wealthiest Americans.

Lisa Servon's The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives is an indictment of America’s banks, together with eye-opening dispatches from inside a range of banking alternatives that have sprung up to fill the void. 

In Strangers in Their Own Land, sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream—and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in “red” America.

William W. Goldsmith is Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. He is coauthor of Separate Societies: Poverty and Inequality in U.S. Cities.

In his new book, Saving Our Cities, William W. Goldsmith shows how cities can be places of opportunity rather than places with problems. With strongly revived cities and suburbs, working as places that serve all their residents, metropolitan areas will thrive, thus making the national economy more productive, the environment better protected, the citizenry better educated, and the society more reflective, sensitive, and humane.

Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel is Behold the Dreamers. It chronicles a young Cameroonian couple making a new live in New York just as the great recession of the 2000s upends the economy. The novel explores marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trap-doors in the American Dream. 

Government aid doesn’t always go where it’s supposed to. Foster care agencies team up with companies to take disability and survivor benefits from abused and neglected children. States and their revenue consultants use illusory schemes to siphon Medicaid funds intended for children and the poor into general state coffers. Child support payments for foster children and families on public assistance are converted into government revenue. And the poverty industry keeps expanding, leaving us with nursing homes and juvenile detention centers that sedate residents to reduce costs and maximize profit, local governments buying nursing homes to take the facilities’ federal aid while the elderly languish with poor care, and counties hiring companies to mine the poor for additional funds in modern day debtor’s prisons.

In The Poverty Industry, Daniel L. Hatcher shows us how state governments and their private industry partners are profiting from the social safety net, turning America’s most vulnerable populations into sources of revenue.

  Charles Wheelan is the author of the best-selling Naked Statistics and Naked Economics and is a former correspondent for The Economist. He teaches public policy and economics at Dartmouth College.

Consider the $20 bill.

It has no more value, as a simple slip of paper, than Monopoly money. Yet even children recognize that tearing one into small pieces is an act of inconceivable stupidity. What makes a $20 bill actually worth twenty dollars? In Naked Money, Charles Wheelan uses this seemingly simple question to open the door to the surprisingly colorful world of money and banking.

  For decades, conversations about poverty have focused on jobs, public assistance, parenting, and mass incarceration. After years of intense fieldwork and study, Harvard sociologist and 2015 MacArthur “Genius” grant winner Matthew Desmond has come to believe that something fundamental is missing from that picture: how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty.

Desmond says, “Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors, but nearly all of them have a landlord.” The result of his research is the new book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

  What will Great Britain do next?

In today’s Congressional Corner, Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern — a Democrat from the 2nd district — discusses the Brexit vote with WAMC’s Alan Chartock. 

Brexit - Hugh Johnson

Jun 24, 2016
Hugh Johnson
Hugh Johnson

  Nearly every market move over the last two weeks has been attributed to the British referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain with or leave the European Union.

When a poll showed the British might want to leave? Stocks would go down. Then it looked like the U.K. would stay in the political and economic bloc and stocks would bounce up. Now that the U.K. has officially voted in favor of leaving, markets are going wild.

Investors around the world went into crisis mode as British voters chose to leave the European Union in a stunning decision with far-reaching implications. Hugh Johnson of Hugh Johnson Advisors in Albany, New York joins us live in Studio A to discuss the impact of the vote on the world and US economies.

  Runaway inequality is now America’s most critical economic fact of life. In 1970, the ratio of pay between the top 100 CEOs and the average worker was 45 to 1. Today it is a shocking 829 to one! During that time a new economic philosophy set in that cut taxes, deregulated finance, and trimmed social spending. Those policies set in motion a process that greatly expanded the power of financial interests to accelerate inequality. But how exactly does that happen?

In Runaway Inequality, Les Leopold explains the process by which corporation after corporation falls victim to systematic wealth extraction by banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds. It reveals how financial strip-mining puts enormous downward pressure on jobs, wages, benefits, and working conditions, while boosting the incomes of financial elites.

  In Winner-Take-All Politics, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson explained how political elites have enabled and propelled plutocracy.

Now in American Amnesia, they trace the economic and political history of the United States over the last century and show how a viable mixed economy has long been the dominant engine of America’s prosperity.

  Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?

The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against “big government” led to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement. But Jane Mayer shows in her book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.

Bill Owens: Flat Wages?

Sep 8, 2015

Recent jobs data demonstrates that while employment continues to grow, wages have remained flat. There is speculation about the reasons with many economists offering different, but inconclusive analysis.

Stephen Gottlieb: Regression To The Mean

Aug 18, 2015

Social scientists have a phrase, “regression to the mean.” What they mean is that the law of averages eventually fells families, companies or countries that are doing better than average, and eventually lift those doing much worse than the average. Now for all of us who like to say the United States is the best in the world, there is a prospect to consider.

  Richard H. Thaler has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans―predictable, error-prone individuals.

His new book, Misbehaving, accounts the struggle to bring an academic discipline back down to earth and change the way we think about economics, ourselves, and our world.

Richard H. Thaler is a professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and, in 2015, the president of the American Economic Association.

Today in our Ideas Matter segment, we are talking with John Sisko, Professor of Philosophy and Faculty Fellow in the Humanities and Social Sciences at The College of New Jersey, who has been co-directing a yearlong program exploring the topic of economic justice. The program is entitled Exploring Economic Justice: New Jersey, the Nation, and the World.

Dr. Sisko's project has been supported by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, which has allowed a number of political scientists, economists, philosophers, historians, and other humanities scholars, as well as local communities, to weigh in on the topic, leading to conversations, not only about our society's basic values, but also about the ways in which our norms and policies for determining the distribution of economic resources may impact and shape the long-term welfare of our society.

How has America become the most unequal advanced country in the world? And what can we do about it? In the new book The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them, Joseph Stiglitz expands on the diagnosis he offered in his book The Price of Inequality and suggests ways to counter America’s growing problem. 

The Nobel Prize Winning Economist and the best-selling author, Joseph Stiglitz, joins The Roundtable this morning.

    

  Carl Richards is a certified financial planner and a columnist for the New York Times, where he has a weekly “Sketch Guy” column. Carl has been featured on Marketplace Money and is the author of The Behavior Gap.

In his new book, The One-Page Financial Plan: A Simple Way To Be Smart About Your Money, Richards shares the one question that should be at the heart of your personal finance strategy: “Why is money important to me?” The answer is different for everyone, but it’s a solid foundation for making a long-term plan. The fact is, in a single page you can prioritize what you really want in life and figure out how to get there. How much should I really save?

Bill Owens: The Wealth Gap - Solutions

Mar 27, 2015

There has been much chatter out of Washington about the wealth gap with both Democrats and Republicans promoting wildly different perspectives, but not offering much in the way of solutions.

  It’s the American dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success. But, according to our next guest, during the last twenty-five years we have seen a disturbing “opportunity gap” emerge.

Harvard University Public Policy Professor, Robert Putnam, says Americans have believed in the idea that all kids, regardless of their family background, should have a decent chance to improve their lot in life. Putnam says this central tenet of the American dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true than it was.

His new book is: Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Robert Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. Nationally honored as a leading humanist and a renowned scientist, he has written fourteen books and has consulted for the last four US Presidents.

    

  We are all aware of the power of money - how it influences our moods, compels us to take risks, and serves as the yardstick of success. Yet, because we take the daily reality of money so completely for granted, we seldom question how and why it has come to play such a central role in our lives.

In Coined, author Kabir Sehgal casts aside our workaday assumptions about money and takes the reader on a global quest to understand the relationship between money and humankind.

Coined is not only a discussion of the concept of money, but it is also an endlessly fascinating take on the nature of humanity and the inner workings of the mind.

    

  John Hope Bryant is an entrepreneur, author, and advisor and one of the nation’s most recognized empowerment leaders. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies. Recognized as one of Time magazine’s “50 for the Future” leaders, Bryant is the author of Love Leadership and is the only African-American bestselling business author.

He served as chairman of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, Subcommittee on the Underserved and Community Empowerment, and was appointed by President Obama in 2014 as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans.

John Hope Bryant joins us this morning to discuss his new book: How the Poor Can Save Capitalism.

NASA

The rising global financial tide appears to be brushing the shores of upstate New York's economy.

Gasoline at local pumps is under $2.50 a gallon as global oil prices bottom out. The price of milk is down in some stores. Early in 2015, things appear to be looking bright for people's finances.

  The Capital Region Creative Economy Project is an initiative to develop a strategic action plan that identifies the Capital Region’s creative assets and lays out specific activities to leverage those assets.

Their upcoming regional summit will take place on Thursday, November 13 with a keynote address by Nancy L. Zimpher – Chancellor of the State University of New York.

Here to tell us more are Karen Bilowith, President and CEO, the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region; Tom Lloyd, President, Co-Founder and Owner, Adirondack Studios; and Sheena Salvino, Director of Hudson Development Corporation and Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency.

#OccupyAlbany Returns

Jul 14, 2014
WAMC composite photo by Dave Lucas

Local voices of the national Occupy movement came together over the weekend in Albany.

In October 2011, the anti-establishment, anti-corporate movement that began a month earlier on Wall Street reached New York State's seat of political power when an "Occupy" encampment sprung up in Lafayette Park, across the street from the state capitol.

    From ancient currency to Adam Smith, from the gold standard to shadow banking and the Great Recession: a sweeping historical epic that traces the development and evolution of one of humankind’s greatest inventions.

What is money, and how does it work? In Money: The Unauthorized Biography, Felix Martin challenges nothing less than our conventional understanding of money.

  The Great Recession has thrown huge economic chal­lenges at almost all Americans save the super-affluent few, and we are only now beginning to reckon up the human toll it is taking. Down the Up Escalator is an urgent dispatch from the front lines of our vast collective struggle to keep our heads above water and maybe even—someday—get ahead.

Barbara Garson has interviewed an economically and geographically wide variety of Americans to show the painful waste in all this loss and insecurity, and describe how individuals are coping. Her broader historical focus, though, is on the causes and consequences of the long stagnation of wages and how it has resulted in an increasingly desperate reliance on credit and a series of ever-larger bubbles—stocks, technology, real estate. This is no way to run an economy, or a democracy.

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney
Courtesy of the Office of Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney

    Unemployment is a national problem, especially since the recession.

In today’s Congressional Corner, New York representative Sean Patrick Maloney tells WAMC’s Alan Chartock that benefits must be extended to the long-term unemployed.

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