Tag Archives: Economics

Janet Yellen on Income Inequality

On October 17, 2014, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen voice her concerns about student loan debt and record high income inequality. Earlier this week, an hour of The Diane Rehm Show was devoted to Yellen’s comments.

Here is a description of the segment:

Earlier this month Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen spoke of the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and income in this country. She warned that Americans at lower income levels have relatively very little chance to advance, and she questioned whether “this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history”. Some criticized her for stepping so squarely into what many perceive to be a partisan debate. Others argue that recent Fed policies have themselves contributed to the economic divide. Please join us as Senator Elizabeth Warren and three economists discuss what’s driving economic inequality and what, if anything, we should do about it.

GUESTS

Scott Winship: Walter B. Wriston fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research; formerly research manager of the Economic Mobility Project of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Dean Bakerco-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research and blogger, Beat the Press; author of “The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive.”

Elizabeth WarrenU.S. Senator, D, Massachusetts; author of The New York Times bestselling memoir, “A Fighting Chance” (2014)

Edward Kleinbardprofessor of law, University of Southern California Gould School of Law; author of the forthcoming book: “We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money” (October 2014).

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“The Kansas Experiment”

In recent years, Kansas has lived a conservative economic fantasy: dramatically cut taxes.  The most recent Planet Money podcast discusses this economic experiment.

Here is a description of the episode from the NPR website:

Today on the show, a Republican governor lives the dream. He cuts taxes dramatically in his state, and he promises good times ahead. But the good times do not come. Now he’s fighting for his political life.

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Why Textbooks Cost So Much

Recently, the Planet Money podcast tackled a topic relevant to student: the increasing costs of textbooks.

Here is a description of the show from the NPR website:

Prices of new textbooks have been going up like crazy. Faster than clothing, food, cars, and even healthcare.

Listeners have been asking for years why textbooks are getting so expensive. On today’s show, we actually find an answer.

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Michael Pollan on Food and Public Health

Recently, the BBC’s Analysis programme sat down with author Michael Pollan to discuss food policy and public health.

Here is a description of the interview from the BBC’s podcast:

What should we eat? Jo Fidgen talks to the influential American writer Michael Pollan about what food is – and what it isn’t. In an interview before an audience at the London School of Economics and Political Science he criticises the way the food industry has promoted highly-processed products delivering hefty doses of salt, sugar and fat. He believes that the plethora of accompanying health claims have left us more confused than ever about what food really is, where it has come from and its impact on our health and the environment. His solution? To cook at home. He argues that this simple change will guarantee a healthy diet and stop us relying on big food companies to feed us. It is also, he says, a profoundly political act. But is it a realistic proposition for busy working families or simply a middle-class ideology?

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This American Life: Inside the New York Fed

The most recent episode of This American Life provided a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the New York Federal Reserve.

Here is a description of the podcast from the TAL website:

An unprecedented look inside one of the most powerful, secretive institutions in the country. The NY Federal Reserve is supposed to monitor big banks. But when Carmen Segarra was hired, what she witnessed inside the Fed was so alarming that she got a tiny recorder and started secretly taping. ProPublica’s print version.

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Does Our Generation Not “Stand a Chance”?

That was the question being debated on the most recent episode on the Intelligence Squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Binta Niambi Brown (lawyer, startup advisor & human rights advocate) and W. Keith Campbell (University of Georgia Professor of Psychology & co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic Psychology) who argued for the motion; and David D. Burstein (author of Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World & founder of Generation18) and Jessica Grose (journalist & author of Sad Desk Salad), who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

Millennials-growing up with revolutionary technology and entering adulthood in a time of recession-have recently been much maligned. Are their critics right? Is this generation uniquely coddled, narcissistic, and lazy? Or have we let conventional wisdom blind us to their openness to change and innovation, and optimism in the face of uncertainty, which, in any generation, are qualities to be admired?

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May 15, 2014 · 11:05 pm

Freakonomics on Bitcoin

Earlier this year, the Freakonomics Radio Podcast provided its take on the virtual currency bitcoin, in a episode titled “Why Everybody Who Doesn’t Hate Bitcoin Loves It.”

Here is a description of the show from the Freakonomics website: 

After being bombarded by email requests for months, Freakonomics Radio has finally caved and made an episode about Bitcoin. . . . The gist: thinking of Bitcoin as just a digital currency is like thinking about the Internet as just e-mail. Its potential is much more exciting than that.

Bitcoin is often described as “virtual gold” — as well as everything from a “bubble” to a “Ponzi scheme” to “a haven for individuals to buy black market items.” But what excites some people, like Silicon Valley veteran Marc Andreessen, is Bitcoin’s potential as a new technology that could underlie any number of transactions, well beyond the simple swapping of currency.

Andreessen, a Web pioneer, is now on the board of companies like Facebook and eBay. He is not a disinterested observer in the Bitcoin debate: his venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitzhas invested around $50 million in two Bitcoin-related companies, including Coinbase, and Andreessen says they plan to invest much more to enable Bitcoin to go mainstream.

Why such confidence? The reason, Andreessen tells Stephen Dubner, is that Bitcoin is “the solution to a fundamental problem in computer science”:

ANDREESSEN: One of the things … that’s been missing on the Internet for 20 years is kind of a native concept of money…The ability to very easily pay somebody online, the ability to very easily charge for a piece of content, the ability to very easily exchange a digital title, or a digital key, or a digital contract has just been missing because you have no mechanism for establishing trust. And so Bitcoin basically holds the promise of being the first solution to establishing trust over an untrusted network.

Susan Athey, an award-winning economist at Stanford with a background in computer science, is also a big believer in the technology behind Bitcoin; for what it’s worth, Athey advises the company behind Ripple, which is Bitcoin’s top competitor (by market cap):

ATHEY: The beauty of a new currency, which is part of a virtual currency protocol, is that what I’m moving from me to you is just an entry on a secure, public ledger. And that public ledger is maintained by a set of computers all talking to each other using a protocol. So I don’t have to worry about some bank giving me an IOU and then giving that IOU and handing it to another bank. Instead, if I make a transaction over the virtual currency, it’s just an entry in the ledger. So I don’t need a middleman.

New York Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky, who is leading the charge toregulate Bitcoin in the U.S., tells Dubner that he is concerned about the freedom Bitcoin affords to criminals:

LAWSKY: It’s very hard to transport $1 million in hard currency overseas. You can’t just put it in a backpack and get it on a plane very easily. But it is very easy to do that now digitally using Bitcoin.

That said, Lawsky is also excited about the possibilities of a technology like Bitcoin, which could bring down all sorts of transaction fees. This may be bad news for traditional banks, credit-card companies, and other fee-seeking middlemen. But, as Lawsky points out, a lot of other people stand to benefit:

LAWSKY: Right now, there are thousands and thousands of New Yorkers who work hard every day to send money back home to their families in whatever country they’re from…And right now they’re paying fees for those wire transactions each week at the end of the week, 7, 8, 9 percent. And that’s a lot of money for people who often can’t afford it.

A crowd of leading economists, including two Nobel laureates and former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, have bashed Bitcoin. They’ve expressed alarm about the astronomical rise in the digital currency’s value. Marc Andreessen argues that they are missing the larger point:

ANDREESSEN: It’s a little bit like dogs watching TV. It’s like, it’s all very interesting, but like whatever until another dog shows up on screen and then the dog freaks out. Economists, like this stuff is all like, whatever, technology, geek, nerds whateverand then “currency” is the flag. And so the minute the word “currency” shows up, all the economists perk up because if there’s one thing economists are all experts on it’s currency… And they look at it and they say, “Oh my god, people are paying $600 for this thing, it’s just a piece of fake digital currency, people have just lost their minds.” I don’t think that they are looking at the underlying substance.

The episode also addresses a question many of you asked when Freakonomics Radio ran a fund-raising campaignwhy don’t you guys accept Bitcoin?

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May 13, 2014 · 10:35 am