What these small business owners need from Trump Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted during our a live show broadcast from Erie, Pennsylvania. Erie is at the center of our year-long reporting project, “The Big Promise.”
Businesses owners don’t always feel like politicians actually understand what they are going through.
But Joe and Sondralee Orengia, two business owners from Erie, Pennsylvania, have high hopes for the incoming administration. They think that President-elect Donald Trump, as a businessman himself, plans to pave the way for local businesses to be more profitable.
Joe Orengia is an accomplished power-lifter the owner of a Joe’s Gym, heard Trump speak when the candidate was stumping in the area, and he said the president-elect’s message resonated with him. A lot of GE employees were members at his gym, but that has changed since the company’s layoffs a few years ago.
Joe Orengia, owner of Joe's Gym.
“It was exciting, upbeat. We were so excited to hear what he had to say,” he said. “Being there, I agree with pretty much everything he said, especially here in Erie, Pennsylvania. We’ve lost so many manufacturing jobs.”
Despite low unemployment rates, increasing wages and a growing GDP, many of the Americans we’ve talked to have told us that their economic stories haven’t lined up with the numbers. That sentiment resonates with many of the residents of Erie, a county that went from blue to red this last election.
We often talk about how small businesses make up the economic engine of our country. These companies are responsible for two-thirds of new job growth. In July, several business owners told us that they wanted the next president to address their concerns about access to capital, taxes, regulation, export policy and healthcare costs.
That last topic definitely strikes a cord with Sondralee Orengia, who is the owner of Custom Audio, and sells home and car audio systems. She has six full-time employees. She said she wants to see the health care system be reformed.
“It’s very expensive," she said, referring to Obamacare. "It’s very difficult to afford insurance for all my employees and that makes me really sad...it means a lot to me to offer that to my staff and it's been very difficult.”
Joe Orengia became a Trump supporter after reading Trump’s book, “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again.” To Joe, the book helped him understand Trump as a business man. And after talking about the candidate at his gym, “Pump for Trump” t-shirts were born.
Trump's win has made Joe Orengia optimistic. He said his small gym got four new members the week after election.
"So, it's picking up already," he said.
His wife is a bit more cautious, but still hopeful. Does she think Trump can turn things around for Erie?
"I don't know," Sondralee Orengia said. "I think he believes he can do it, absolutely. I believe he has every intention to fulfill his promises." (01/19/2017)
Erie's population bolstered by immigrants Editor's Note: This interview was conducted during our a live show broadcast from Erie, Pennsylvania. Erie is at the center of our year-long reporting project, “The Big Promise.”
In small-town Erie, where the population hovers around 100,000, there has been an influx of new residents: immigrants. They make up 20 percent of the town's population, and many are refugees. So President-elect Donald Trump's promises to make sharp cuts in the number of immigrants in the U.S. has sparked fear in some people living and working here.
Bassam Dabbah is one of Erie's residents who immigrated here from Jordan after leaving his native Syria. He's an American citizen, "proudly!" he said.
Dabbah works as a translator and is also a small business owner. His wife, who's from Israel, is a chef in town, and two of his four children were born in the U.S. The morning after the election, he said, his daughter woke up and asked him, "Dad, do we have to leave the country?"
"I told her, 'No, you were born here. This is our home, we're not leaving," he said. "We're hard workers, we have to flee our country, we don't have choices —we're not terrorists."
Still, Dabbah said many in the immigrant community in Erie are fearful after the rhetoric of the campaign. "They are happy to have their children in a safe place, but don't know what will happen tomorrow."
Dylanna Jackson is a director of a resettlement program in Erie.
"The conversation is whether they're going to be forced to leave or not," said Dylanna Jackson. She's director of the International Institute, a refugee resettlement agency in Erie. Jackson said community members in Erie have been supportive of her clients, volunteering their help in recent months.
"We've seen new people reaching out, saying, 'We don't agree with what's going on.'"
But Jackson's also worried about what the new administration's policies could mean for her clients, and her agency. She said she's worried that if fewer refugees come into the city, there won't be as much need for the Institute's services, endangering the jobs of her 200 staffers. (01/19/2017)
How does a manufacturing town remake itself for a new economy? Editor's Note: This interview was conducted during our a live show broadcast from Erie, Pennsylvania. Erie is at the center of our year-long reporting project, “The Big Promise.”
When a city loses jobs the way Erie has, you have a workforce without enough work. That sounds like a simple formula but it brings a lot of problems.
"We are struggling, we're trying to remake ourselves," said Janet Anderson, with the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board. "We are looking at ways to retrain some of the workforce but our workforce, in many cases, is older. So do you retrain them, or do you bring in new manufacturing jobs to sustain those individuals until retirement?"
GE has been the biggest employer in this town for years. But trade deals and shifting needs have meant GE and other companies here have gotten rid of "family-sustaining jobs" with high pay and good benefits, said GE welder Scott Slawson. He's president of Local 506 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, and was born and raised in Erie.
"This is a great town. I love it here," he said. "I got a huge body of fresh water out there, the worst thing we've got to worry about around here is big snowstorms."
GE welder Scott Slawson, president of Local 506 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.
For union workers, sticking around means going through retraining programs for workers laid off due to free trade agreements. They need additional math and other new skills to work in high-tech manufacturing. That's a process, Anderson said.
"You know sometimes you have to have the floor fall out to pick yourself up," she said. "I wouldn't say we are there. What I would say is that we are at a place where opportunity really is out there for us. So we're looking at marketing this work force, we're not looking at sending them away."
Of course, this dynamic is a lot of what Donald Trump spent his campaign railing against. He's promised to make new, better deals and impose stiff tariffs for countries that won't parlay. But Slawson said he's not sure he wants the president-elect ripping up trade agreements. He worries about what a trade war will do to consumer goods and the economy writ-large.
"I'm not looking for anything," from Trump, he said. "We're doing it ourselves. We were doing it before he came along, and we'll be doing it after he's gone." (01/19/2017)
If manufacturing jobs can't come back, what happens next? Editor's Note: This interview was conducted during our a live show broadcast from Erie, Pennsylvania. Erie is at the center of our year-long reporting project, “The Big Promise.”
Erie is no stranger to losing manufacturing jobs. For years, GE transportation was the largest employer in the region until it cut 1,500 jobs in 2015. That accounted for an entire percentage point of the county's unemployment rate.
"Jobs" is a word that helped define President-elect Donald Trump's campaign. He went around America telling people that he would bring manufacturing jobs back to places like Erie, Pennsylvania. After voting for President Barack Obama two elections in a row, Erie County flipped for Trump in 2016.
Those who voted for Trump in Erie believe that he will try to bring these jobs back. However, a lot of jobs like that don't exist anymore. The jobs that do exist face other obstacles like low wages and possible relocation.
So what happens now? To get some answers Marketplace Host Kai Ryssdal talked to Kenneth Louie, an associate professor of economics at Penn State Behrend and director of the Economic Institute of Erie. Below is a transcript of their conversation.
Kai Ryssdal: So test our hypothesis that Erie is a good place from which to draw larger lessons about this economy in the coming four or maybe eight years.
Kenneth Louie: I think Erie is an excellent place to draw such lessons because we are fairly representative of many similar cities across the so-called Rust Belt that have suffered tremendously from the traumatic loss of manufacturing jobs in the early 1950s. Manufacturing jobs made up more than 50 percent of total employment, about 50,000 jobs. Now it's down to about 20,000 jobs — less than 20 percent of total employment. So like other similar cities in that situation, we've really been suffering. But the good news is that much of the academic literature suggests that the cause of those job losses are much more attributable to technological advancement. And so the good news is that to the extent, we want to implement policies to help those workers who are suffering.
Ryssdal: All right, so talk to me for a second about those workers — because we have had a lack of specifics from the president-elect and his team about what he is going to do other than the broad strokes of protectionism tariffs and bringing jobs back. Were you to get a phone call from Mr. Trump tomorrow night before his inaugural, what would you say? What is to be done about these jobs that the market has other plans for?
Louie: In my opinion, the best types of policies are those that provide assistance to American workers to adapt to those rapid technological changes, things like job retraining education, early childhood education get kids started early — those kinds of things that help us adapt to those technological advances are, in my opinion, much more likely to be effective as opposed to, let's say, trade restrictive policies.
Ryssdal: Somebody suggested to one of our producers this morning that the example that Erie is shooting for is the Pittsburgh example, which of course had steel, went horribly downhill after the steel industry shut down, but now has come back largely on the backs of health care, which is a major industry in this town. Do you buy that comparison?
Louie: Yes, to a very large extent. In fact, I'll just give you a couple of quick examples right here at Penn State Erie campus. We have a complex called Knowledge Park and we are attracting entrepreneurs and major companies that are collaborating with our faculty and students to provide those next generation of jobs.
Ryssdal: Also not for nothing. Plastics engineering, right? That's a huge thing that goes on...
Louie: Exactly. Yes.
Ryssdal: Does the economy exist in Erie that will allow the jobs Mr. Trump is talking about to come back?
Louie: Once again, if the true culprit is technological advance then it's unlikely that we will see a resurgence in the more traditional kinds of manufacturing jobs. But as I mentioned, companies locally like Cybersonics, which produce a sophisticated medical equipment, SKF Aerospace, which produces sophisticated parts for the aerospace industry — those kinds of manufacturing jobs which require more training are likely to lead the future.
Ryssdal: Are you economically hopeful, as a guy who studies this stuff?
Louie: Absolutely. And judging from what you heard from our earlier guests, one of the best assets we have in this area are people who are so dedicated to the region, who are enthusiastic about Erie and who are such great advocates for for our region.
Ryssdal: Spitball it for me, if we come back in a year, has anything changed?
Louie: It's always hard to forecast the future. But I would say I am modestly optimistic because the worst seems to have been in the past year and a half when we had rather substantial layoffs at GE and other manufacturers. But that seems to have been tapering off, jobs have held steady at about 20, 300 in manufacturing for the past three months. (01/19/2017)
Apple Music’s push toward original content Any streaming service worth its salt has millions of songs on demand, but the problem is that all of the services out there have the same songs.
Now, to differentiate itself, Apple Music will offer original video.
In 2015, Apple launched it as a $10-per-month streaming service, which quickly became a big competitor with companies such as Pandora and Spotify.
“Apple has a long history of using music an entryway into a new business model or business practice," said Aram Sinnreich, a communications professor at American University in Washington, D.C.
As the business model shifts away from downloads, Sinnreich said it makes sense for Apple to find new customers through a much broader range of media on demand.
“Get them kind of hooked into your infrastructure and payment system, and have them walk around in your walled garden, and then you hit them with the good stuff," he said.
If that "good stuff" is, in fact, video, then that sounds a whole lot like Netflix or Amazon.
“Apple may go there someday," said Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies. "But I think what we’re seeing is perhaps them tip-toeing there and exploring the waters of original video content.”
Apple has already started shooting an original TV series called “Planet of the Apps.” And the company has confirmed that more scripted content is in the pipeline. (01/19/2017)
01/19/17: How would Steven Mnuchin handle a financial crisis? Financial crises tend to come around every seven years — which means one may be overdue. We'll look at how Trump's treasury secretary pick, Steven Mnuchin, would handle a period of financial turmoil. Next, we'll explore how Dubai is using the sport of squash to cultivate relationships with major financial institutions.
Bills in two states push to eliminate tenure If you want to stir up some disagreement when talking about higher education, just start talking about tenure, which essentially provides professors permanent employment. The subject has long been a source of controversy.
Just weeks into 2017, two states have already introduced bills to eliminate tenure from public colleges and universities. Missouri’s proposed law would bar tenure for new professors hired starting next year. Iowa’s bill would eliminate tenure for all of its professors.
To advocates of tenure, its necessity is clear.
“The primary argument for tenure is that it protects academic freedom,” said Hans-Joerg Tiede, who focuses on tenure and academic freedom for the American Association of University Professors.
“Faculty members still are under attack for their speech, for what they say in the classroom, for what they publish and what they say in the public arena," Tiede said.
There may also be a market argument for keeping tenure, said Richard Chait, a professor emeritus of Harvard’s School of Education.
“It would create an enormous competitive disadvantage in the recruitment of faculty," Chait said.
Chait said he finds many problems with the way tenure is handled, including the difficulty schools can have eliminating unpopular or outdated programs taught by tenured staff.
"I have a rather notorious history as a critic of tenure, but I don’t think the solution is to abandon the idea," Chait said.
He said it would be a mistake to eliminate tenure entirely.
"I don’t think the university is suddenly better, and in fact, over time I think it runs the risk that it could be materially worse,” he added.
Chait said the push by some states to end tenure isn't surprising, considering the current political climate.
“There’s a certain circadian rhythm to these initiatives," he said. "They seem to arise about every 10 or 15 years, usually in the aftermath of some political tumult.”
Richard Vedder, an emeritus economics professor at Ohio University, has also criticized tenure. He said he sees value in offering teachers higher pay instead. Still, Vedder said he disagrees with states having a say in how colleges and universities manage tenure, preferring to let schools decide.
And, he said, fewer faculty are receiving tenure anyway.
“Tenure is declining in its dominance in higher education as an increasing percentage of faculty are hired either as adjuncts or part-time faculty, or are hired on a non-tenured basis,” Vedder said. (01/19/2017)
Why mud cracks on Mars matter The Mars rover Curiosity recently discovered what may be mud cracks on the surface of the planet — evidence that water existed on Mars billion of years ago.
The rover examined what looked like “slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges,” in an area called “Old Soaker,” according to NASA. These could be the first mud cracks confirmed by Curiosity, but the rover previously found evidence of ancient lakes on Mars in 2015.
Nathan Bridges, co-investigator from the mission, spoke with Marketplace’s Mark Garrison about the Curiosity’s latest discovery and what it’s like to work on Martian time. Below is an edited transcript.
Mark Garrison: So, how big a deal are these new discoveries?
A screenshot of the Mars Science Laboratory time converter that NASA scientists use to change Mars time to Earth time.
Nathan Bridges: I think they're pretty important. We’ve known that water was present on Mars in its ancient history, but these are very good confirmations that we had long standing bodies of water, like lakes, and then they dried up — the mud at the bottom of the lake cracked, forming the cracks we see in the surface.
Garrison: So looking at the cracks, and new information, what does that tell us about what the area looked like around 3 billion years ago?
Bridges: In some respects, it’d be similar to Earth — maybe Earth in a desert — where it’s dry and yet you do have lakes, and as in a desert, the lakes don’t stay yearlong, but eventually these lakes dried up. We can’t say for sure that there was life on Mars, but we do know that water is fundamental to the evolution of life as we know it. Better we can understand that, as revealed in the ancient rocks we’ve looked at — better we can understand the possibilities of that there could have been environments conducive to life on Mars.
Garrison: Now, we understand that you don't drive the rover at night, and of course the Mars day is a little different than here on Earth. You mentioned before that you and your team have to work a “Martian day.” How does that work out?
Bridges: When we were first getting started, we did live on a Martian day. The Mars day is about 40 minutes longer than Earth’s day, so each work day of the week on Earth, we would start it 40 minutes later. You can imagine, you would start out at a normal time, say 9 a.m., but after a few days you’re working quite late at night. So that was challenging, albeit it was fun because it was new and exciting.
Single-parent families could see higher taxes under Trump Who benefits and who loses when the federal tax system gets an overhaul?
New York University professor Lily Batchelder has looked at how Trump's tax plan might affect the individual's pocketbook, finding that tax cuts for the wealthy could end up being proportionally larger than those for low- and middle-class families.
Batchelder, also once the deputy director of the National Economic Council, joined us to break down what his plan means for different income brackets.
The following transcript has been lightly edited.
David Brancaccio: How will it affect our pocketbooks?
Lily Batchelder: Just to go through a couple examples, let's say you're a family earning $10,000 to $20,000 — so maybe you're a full-time minimum wage worker. Under his plan, you'd receive a tax cut on average of $120. Then if you're lucky enough to be a family earning over a million dollars, your average tax cut would be about $317,000, which is more than 14 percent of your income. So as a share of your income, the tax cut for millionaires is about 18 times larger. But there are also millions of individual families who would see their taxes go up under his plan. Single-parent families would face a tax increase if their income's between $20,000 and $200,000 according to the Tax Policy Center.
Brancaccio: Now you and I are here looking at the specifics and doing the accounting here. But more broadly, Donald Trump insists that he will tell congressional committees drafting his plan that whatever they do, they're not allowed to raise taxes for lower middle-income Americans. Maybe that pressure from the bully pulpit will, from the perspective of lower-income Americans, fix this.
Batchelder: So I think it's very possible that any tax package could fix this problem of tax increases. But it wouldn't fix the problem that the plan is heavily skewed towards tax cuts for the most wealthy, and that's the case in the House Republican plan as well. They get three quarters of the value of all of the tax cuts.
Brancaccio: So what do you make of it when you see the person tapped by the Trump team to become the next treasury secretary — Steven Mnuchin was on TV saying there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class. There will be a big tax cut for the middle class, but any tax cuts we have for the upper class will be offset by less deductions. I mean, that was a pretty stark promise.
Batchelder: It is fundamentally different from what either President-elect Trump or the House Republican plan have proposed. But if they are interested in entirely shifting their plan, I think that would be great to target the benefits on low- and middle-income households. (01/19/2017)
Squash tournaments can lead sponsors to coveted clients Inside a giant glass cube in the Vanderbilt Hall of Grand Central Station, two world-ranked squash players are running, swatting, lunging and turning on a dime as fans and travelers look on. Behind the scenes in the VIP room, sponsors are sharing drinks and talking business.
Ziad Al-Turki is the chairman of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and a self-described Squash Junkie.
“We all laugh that we’re not squash players we’re squash users,” Al-Turki said.
The New York Tournament of Champions, held Jan. 12-19 and sponsored by J.P. Morgan, is one of a series held around the world in iconic settings. Al-Turki calls the setup a tournament in a box.
“It’s probably one of the advantages it has over any sport,” Al-Turki said, “Because it’s a cube and you can just drop it anywhere you want.”
The PSA hosts tournaments in extravagant locations like the Pyramids in Cairo and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Sir Hugh Robertson is with Falcon and Associates, which represents Dubai’s business interests.
“One of the reasons that this tournament is so attractive to Dubai, as the Middle East’s financial center, is the ability to form a much closer alliance with New York, which clearly operates as the primary financial hub here in the United States,” Robertson said.
Dubai has sponsored squash tournaments in the past. Robertson said the ongoing relationship gives Dubai access, not just to the major financial institutions, but also to young talent in prestigious U.S. schools where squash is a traditionally popular sport.
“The links that it gives Dubai to universities such as Yale, such as Harvard, the traditional Ivy League colleges,” Robertson said.
Chairman Al-Turki said despite all of the grand production – there are scores of cameras, projection screens, led displays and music — the intimate nature of the game allows sponsors unprecedented access to a niche clientele.
“You’ve got a few hundred captive audience that are exactly your target customers,” Al-Turki said. “You can reach out to them, you can touch them and you can introduce them to the product.”
A "product" that might be an investment bank, a new car, or a new place to do business on the other side of the world. (01/18/2017)
Will U.S. contribution to U.N. Green Climate Fund be its last? In one of its last acts, the Obama administration has contributed $500 million to a United Nations fund that will help developing countries deal with climate change. That brings the total contributed by the U.S. to $1 billion — which sounds like a lot. Is it? (01/18/2017)
Aluminum lawsuit underscores troubled trade relations between U.S. and China The Obama administration last week launched a new allegation with the World Trade Organization against Chinese aluminum subsidies. It accused Beijing of using cheap state-directed loans and subsidized energy to artificially expand its global market share.
No matter how this complaint turns out, it provides the president-elect another ready sledgehammer with which to batter China. (01/18/2017)
Japan standardizes toilet buttons to accommodate foreign tourists If you've ever traveled to Japan, you've probably been amazed by the fancy toilet seats. They are hyper-efficient and hyper-futuristic.
Toto is the best-known brand. But when tourists were surveyed in 2014, according to The Wall Street Journal, a quarter of foreign users said that they didn't understand the various buttons nor their respective functions on a typical Toto toilet.
So, the makers of the high-tech toilets have announced plans to standardize the buttons — using a new set of logos created by the Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association — to make things easier on the tourists.
Do high-deductible plans make the health care system better? Congressman Tom Price, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head up the Department of Health and Human Services, faced his first Senate confirmation hearing today.
While he was light on the specifics of what the incoming Trump administration wants to replace Obamacare with, he did say, "I think health savings accounts and high-deductible catastrophic coverage are things that make a whole lot of sense for many individuals, and we ought not force anybody to do anything. It ought to be a voluntary choice, but they ought to have the choice to be able to select them."
Those high-deductible or “catastrophic” plans work like this: you pay most of your own medical bills up to a specific amount — usually thousands of dollars — before your insurance kicks in. Price, and congressional Republicans say they’re a big part of what should replace Obamacare. And it’s not just the GOP who likes them; Democrats and employers have also embraced these plans. But here’s a complication: researchers do not know if high-deductible plans actually lead to good health care.
It's a question that preoccupies Dr. Ashish Jha, a physician and health policy professor at Harvard University. In fact, Jha is so concerned with how high-deductible plans influence health care that he's conducting a very personal experiment: Jha switched his own family to one of these plans.
Dr. Ashish Jha and his wife Deborah Stump.
"I thought…it would be really useful, as a family, to know what it actually feels like to have to pay for everything out of pocket at least until you hit your deductible," said Jha.
Now, he and his family are on the hook for everything from prescriptions to caring for the odd cast of strep throat, until they've spent $6,000 — that's the cap on their plan.
"High-deductible health plans are supposed to make the healthcare system work better. And none of us has the exact right answer for what American health care needs to look like," Jha said.
What experts like Jha have known for decades is that people on high-deductible plans spend less on their health care. And that's not necessarily a good thing. It makes a big difference, for example, what a consumer cuts back on. Some expenses can be wasteful, like buying name-brand drugs when a generic alternative is available. Others can be critical, like the expense of a cardiologist appointment.
Families also face the question of whose care they're willing to spend less on. Dr. Jha's wife, Deb Stump, says they learned about this first hand when their son needed a follow-up appointment after surgery.
"In the past, I would have just called and made the appointment," Stump said. "But this time, because it was a specialist, I was pretty sure it was going to be quite expensive."
When it came to their son, though, spending the money seemed to be worthwhile.
"I sat on it for a while and I called Ashish [Jha]... and Ashish said [our son] should probably just have the follow-up," Stump said. "So we had a probably two minute visit — and it ended up costing $465."
For Jha and Stump, and tens of thousands of families like them, this is the new normal. High-deductible plans push people to shop around for health treatments, often without the benefit of information on quality and price. That worries Amitabh Chandra, an economist and health care researcher at Harvard University.
"Simply calling the patient a consumer doesn’t make buying health care anything like buying cars and computers," said Chandra.
In fact, Chandra’s research shows that even higher-income earners with more economic flexibility do not really shop for health care efficiently, even when they're given a state-of-the-art computer program to compare prices. People on these plans tend to forgo all sorts of care, regardless of their own need and health status.
"Prevention, imaging, or drugs — consumers were cutting back on all those. And that’s a sign they don’t really know what care is valuable and what care isn’t valuable," said Chandra.
In health care research, a new consensus is forming, in part because of Chandra’s work: high-deductible plans with cheaper premiums work well for people who are generally healthy. But for those who are chronically ill or live on lower incomes, these plans can be a disaster. At any income level, in fact, they incentivize the consumer to cut back on care they may need. It could have been a disaster for Jha. He has a heart condition that occasionally causes spikes in his heartbeat.
"Imagine running as fast as you can and your heart is racing. Just imagine that continues for minutes and minutes," said Jha. "It’s not a great feeling."
These episodes usually pass quickly. But the most recent one, which Jha experienced after a bruising international business trip, was a particularly bad bout. At half-an-hour, his heart was still racing. After an hour, his wife urged Jha to go to the Emergency Room.
"And I was resisting it. She actually asked me, 'if a patient of yours called you with this, what would you recommend to them?' And I said, ‘oh, yeah, that’s easy. Go to the [Emergency Department],'" Jha said.
Though he knew he could be experiencing a heart attack, Jha didn’t want to spend $2,000 or more getting checked out in the ER — even though he said he could afford that. In retrospect, Jha said he should have gone to the hospital.
"But, you know, I knew there was a big bill waiting for me if I did, and I rolled the dice," he said.
Jha got lucky. After an hour his heart rate began to slow.
But his experiment, putting his family on a high-deductible plan, is helping him see the reality of what many health care researchers are finding: these plans can put people in difficult positions. Sometimes, in fact, they can force people to make decisions as if they were their own doctor; and that’s something even a physician struggled to do for himself. (01/18/2017)
Companies try to avoid the Trump Twitter treatment It's not even Inauguration Day yet, but we're getting a pretty clear sense of President-elect Donald Trump's negotiating style with corporate America. His tweets have chastised manufacturers like Carrier, GM and Ford for outsourcing jobs, prompting those companies to promise to add or retain jobs domestically. And now several others are promising expansions and investments before the Trump Tweet hammer falls. But some corporate expansion plans were made before the election, including GM's and Walmart's. So how much of a boon is this really to the job market? (01/18/2017)
Union City: a town waiting on Trump's promises On Tuesday, we introduced you to Erie County, Pennsylvania, where constituents in November voted for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time since 1984.
It's the start of "The Big Promise," our yearlong reporting project based in Erie. What happens in a place where the economy's changing, manufacturing jobs have left and those voters are counting on the promises the president-elect made during the campaign?
Today, we're visiting Union City, Pennsylvania — population 3,300, located in the rural outskirts of Erie County.
In small towns like Union City, there's always a place where the locals gather. Here, it's Ma-Donna's restaurant, where the motto is "Enter a stranger, leave a friend."
Tonette Diffenbacher, co-owner of Ma-Donna's with her sister, has lived in Erie County her whole life — like many of the people we've met in Erie County.
When asked how she's feeling about things, she replied, "I'm hoping that they're going to think about the little people, taxwise, economy. Get some jobs in here. Stuff like that. I'm not real sure how that's going to happen. There's just so many things in this town that are now gone. There used to be several big businesses in town."
Union City once called itself "the chair capital of the world." Manufacturers like Ethan Allen made furniture here, and boats and tools, but most of those companies have left, taking hundreds of jobs in the city with them.
Every morning at 8 o'clock, a group sits down at what Diffenbacher affectionately called the "Troyer table."
Members of the Troyer table at Ma-donna's Restaurant.
The group consists of dairy farmer Merv Troyer; his brother and local realtor, Norm Troyer; William Mitchell, who works in the oil and gas industry; taxidermist Blaine Blakeslee; and fourth-generation funeral director Bob Glenn. They sit around the table and have the same conversations that are happening across the country.
"The election was a revolt. Absolute revolt," Norm Troyer said.
But Bob Glenn has doubts about Trump.
"He can show his golden palace where he lives and talk about how rich he is and all this and that, but he's never made an effort to pay back the companies that he left bankrupt," Glenn said. "That's where I have my reservations, specifically because he's come out and said, 'We're going to keep jobs in this country.'"
Norm points to the economic disconnect that made Trump popular in places like Union City.
"The coastal areas, they have their cozy little deals going on, but you don't make $30 an hour in our town," he said. "More like $10, $15, if you're lucky to have a job.... He represents more of us, the common, ordinary person. We have to hitch our wagon to that hope that this revolution can bring something to us ... all of us."
Down on the other end of Main Street, there was a sign welcoming visitors to town, a sign that Union City native Brian Maynard said sums up what happened to Union City:
Left: Union City's former “Welcome Chair.” Right: An abandoned chair factory in Union City.
"Down by the diner, right across the street from the diner, there used to be a chair. It was the welcome chair for Union City because we were the chair capital of the world," he said. "As things started to go downhill a little bit, then we replaced that with this boat because we also made boats there. Then after they quit making boats there, then we put a little plaque there with a list of all the businesses in Union City. When the businesses started going under, now we've just got a thing that says, 'Welcome Union City.'"
Maynard used to work in some of the factories that made those chairs. Now, he works the overnight shift in a potato chip factory for $10 an hour. On the side, he runs the Union City Historical Society Museum and DJs at the radio station — classic rock, mostly.
Maynard's nearing 60, and while retirement should be on the horizon, "I'll probably have to hit the lottery to do that," he said.
He's a Trump voter, "fiercely proud of it," because he believes Trump will bring jobs back to Union City. That decision, it turns out, puts him at odds with some of his family.
Union City residents Brian Maynard and father Harold Maynard.
Brian's dad, Harold, 85, is one of them.
"I'm a Republican, but I voted for Clinton because I looked at the people that were supporting Trump," Harold said. "The language that they use — the gutter language they use on the streets today, or in public or wherever, was exactly what Donald Trump was feeding with the people."
Asked about Brian's work situation, he replied, "Making 10 bucks an hour is a little better than he had, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it's better than nothing," Brian said.
Better than nothing, but Brian Maynard wants more for himself and his hometown. He wants what he was promised by Trump: a return back to the way they used to be.
Tomorrow, our series "The Big Promise" airs live from Erie, Pennsylvania, at the Brewerie. If you're in town, come on by. (01/18/2017)
01/18/17: Trade, Trump and the theater Trump's nominee for Secretary of Commerce, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, has a lot of opinions on trade. Philip Levy, from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, breaks down what the department actually does when it comes to that issue. Next, we'll talk about Trump's relationship with our currency and the markets. The U.S. dollar fell to its lowest level in weeks after he said it was too strong. Is volatility something we need to get used to? Plus: a look at Woody Harrelson's plan to direct and star in a livestreamed film called "Lost in London." (01/18/2017)
Live from London: It’s Woody Harrelson In an effort to boost movie theater attendance on weekdays, Fathom Entertainment on Thursday will live stream “Lost In London,” a one-hour live movie shot by Woody Harrelson. Strong ticket sales could make a difference to this small but growing segment of the movie theater business.
Click the above audio player to hear the full story. (01/18/2017)
Let’s do the numbers: the cost of inauguration President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration celebration Friday may cost millions of dollars, but American taxpayers aren’t footing the entire bill.
“The taxpayer pays for everything surrounding the actual ceremony that's involved with swearing in the president,” Washington Post reporter Roxanne Roberts told us. “But all the things that we typically think of as part of an inaugural — parade, the balls, the fancy parties — are privately funded by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.”
To pay for the rest those costs for this year’s event, the committee turned to Trump’s wealthy friends, Roberts reported in early December. The committee has raised $90 million in private donations as of last week, Roberts said.
Taxpayers will pick up the tab for the rest.
“The biggest cost on the bill is taxpayer cost — all the stuff that makes sure this gets pulled off without a hitch,” she said.
So how much will everything cost? Some estimates are difficult to determine because Congress appropriates the funds in chunks, Roberts said. But based on previous inaugurations, the event could cost about $200 million.
They’ll also be other expenses, of course. Hotels and businesses stand to make plenty of money off festivities and protests.
Here’s what Roberts told us about some of the money floating around Washington this week:
$2 million for the swear-in. It turns out the actual swearing-in ceremony and subsequent lunch make up a tiny portion of the budget.
$100 million for personnel costs. Roberts said a big ticket item will be the cost of security. “The police, the security, the logistics, the military, all the equipment that is involved in making sure that this gets pulled off without a hitch,” she said. “Washington officially shuts down that day. And so it's all the salaries for the people that get that day off. So it's a great big number.”
$90 million in private donations. Roberts had estimated that the committee would only need to raise about $65 or $70 million to have a comparable inauguration to President Barack Obama’s first event. Obama’s committee raised $53 million in 2009 and then $44 million for his second inauguration in 2013. Roberts said second inaugurations are typically “a little less glitzy.” Trump’s committee has exceeded estimates, raising $90 million with a week to go.
A free concert, or $1 million dinner. The Presidential Inaugural Committee’s private donations pay for any costs associated with the parade or the concert. Roberts said there’s a welcome ceremony that is free to the public at Lincoln Memorial, but for the top donors, “a very fancy candle dinner,” with packages that run upwards of $1 million.
$50 tickets to the ball. The committee has said that it will sell a limited number of $50 tickets for the balls, according to Roberts. “But honestly I don't expect to see a ton of those even though they say they're expecting 30,000 people at the two official balls,” she said. “That will include people from around the country, and they're expecting another 2,500 to a military ball saluting their armed forces.”
$10,000 for a luxury hotel room. Any hotel that isn’t filled with Trump supporters is filled with protesters. “You know, usually the losers stay home and they feel bad,” Roberts said. “But this time they're coming into town so all the other hotels and restaurants and other services are being filled up by people who are coming in town to protest this inauguration.” Some luxury hotel rooms are going as high as $10,000 a night and they’re all sold out, including the Trump Hotel," according to Roberts. When she asked hotel staff how much the rooms cost, they wouldn’t say. “I'm guessing that sold out in a flash," she said. “But most of the top hotels have four or five night minimums. And so there they're making what they always do, which is a killing off this.” (01/18/2017)
Donald Trump’s breaks with the GOP on a border tax President-elect Donald Trump has said he wants a big border tax on imported goods to encourage corporations to set up factories in the U.S. Republican leaders in Congress don't love the idea, and they've come up with their own plan.
It’s called a border-adjusted tax. However, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump said the GOP plan is too complicated, opening a potential rift with the party. (01/17/2017)
Thanks to "La La Land," Hollywood is back in the musical business If you're tired of superhero sequels and "Star Wars" dominating the box office, get ready for an onslaught of musicals. Hollywood has been afraid of the genre for decades, but thanks to some recent successes, execs are changing their tune. According to the New York Times, studios have at least 20 new musicals in the works. "La La Land" is the most recent success story, and it may have opened the floodgates. After taking home a bunch of Golden Globes, it's an Oscar favorite. Plus, it's made $132 million worldwide, even though it cost just $30 million to make. (01/17/2017)
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education nominee, is in the hot seat President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is in the hot seat this evening, the latest Cabinet pick to face a Senate confirmation hearing. DeVos is a billionaire whose family has given millions of dollars to support conservative Christian causes and Republican politicians, including five senators on the committee overseeing the confirmation process. Though she has no experience working in schools, DeVos has had a long career as an education activist, pushing for more choice for families who want to opt their kids out of traditional public schools. (01/17/2017)
Autodesk CEO on 3D printing and human inferiority A lot of the things around us — cars and the planes and buildings — were designed using a piece of software called AutoCAD. The 'CAD' stands for Computer Aided Design. And the program has been the go-to for designers since the 80s. It used to be the most-used design software in the world. Now, decades after its founding, Autodesk has expanded from helping people make buildings to helping people make all kinds of things with the help of 3D printers.
Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass on why 3D printing is a good investment:
So 3D printing is this really interesting thing that’s developed over the last handful of years. It really got popular. Its definitely like all kinds of other technology in that it’s been around 25 years but turned into an overnight sensation in the last few years... It got a lot of press around consumer uses of it I’ve always kind of poo pooed that and really thought that the real use was industrial uses. When you are 3D printing it doesn’t care how complicated the shape is. So my 3D printer will make the most complicated thing or a simple cube and its relatively indifferent to which one its printing. So you know its like shape complexity comes for free with 3D printing.
On how 3D technology will develop in the next few years:
I think serious manufacture are all evaluating 3D printing and have figured out the right place for it. So if you look at how I think it will evolve it will go from these real specialized one-off products to products that you make in small limited runs. It’s not yet price competitive with the traditional intensive manufacturing techniques. So in the places where you need something special, you need something custom, 3D printing is ideal for that.
On why computers are better at solving problems than people:
Essentially people, all of us when we go to design something we often go out and do it and will make one or we’ll have three designs and…then we run out of time or money or patience and we say good enough. The computer doesn’t get bored in that same way. It doesn’t run out of time so you can literally test millions of versions and get a much better answer. So really what we are doing is automating the building of these prototypes.
On whether the technology industry should feel guilt for eliminating jobs through innovation:
You know I think the tech industry needs to take real responsibility for that. First of all -you know it’s just one of those five step programs – I think it starts with acknowledging that many of the things that us in the tech industry do in particularly on these more technical things .. you know because I’m not sure if Snap Chat is creating job loss. Its making us a lot more inefficient at our jobs but it’s not necessarily losing jobs. Whereas more serious technical software, we are definitely taking expertise and putting it into software in a way that you can broadly distribute that digital information and have that expertise anywhere in the world. So I think there is a real and kind of special responsibility that the tech industry has about acknowledging that its contributing to it and then helping in ways that could potentially solve that.
Click the audio player above to hear the full interview. (01/17/2017)
'The Founder' tells the contentious story of how McDonald's became a fast-food giant Ray Kroc is the man behind McDonald’s unprecedented rise from local burger joint fast food giant, but he didn’t come up with the idea that was the McDonalds brothers. John Lee Hancock’s new film “The Founder” examines how Kroc, played by Michael Keaton, became partners with the brothers and eventually bought them out of their business.
John Lee Hanock on why he wanted to do this story:
I didn’t know anything about the movie until the script landed on my desk and I was kind of mesmerized by it because I found myself with a strong rooting interest for the protagonist Ray Kroc in the first half of the movie. And then started questioning his motives and actions in the second and by the end was kind of gasping at some of the things that he was doing. And I thought that I hadn’t read a script like that ever and probably hadn’t seen a movie like that in a long long time and it seemed like a high-wire act that was worth trying to take on.
About that “handshake agreement” when Kroc bought out the McDonalds brothers:
[Kroc] had paid [the McDonalds brothers] a large sum of money in 1961 numbers but in addition to that, they had requested one percent of future profits and they never received their royalties which would – I mean the estimates go between one hundred and two hundred million dollars a year per brother as to what they would have been worth. But the other thing that’s funny is that there were a lot more handshake agreements back then obviously, and Ray Kroc was famous for having lots of them, and lots of them worked out perfectly well I think he had a handshake agreement with the guy that provided their paper products for like 40 years or something.
On the movie opening coinciding with Inauguration Day:
It’s really interesting because obviously when I first read it and when we made the movie you know Donald Trump was not a candidate yet or anything like that. That said it is really interesting you know Ray-Kroc-Businessman -- maybe the first person that really understood the branding of a name and then you’ve got Donald Trump Businessman-- really really high on the branding of his own name so it’s you know yeah there are interesting parallels.
Click the audio player above to hear the full interview. (01/17/2017)
What the Equinox CEO knows about your lifestyle goals Equinox Holdings is the company behind the fitness clubs of the same name, as well as SoulCycle and a chain of no-frills gyms called Blink. Now, they're getting into the hotel business. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talks to Equinox CEO Harvey Spevak about what he realized about the way we work-out way before anyone else did, and what that means for the way we want to live.
Subscribe to the Corner Office podcast on iTunes. (01/17/2017)
A visit to Erie's Polish Falcons For the past year, we've been working on "How the Deck Is Stacked" with "Frontline" and "PBS NewsHour," a series about the economy and the election, and what one means and has meant for the other.
Here's what we were looking for to wrap up this series: a not-coastal county, not too big, not too small, founded on what built this country — manufacturing — trying to find its way in a changing economy.
But we had one more criterion: We wanted to find a place that had voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and Trump in 2016.
Erie County, Pennsylvania, represents what a lot of the 2016 presidential election was about: economic dissatisfaction, lost opportunities and voters looking for something else.
Until this year, GE Transportation was the biggest employer in Erie. It made motors for locomotives and tanks, but the company cut a third of its remaining workforce in the the past couple years, jobs that paid $33 an hour with only a high school diploma or less.
But GE's just the current headline. Manufacturing losses have happened across the area, with companies like Hammermill Paper, American Meter and Steris closing factories and announcing layoffs, and that's just a partial list.
On a recent trip to the city of Erie, we visited the Polish Falcons Social Club, Nest 610. It's a neighborhood gathering spot; people stop by after work for a beer or dinner and to see old friends and people from the area.
There are events every night of the week, like bingo, pool or bowling, and it's packed on a cold, snowy January night.
Buzz Andrezeski, 69, has worked in government, manufacturing and most recently law.
Buzz Andrezeski, 69, is a lifelong resident of Erie.
"My grandparents settled in Erie, and I ended up in Erie through birth, and here I am."
Like a lot of people here, he raised his family and put in his time. He's a lawyer now, but it took him a while. He started night school when he was 45 and graduated more than 20 years ago.
"Before that, I was a structural iron worker. Before that, I was a state senator. Before that, I was a boilermaker. Before that, I was an iron worker again."
Andrezeski is a Democrat and Clinton voter, but "of course, I wasn't in the majority in this county that voted for her."
Even though he didn't see the Trump win coming, Andrezeski's hindsight is 20/20.
"He said the four-letter word everybody wanted to hear: jobs. Anyone who worked in a shop and lost their job, they were tired of that same old sound, 'Oh, well, we're going to have retraining programs for you,'" Andrezeski said.
Erie’s hospitals are thriving, and some former GE workers are preparing for a career in the health care industry.
"Well, if all your fingers are the size of your thumbs, it's hard to be a practical nurse for some guys," Andrezeski said. "You know what I mean? It just don't work. A guy wants what he had. What he had was a paycheck he could support his family. Now he's out there working two jobs wondering what's going to happen next. Tough."
You hear that sentiment a whole lot in Erie, and we heard it a whole lot among the Polish Falcons.
Joe Koehle is in the industrial flooring business. He's cautiously optimistic that new money in oil and manufacturing will make its way into Erie.
Joe Koehle works in the paint business selling industrial coatings.
"We're a manufacturing town, we need manufacturing. We need people to produce things. When people are spending money, big money, capital money and of course, a lot of the stuff that I sell kind of hinges on the price of oil and the gas. When we start producing more, do more fracking, start producing more gas, more oil, more equipment to do that is going to be made, and I'll be supplying coatings for some of that stuff."
Koehle said he's cautiously optimistic President-elect Donald Trump will be good for the local economy.
"I've never seen a President-elect so active. I mean, literally within hours after being elected he's already influencing events. Personally, I can't stand the guy. I think what he's up to, the people that he's surrounding himself with, it gives me a lot of positive vibes that he's going to somehow the job is going to get done. He's upsetting everything, which I think we need."
Johnette Kent is retired from a government job and works at the Polish Falcons part time. After two layoffs, her husband has had a hard time finding full-time manufacturing work.
Johnette Kent has lived in Erie her entire life, but, "Erie today is not the place I grew up in."
She's retired from the state's Department of Public Welfare and works at the Polish Falcons part time.
"When I was a kid in high school, any guy could walk out of school at 16, get a job at Hammermill ... American Sterilizer, GE, make a livable wage and not need a high school diploma," she said.
"My husband had worked for American Sterilizer, Steris for 37 years. He started when he was 17. They left for Mexico. He was too young to retire. He had to find a new career. Since Steris, he has never gotten a high-paying job. He was just downsized from another company this year, and now he's working three days a week, $8 an hour as a parts' chaser. That's sad because he is a CNC operator, highly skilled machinist and can't get a decent-paying job in this area."
Most of the decent-paying jobs in Erie now come from local hospitals and Erie Insurance, industries that require skill sets different from the ones a lot of the lifelong residents of this city have.
The city of Erie, Pennsylvania, is reliably blue, but tomorrow, we're heading out of the city into Erie County, where the towns are smaller and the jobs are fewer.
Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed two quotations by Buzz Andrezeski. The text has been corrected. (01/17/2017)
01/17/17: The eight men who own as much wealth as half the world As part of a nationwide expansion, Wal-Mart is adding 10,000 jobs this year. But in 2016, the retail giant announced thousands of cuts. With all of this job shuffling, what should we make of this announcement? Also on today's show: a new report from Oxfam that reveals eight of the world's richest men are wealthier than 3.5 billion of the world's poorest people, and a look at how social media is changing the way activists coordinate. (01/17/2017)
Wal-Mart touts new jobs in 2017 In a press release Tuesday, Wal-Mart announced it’s adding 10,000 jobs in 2017, as part of 59 new stores or expansions around the country. But the announcement comes on the tail of a year of job cuts and retooling at America’s biggest private employer. It announced hundreds of store closures in January 2016, and in September said it would eliminate some 7,000 office positions. Is the company’s announcement today a play to avoid a negative Trump Tweet?
Click the above audio player to hear the full story. (01/17/2017)
A U.S. coin will feature an African-American Lady Liberty for the first time April 2, 1792 is the exact date the Coinage Act was passed, a measure that led to the creation of the U.S. Mint and required coins to depict an "impression emblematic of liberty."
To commemorate its upcoming 225th birthday, the U.S. Mint is releasing a new set of $100 gold coins. And for the first time ever, these coins will depict Lady Liberty as an African-American woman.
Rhett Jeppson, the principal deputy director of the U.S. Mint, joined us to talk about the decision and whether the coins they make are profitable.
The following transcript has been lightly edited.
Rhett Jeppson: On our very first coins we had a female figure representing Liberty. And so through the years, we've had Liberty represented always as feminine in a lot of different forms. And so this is just a more modern, inclusive interpretation of Liberty. We've had a lot of comments saying, well, Liberty is depicted as in the Statue of Liberty. We've depicted Liberty over the course of, you know, 225 years in a lot of different forms — not just what's on the Statue of Liberty. That's actually, quite frankly, a later interpretation of what Liberty looked like — allegorical Liberty that is.
Sabri Ben-Achour: These are $100 coins. They weigh about an ounce. They're not solid gold, are they? Because that would make them worth like $1,200.
Jeppson: They are solid gold. It is one ounce of 24-carat gold. And so they will in fact sell for about $1,500. There's a premium. The value of the coins is not based so much on the denomination that we put on the coin, but rather, you know, the uniqueness of the design, the quality of the strike and the content of the metal. And it trades far beyond whatever the face value of the coin is.
Ben-Achour: You know, the Treasury spends more to make certain coins like pennies than they're actually worth. In this case, it sounds like it's quite the opposite. Is the Mint actually making money on its money in this case?
Jeppson: We actually make three types of coins here at the Mint. We make circulating coins — that's the stuff you have in your pocket every day. We make numismatic or collectible coins. And then we make bullion coin, which is an investable coin. We still return money on all three of those lines to the Treasury every year. We're a non-appropriated agency. We operate on the revenue that we generate, and we return the excess or the profit back to our shareholders, which is the Department of the Treasury. And so over the past two years, we returned well over $1.2 billion to the Treasury. Not a bad return for an organization of 1,700 people, so we're very, very proud of that.
Ben-Achour: You could technically use this coin in a store to buy something for $100, but that would be very stupid, right?
Jeppson: That's right. That would probably not be the wisest use of it, but it does have a face value of 100 bucks. So I guess if gold ever went below $100 an ounce, you may want to do that. (01/17/2017)