with Kai Ryssdal

About the Program

Public radio's only national series about the global economy and finance takes a broad view of business, covering any story related to money — most of the world's stories are. Hosted by Kai Ryssdal.

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A former coal miner's take on the declining industry
It's been hard to escape the narrative of the coal miner over the last year. President Trump talks a lot about putting coal miners back to work, and he's rolled back Obama-era regulations aimed at doing just that. But setting narratives aside, the numbers show coal is declining. Natural gas is cheaper to use to make electricity. And many of the people who have done this work don't see much of a future for themselves in coal. Gary Bentley is one of those people. He was born and raised in the small coal mining town of Whitesburg, Kentucky. Straight out of high school, he went underground into the Appalachian coal mines. "My original plans were not to work underground, it was to go to college," said Bentley, who's written a series of articles about coal mining called "In the Black." "I actually wanted to work in education. But then, of course, being 18 or 19 years old and earning $70,000 a year, I kind of got suckered into the industry and ended up staying." Related Counting up American coal jobs: What's the real total? Kentucky coal country hangs on to Trump's promise Bentley said there are other reasons people choose to work as coal miners. He worked with someone who used to be a college professor, for example, who realized he would make better money and be closer to his family by working in the mines. "It's not always about either not being able to do something else or not knowing how to, it's about being close to family. And when [mining's] the only option you have, that's what you do." There are about 51,000 coal mining jobs left in the U.S.; in 1985, there were 178,000. But in regions like eastern Kentucky, there's a real lack of viable alternatives that pay living wages.  Bentley said that nonetheless, the way you hear politicians talk about mining, you'd think it was the biggest industry in the region. Courtesy of Gary Bentley "In 2008, which would have been one of the biggest booms of my mining career as far as the industry itself, coal only made up 4 percent of Kentucky's economy. If you look at the way politics are played around the industry, you'd think that it as the majority of the state's economy. So I do think politicians either romanticize or blow things out of proportion for their own means, because an industry that's only 4 percent of a state's economy shouldn't play as large of a role in the state's politics." Bentley lost his job in 2013 after 12 years of underground coal mining. He said he chased other mining jobs around Kentucky, but realized the decline in the industry was going to make that more and more difficult. And ultimately, changes in the energy market were to blame. "You've got to look at the price of natural gas, which I think was one of the biggest heavy hitters in the change in the industry ... the fact that solar, wind and hydro is now a more affordable option for energy compared to coal." Bentley also said the export market for U.S. coal is disappearing, with other countries like China and Australia extracting their own coal. "It's all about profit margin and how to make an extra dollar." Bentley said the way to get former miners to continue to make their own dollars is to give them new economic opportunities, not to try to resuscitate the coal industry. (06/23/2017)

Weekly Wrap: Is it a health care bill or a redistribution of wealth?
Rachel Abrams from The New York Times and Sheelah Kolhatkar from The New Yorker join us to discuss the week's business and economic news. Now that Senate Republicans have unveiled their health care plan, a bill drafted in secret, we look at the potential impact it will have on low-income earners and how it could redistribute wealth to the rich. (06/23/2017)

Economists say the bottom line beats presidential callouts for manufacturers
President Trump's practice of calling out major U.S. corporations to publicly pressure them to keep jobs in the U.S. has been well publicized since the 2016 election campaign. Trump has in the past, for example, criticized the air conditioning company Carrier for plans to move jobs to Mexico. He then took credit when the company agreed to a plan enhanced by state tax breaks to keep a thousand jobs in Indiana. He's also put pressure on Ford, GM and Toyota over U.S. jobs. But turns out some of those companies are still planning domestic manufacturing layoffs and going ahead with plans to make products in Mexico and China. Economists say that’s because as much as publicly traded companies try to avoid negative PR, their strategic decisions are driven most by economic pressures, such as international tax rates, production and labor costs, and the profit expectations of shareholders.  Click the audio player above to hear the full story. (06/23/2017)

Where’d you get that beef? Rancher groups sue USDA over labels
Two industry groups that represent cattle ranchers have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They want the USDA to reinstate country-of-origin labeling for beef, because they say consumers want to purchase meat from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. For example, pieces of beef from Canada can come across the border to a U.S. processing plant, get ground into hamburger, and that hamburger then sold without any indication of its origin. The previous COOL rules were repealed in 2015, after the World Trade Organization found they were unfair to cattle producers in Canada and Mexico.  Click the audio player above to hear the full story. (06/23/2017)

Wall Street had a busy day reshuffling popular trading benchmarks
It was a busy day on Wall Street today, and there was good reason for that. It was the annual reshuffling of the popular trading benchmarks known as the FTSE Russell Indexes. Those indexes track the largest U.S. companies in the U.S. stock market, and they determine what’s in a bunch of securities mutual funds.  Click the audio player above to hear the full story. (06/23/2017)

The Wall Street Journal made a phone for just 70 bucks
The $600 to $800 price tag on the latest Apple or Samsung smartphone could create some serious sticker shock, especially compared to the much cheaper models from Chinese competitors. Chinese smartphone brands from the Pearl River Delta region and the city of Shenzhen are gaining market share fast. They can contract with manufacturers in Shenzhen who are already tapped into the region's vast smartphone supply chain and pump out low-cost phones under their own brands, no designing or engineering necessary. The Wall Street Journal went to Shenzehn to find out what it would take to make their own smartphone brand. Wall Street Journal reporter, Liza Lin, talked to Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talked to about how she and some of her colleagues created their smartphone, the WSJ 1, for just $70. The following is an edited version of their conversation. Kai Ryssdal: So were you guys just sitting around the Journal bureau in Hong Kong one day and said, "Hey, listen, let's make a phone"? Liza Lin: We are looking for a way to tell the story of Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta, which is pretty much the area that makes all the smartphones in the world. And the Asia editor came up, and he's like, "Why don't you guys make a smartphone?" And that was when we were like, "What? OK." So a colleague of mine made some calls to Shenzhen, we looked on, found a couple, narrowed it down and that was it, we went down. Ryssdal: And you wind up making a phone that costs $70. I'm going to say that again, 70 bucks — the WSJ 1 — and it works, and it's got some small amount of bells and whistles. And all of a sudden, you guys were in business. It was crazy. Lin: So given the fact that we were making 20 phones, I figured the phone costs $200, $300 U.S. at least. And when I asked her the total and she said, "It's $70 a phone." And I was like, "Whoa, are you kidding me?" So we did it. Related How Apple's technology affects the smartphone repair business Building a better smartphone for blind users How much would an all-American iPhone cost? Ryssdal: There's a great phrase that one of the folks in your video uses, and he talks about technology as a commodity, and I wonder really if what's going on in south China now is technology manufacturing as a commodity? They have this thing that everybody wants. Lin: Indeed. When China started to open up its economy to the world, and that was back in 1980, Shenzhen was earmarked as a special economic zone. So a lot of foreign companies came in — think of guys like Nokia, Motorola — and the economy just built up from there. So now you have a thriving supply chain for any sort of electronic product that you can think of. Ryssdal: Not that the Wall Street Journal is going to get into the telephone manufacturing business — you guys are not a competitor — but what does sort of the larger lesson of you making the WSJ 1 mean for companies like Apple and Samsung, who are right now the giants? Lin: So in 2012, the Chinese brands had a global market share of 20 percent. As of the first quarter of 2017, Chinese brands have doubled their market share. So you're looking at a market share globally of 40 percent. Basically, they're eating Apple and Samsung for lunch. They're expanding in India. They're expanding in Indonesia. Africa in some cases, too. And these are the emerging markets that Apple and Samsung will have to go into. Ryssdal: So you've got these 20 WSJ 1s. What are you going to do with them? Lin: Yeah, good question. Ryssdal: Because I bet everybody wants one, right? Lin: Yeah, there was a bit of a tussle in the office about who would get those phones. (06/23/2017)

Crowdfunding for your life
On February 24, 2017, Molly Young got some devastating news. She had breast cancer, at age 29. "When I took that phone call, and I learned that this was just going to completely uproot my whole life, I'd say I spent maybe 10 seconds or so only freaking out about myself and whether or not I would die. And then immediately thought, 'Oh my gosh, what happens if my health insurance goes away?'" Young said. She had just signed up for health insurance at the beginning of this year on one of the health care exchanges created through the Affordable Care Act. While her insurance covered most of her health care expenses, when she's finished with chemotherapy this fall, she will start radiation therapy, which could be a big out-of-pocket expense since no one in her network provides the treatment. So two of Young's friends decided to lend a hand. They started two crowdfunding campaigns on GoFundMe to help raise a financial cushion for her. The money raised has been "an enormous emotional relief," Young said. It "has been a really great way to have some peace of mind knowing that this is not going to throw me into absolute financial crisis for the rest of my life." She anticipates that the money raised by her friends will be very helpful in paying for her radiation treatment.   Young is hardly alone in relying on online fundraising to help pay for medical treatments and associated costs of illness. GoFundMe, the largest crowdfunding company in the industry, has raised over $930 million for health-related causes on its site, according to a 2016 NerdWallet report. Related Why do people give on crowdfunding sites? As funding drops, scientists turn to the crowd Crowdfunding may help many people afford the treatment and health care they need, but it does not help all of them equally. Professor Nora Kenworthy is among those concerned that crowdfunding can be biased. Not everyone has equal success on crowdfunding platforms, because people have different levels of medical literacy, social-media savvy and access to video-making equipment — the things that make a campaign successful. Kenworthy refers to it as "your ability to market yourself and your illness." In a study with media professor Lauren Berliner, Kenworthy looked at 200 randomly selected health care related campaigns on GoFundMe. The average amount of money the campaigns raised was only $3000, which Kenworthy said is "really hardly enough to prevent medical bankruptcy or pay much larger health care bills." And only 10 percent of the campaigns they looked at reached their goals. The study found that the crowdfunding campaigns which struggled the most to get funding were those for people with "multiple and overlapping health and social crises that are going on in their lives." Kenworthy shared this comic strip with us: a heart-breaking, real-life example of someone falling through the gaps of the crowdfunding safety net. The image above is an excerpt.  "These are the people for whom crowd-funding is often least successful, because it's hardest for them to articulate a single, solvable problem that can be marketed to their networks," Kenworthy said. That raises an important question about the gaps in the health care system that people are forced to fill with crowdfunding. "This is reflective of a broader economic trend towards what we're thinking of as 'flexible' economies where people are more responsible for their own survival and have less of a social safety net. And unfortunately in this particular crowdfunding economy, your responsibility for your survival links to your ability to market and promote your own illness," Kenworthy said. And if you're unable to promote your illness, and raise the money you need, you might be out of luck. That's why, Kenworthy said, crowdfunding might not be the perfect solution for everyone. "It's not the life raft that we might think it is." (06/23/2017)

A year after Brexit vote, some want 'nuclear option'
Britain’s Brexit negotiations with the European Union have begun. The formal talks over the terms of the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU and the future shape of its trade relationship with the bloc are expected to last at least 15 months and could go on for much longer. For Britain, the talks could not have got off to a less auspicious start. Prime Minister Theresa May’s political authority has been severely dented after she lost her parliamentary majority in the recent general election, and she could have trouble achieving her main negotiating goal of a new free trade deal with the EU without most of the burdens and costs of EU membership. Britain’s European partners seem even less inclined to make concessions now that they they know that May’s hand has been weakened. So what if she fails to secure the offer of a satisfactory deal?   Some so-called “hard Brexiters” say that in those circumstances, the U.K. should walk out of the talks and make a unilateral declaration of free trade: scrap the tariffs on every import into Britain without waiting for a reciprocal arrangement with exporting countries. Such a move is so drastic that some analysts call this the "nuclear option."   “No, this would be very beneficial,” said Patrick Minford, professor of economics at Cardiff University in Wales and a longstanding advocate of free trade. “Prices for consumers would come down. We reckon by 8 percent overall. And our own companies would face much more competition, forcing them to raise productivity. As a result of that double process — consumers being better off and producers becoming more productive — our GDP would rise. By about 4 percent, according to our calculations,” Minford said, adding that when Britain’s trading partners see those benefits accruing to the U.K., they will want to follow suit and eliminate their import tariffs, too.   Related After a difficult few months Brexit negotiations begin Britain balks at Brexit bill Tom Cridland, youthful boss of a small fashion company, said unilateral free trade is worth a try. He has all his clothing manufactured in Portugal and Italy, and ships it into the U.K. before exporting it to many countries around the world; he’s concerned that after Brexit, he will have to pay import duty on that clothing from continental Europe. “That’s our biggest worry about Brexit” he told Marketplace. “It could make our products more expensive. So I think that without a free trade deal with the EU, unilateral free trade would be an excellent idea. It appeals to me very much.”  But many other British business people are not enthusiastic about the proposal. “I’m all for free trade, but we have to protect some key industries in the U.K. that are essential to the running of the country. The steel industry is a good example,” said Simon Boyd, managing director of Reidsteel, a medium-sized engineering company and a champion exporter that sells its products to 140 countries. Boyd said that if Britain unilaterally dismantled all its trade barriers, the country could be exposed to, for example, dumping of steel by the Chinese. He believes that the U.K. farming industry should also be protected from unfair or excessive competition. Related Britain fears labor shortage as EU workers stay away Brexit triggers mixed emotions in London's financial center “We would be in difficulty if we had to rely on people outside the U.K. for too much of our food or steel. We would be at their mercy if there were any issues that arose in the future.” Boyd said. Other critics of unilateral free trade argue that it’s the economic equivalent of unilateral nuclear disarmament: You surrender all your weapons, but very few other countries then feel the need to follow suit.  Minford challenges the analogy. “With weapons, you’re threatening other people, but with tariffs, you’re threatening yourself. Tariffs raise prices for your consumers and stifle competition. With unilateral free trade, you're getting rid of things that are actually hurting you,” he said. (06/23/2017)

Here’s the company that makes those National Park and Smokey Bear signs
“Brought to You By” is our series about all the stuff that’s become part of the culture and of the economy. Where did they came from and who thought of them? Everyone recognizes Smokey Bear, the lovable National Parks mascot who warns visitors about the dangers of forest fires. But where do those friendly anthropomorphic bear cutouts come from? Today, we talk to the company that makes a lot of the signs that show up at the entrances to National Parks and Forests. About 25-thousand signs and markers last year, actually, all from their Parlin, Colorado-based workshop, including of course those iconic Smokey Bear cutouts.  Taylor Hefftner of Wood Product Signs and Rocky Mountain Aluminum told the story:  "In 1986, my mom, Deborah, was working for the Park Service. She became pregnant with me, decided to try to make signs out of the garage. It worked out really good and has grown to what it is today. Courtesy Wood Product Signs and Rocky Mountain Aluminum Smokey the Bear signs are one of the favorites. We get phone calls a lot. People calling “I want to buy a Smokey.” And there’s actually some rules in place because it’s a government item. I start with a raw piece of aluminum and that goes to a water jet table. And the water jet cuts the exact shape out of what the Smokey will look like. The edges get painted and sanded and cleaned. And then into a box and shipped out to wherever it’s going to live. Courtesy Wood Product Signs and Rocky Mountain Aluminum Whenever we make a mistake here, we have employees that just love to take home mistake Smokeys to put in their room. It’s borderline a fight on who gets it. We give a hard time to everybody because they make the mistakes on purpose so they get to take something home. What I enjoy about it probably the most is just being here in the country. We can only see about one or two neighbors from our shop. I grew up here on the property so I enjoyed riding my bike around the yard. My mom, she certainly wouldn’t talk about it. And even if you asked her directly, you wouldn’t get anything out of her. But it’s pretty neat to see what she’s done. Starting from herself in the garage, getting to put signs all over the U.S. And we’re not trying to be a mega-company. We’re not trying to take over the entire market. There’s other companies that we want to see continue and do well. We want to have our part in it, put some great signs going to some great places." Courtesy Wood Product Signs and Rocky Mountain Aluminum (06/23/2017)

06/23/2017: What's going on with America's infrastructure?
Now that Senate Republicans have released the draft for their bill on health care reform, we'll recap how the markets are doing. Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, joined us to explain why health care stocks have been reacting positively. (Hint: It's not expected to actually pass.) Afterwards, we'll look at what Japan and the European Union have in store for their free-trade agreement, and then explore some of the questions U.S. mayors have surrounding Trump's infrastructure promises.  (06/23/2017)

Mayors are hungry for details about Trump's infrastructure plan
More than 250 mayors are in Miami Beach for the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors. A White House infrastructure adviser is there, too, and city leaders have plenty of questions. What’s in Trump’s infrastructure plan as far as federal partnerships with cities and states? The plan includes about 200 million in federal spending to leverage much more in private investments. But how will any public-private partnerships be structured? The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates about $4.6 trillion is needed in infrastructure investments by 2025, so details on funding are crucial. Click the audio player above to hear the full story. (06/23/2017)

Will the Senate's new GOP health care bill ultimately lead to better services?
The Senate's version of the Republican health care bill calls for big cuts to Medicaid and would release Americans from the requirement to get health insurance. Its overall vision is a fiscally conservative one, whose aim is to have consumer behavior pressure companies into delivering the best services possible. But will that pan out? Marketplace's senior health care reporter Dan Gorenstein joined us to talk about how much money the bill could save, whose hands that money will end up in, and how the measure could affect a patient's willingness to seek out services. Below is an edited transcript. Sabri Ben-Achour: Dan, give us this bill by the numbers. Dan Gorenstein: There are a couple of ways that this is going to save some money. Number one: The Senate bill would actually cut Medicaid more than the House plan. I've seen estimates as high as a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Apart from phasing out Medicaid expansion, the real change is that the federal funding for Medicaid is open-ended today. Under this plan, it would cap the federal government's share of how much it pays. Number two: The plan also offers less generous tax subsidies. The more than 10 million Americans who are under Obamacare right now get financial help to buy insurance — they'll get less help, and it's going to be skimpier coverage. Ben-Achour: And fewer people covered. Where does all of that money go? Gorenstein: Well, much of it's going to be returned to the wealthiest Americans and in the form of tax cuts. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities ran numbers and they found households with incomes above $1 million would get annual tax cuts averaging about $50,000. Related What it's like running a state health care exchange right now Republican Arkansas looks to cut its once-expanded Medicaid rolls Wisconsin wants Medicaid recipients to pony up more money Ben-Achour: And you said to me before, Dan, that this lays out a conservative philosophy of health care. What do you mean by that? Gorenstein: Right. Well, it's the idea that if the government's going to be in the business of offering health insurance, then it's going to be really less generous. I mean, you can think of this as high-deductible plans or catastrophic plans that are going to force consumers to be smarter. What's interesting is that rather than taking on the hospitals or drug companies, this law is going to force consumers to behave differently. And Republicans hope that sends industry market signals to deliver higher value care and services. Ben-Achour: Will consumers actually behave differently? Is that good for consumers? Gorenstein: Well, what we know is that people, when they're in this situation, spend less money. They do cut back — studies show as high as 15 percent. But the thing is that they cut back on stuff that they don't need, which is good, but they also cut back on stuff that they do need. Think of someone with heart disease deciding not to go to the cardiologist. So in the short run, people are probably going to spend less if this does become law. But there's good reason to think it's probably bad for their long-term health, and this could also increase spending down the line. (06/23/2017)

Japan and the EU head for a massive trade deal
Japan and the European Union say they’re close to agreement on a broad free-trade deal. It would be the largest such pact for the EU. The two trading partners have been hammering out this deal since 2013, but negotiations have taken on new urgency recently.  Click the audio player above to hear the full story. (06/23/2017)

Solar tariffs request is dividing the industry
The Los Angeles office of Green Solar Technologies was humming on a recent Tuesday. In dozens of cubicles, sales people were working their phones, following up on sales pitches for solar systems. Looking out through his large office windows, Edward Harner, chief operating officer of the company, didn't focus on the mountains that were visible but on the houses spread out before him. "You can see a couple solar installations in the view, and the only thing that I keep asking myself is, 'Why is there not solar on every roof that I see, and why can’t we be the ones to give them solar?'” Harner said. Most of the panels his company puts on rooftops come from SolarWorld, one of the largest manufacturers of solar panels in the United States. That's a somewhat unique practice, because most of the solar panels on American houses these days are made overseas, many from China. The cheap price of foreign panels has made them so prevalent that some U.S. manufacturers say they can’t compete.  Related Why two American billionaires are betting on renewable energy The sun is rising on mandatory solar roofs Does it matter if the US doesn't lead on climate change policy? SolarWorld just joined a petition asking that the International Trade Commission effectively double the import tax on foreign-made panels. That petition was drawn up by another U.S. solar panel maker, Suniva, which has filed for bankruptcy. If their bid for an import tax works, other solar power companies — which sell not just panels, but all the services around them — could suffer. “We consider this a significant risk to the solar industry,” said Timothy Fox, a vice president and research analyst at ClearView Energy Partners.  Fox said the price of solar equipment would at least double if the tariff is put into place. He said that increase in costs could lead to a decrease in installations.  That would slow down the entire sector, from consultants to installers, said Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “If the relief that this company has proposed is granted, we would lose approximately 88,000 jobs across the country," Hopper said. Tim Brightbill, an attorney representing SolarWorld, disagreed with such arguments, saying previous projections that tens of thousands of jobs would be lost when SolarWorld won earlier trade disputes never materialized.  "Instead, solar demand kept going up, prices stabilized to help manufacturing and solar jobs went up,” said Brightbill, with law firm Wiley Rein. If the International Trade Commission sides with Suniva and SolarWorld, their petition will go to the White House. President Trump has signaled indifference to increased green energy production within the country. His desire for an increase in manufacturing jobs could align well with the two companies' request.  Harner of Green Solar Technologies said his company's business would be somewhat protected by its existing purchasing relationship with SolarWorld. He said only about 30 percent of the panels his company uses are foreign made.  “If the tariffs actually go up for imported panels, then we are going to be hurt less than others,” Harner said. (06/23/2017)

How did bring your dog to work day become a thing?
Marley loves going to work. It means that she gets to see her friends, sleep on the job and most importantly, spend more time with her human, Kristin Daversa. Granted, the yellow lab may not be the most productive employee, but she is a welcomed addition to the staff at Huge Inc., a digital agency based in Brooklyn where everyday is a take your dog to work day. “As long as they are well-behaved, friendly and housebroken, dogs of all shapes and sizes are welcome in our Brooklyn office,” said Daversa, who is the vice president of talent at Huge. “They are an integral part of our culture. They attend meetings, participate in photo shoots and go on walks together to the Brooklyn Bridge park dog run. Our social club, Huge Paws, coordinates dog training sessions, birthday parties and keeps a freshly stocked doggie treat cart in the office to keep them entertained.” For Daversa and Marley, having the flexibility to spend the day together at work is a great perk that’s offered by just a fraction of U.S. employers. Last year, about 7 percent of employers allowed pets in the workplace — down from 8 percent in 2015 but up from 4 percent in 2014, according to the SHRM 2016 Employee Benefits report. Marley hard at work at Huge Inc in Brooklyn, New York.  Courtesy of Kristin Daversa For companies thinking about welcoming pets in their offices, today — national Take Your Dog to Work Day — is the perfect opportunity to test drive the idea. When it was first introduced in 1999 by Pet Sitters International (PSI), people were a little skeptical, according to PSI president Patti Moran. “The idea was first inspired by Take Your Daughter to Work Day. We thought a similar day was a great idea because we knew so many pet owners see their dogs as surrogate children,” Moran said last year. “We believed the idea had merit but it was a tough sell convincing other businesses that the Day could be a great morale booster for employees and help promote local pet adoptions. For the first few years, we spent countless hours calling companies around the country, pitching the idea and encouraging them to participate. It was truly a grassroots effort.” The initial premise was that dog owners would get to spend more time with their pets while at the same showing their dogless coworkers what great companions they were, thus convincing them to adopt. About 300 companies ended up participating in the inaugural event in 1999. While PSI has been unable to track how many companies have participated in the years since, the company says the holiday has grown in popularity and happily takes responsibility for an increase in the number of pet-friendly offices. “We’ve found that companies that participate — even those initially concerned about having dogs at work — have such a great time that they want to participate year after year,” Beth Stultz, vice president of marketing and operations at PSI and the spokesperson for the Take Your Dog To Work Day, told Marketplace. “Because of this participation, many companies may have realized the benefits of dogs at work, and the ease at which pet-friendly policies could be implemented with prior preparation and basic policies. The pet-friendly workplace trend has certainly grown dramatically since PSI first introduced Take Your Dog To Work Day!” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (R) and his dog Ragnar greet an employee and her dog in Zinke's office on May 5, 2017 at the Interior Department in Washington, DC. The Interior Department held its very first Take Your Dog to Work Day event earlier this year.  Alex Wong/Getty Images With dogs going off to work with their owners today, do pet sitters get to have a day off? “Professional pet sitters and dog walkers are typically busy year round, so while I’m sure many would welcome a vacation day, take your dog to work day certainly doesn’t mean a decrease in pet-sitting requests,” said Stulz. Some employers hire pet sitters for the dogs that come into the office while others invite pet sitters to speak at lunch events about pet-care and pet adoption, keeping up with the mission of the day. However, having your furry friends come with you to work is not all fun and games. As pet-friendly offices have grown in popularity so have workplace issues related to the furry animals, according to Alison Green, the manager behind the popular Ask a Manager blog. Some of the dog-related questions that she has tackled over the years include: Is it ok to name your dog after you manager? What to do when your boss leaves her dogs in her car? Do pets belong in job interviews? “The most interesting was probably from someone who went to work in an office that was dog-friendly and a bunch of people brought their dogs in and she had really debilitating allergies,” Green said in an interview with The Guardian last year. “The company did not want to work with her on it and legally they had to accommodate her. But people were pissed. People felt like they had come to the company specifically because it was dog friendly and she was ruining it. It became a very hostile environment for her. She ultimately had to leave over it because there was such a huge clash of her interest against their interests. You can kind of see where they are coming from too — it’s their culture.” Related The most cat and dog friendly states in the US Tech-friendly city, meet dog-friendly city Turns out, pet-friendly policies are not a perk many workers take lightly. About 82 percent of employees said that being able to bring their pet to work evoked greater sense of loyalty to their employers, according to a 2016 study by Banfield Pet Hospital. That same survey found that 79 percent of human resource managers discuss pet-friendly policies when recruiting employees and about 65 percent of job candidates ask about such policies. This shouldn’t be surprising considering that to many Americans their dogs are more than a pet — in a 2011 Harris poll, 90 percent of respondents said their pets were part of a family. If, while reading those statistics, you were mumbling to yourself about millennials, you would not be completely wrong. Having a pet-friendly office is important to workers across generation, but especially to younger workers, according to a new survey by Wellness Natural Pet Food. About 57 percent of millennials said this was an important workplace benefit, compared to just one third of Gen X and baby boomers. Related The dog ate my paycheck Putting a price on your pet's health (06/22/2017)

So you're ready to install solar
Taking the plunge and installing home solar panels can be overwhelming. First there are the consultations to see if your home is a good fit and how much installation would cost. Then come the complexities of reimbursement and net metering.  Marketplace Weekend is looking into the economics of solar energy. There are now 1.4 million solar installations in the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, and that number is expected to reach 4 million by 2022. Plenty of people betting on solar power's expansion, including Google whose new tool "Project Sunroof," shows users how much sun their homes get and the feasibility of installing solar panels.  If you're undecided about whether solar is right for you, Marketplace Weekend has sourced a few tips from listeners who've taken the plunge:  1. You don't have to go all in: You can install solar bit by bit, or do one solar project — like heating a hot tub — to test the waters and see if it works for you.  2. You can rent instead of buying: Many states have programs that allow homeowners to rent solar panels. Even with a rental fee, with the right amount of sun and utilization, you could save a lot of money.  3. Understand net metering: It varies state-by-state, but there are lots of policies that allow for net metering — which incentivizes solar installation by requiring power companies to buy back energy individual homeowners are storing in the power grid. If you live in a state that supports net metering — or if you don't — it's important to know the regulations and understand the money-making options open to you because of your solar-powered home.  Have questions or comments about solar energy? Tell us what solar power means to you.  (06/22/2017)

Banker to Hollywood elites branches out to South LA
Los Angeles-based City National Bank’s modern eight-story branch in Beverly Hills overlooks the Rodeo Drive luxury shopping district, where Bentleys and Range Rovers compete for street parking. The bank began building its reputation 60 years ago as the go-to lender for the entertainment industry. “Los Angeles needed a bank that would reach out to a community that was not well served by the biggest banks,” said CEO Russell Goldsmith, himself a former movie executive.  Its status was further cemented when the bank famously put up the ransom money for Frank Sinatra’s kidnapped son. Since then, it’s expanded its base of wealthy clientele beyond showbiz. City National’s 30 local branches are found mostly in high-end enclaves like Brentwood and Bel-Air in West Los Angeles. But in October, it’s opening its 31st in South Los Angeles, a lower-income region. The bank will fill a Crenshaw district strip mall storefront currently occupied by a payday lender. “This is really, to some people, a bit of a surprise, to bring a private and business bank into the Crenshaw district, but we think it makes good sense for everybody,” Goldsmith said.  One reason: something called the Community Reinvestment Act. The federal law requires banks to prove they’re serving low-income and minority borrowers. In 2015, when City National wanted regulators to approve its merger with Royal Bank of Canada, it beefed up its CRA commitment, pledging $11 billion in products like mortgage and small business loans. A Crenshaw branch can help it achieve that goal. “If you just took a casual walk around the neighborhood, you’re not going to see much representation by financial institutions,” said Hassan Nicholas del Campo, microfinance director at Rise Financial Pathways. In a recent study, the nonprofit community lender counted just 16 banks in a large swath of South LA where half a million people live. That’s just 10 percent of the national average. To make things worse, there are 64 payday lenders and 18 pawn shops. “They just kind of go hand in hand with these low-income communities,” del Campo said. Related The Bank Black movement gains traction Are payday loans hurting minorities? Community banks divided over Dodd-Frank The payday lender that City National will replace can charge 460 percent interest rates on two-week loans. Still, there’s plenty of people walking through its door. “As much as we are advocated against these predatory types of services, the reality is that they are needed,” del Campos said. “They do serve a purpose. The trick is, how do we introduce products that compete with these predatory services and at the same time educate consumers about other alternatives?” In opening a new branch in an underserved area, City National is parting ways with most banks.  “The trend has been towards closing branches in general and closing branches particularly in lower-income and minority neighborhoods,” said Dan Immergluck, a professor at Georgia Tech.  Since the recession, banks have closed more than 6,000 branches and cut small business lending by 20 percent. Immergluck said the CRA was passed 40 years ago to prevent those kinds of things. “But the law has been tepidly enforced,” Immergluck said. “Basically, there was a de-emphasis of CRA during the Great Recession. Banks were under less close observation.” City National’s commitment has earned praise from fair-lending advocates. Paulina Gonzalez at the California Reinvestment Coalition said the bank sat down with community members and hammered out a strong deal. But in a neighborhood where a new rail line is bringing all kinds of new development and displacing longtime residents, there’s worry the money won’t go where it should.  “City National, just like any bank in that community, is going to have to ensure that the lending it is doing is serving the current small businesses that are located there, and not just those new businesses that come into the area,” Gonzalez said.  With specific goals for small business lending and other services in its CRA pledge, Gonzalez said the bank has a blueprint to make sure that happens.  (06/22/2017)

Democratic leaders try to formulate a sound economic message
Democrats are having a hard time crafting an economic message that gets through to voters. They lost two special congressional elections earlier this week. Some Democrats say being the anti-Trump party is a weak platform on which to take a stand and reach Americans who feel their concerns and needs are not being met. What does the Democratic leadership need to do to come up with an economic message that reaches blue-collar and other Americans who feel the economy is not working for them? Click the audio player above to hear the full story. (06/22/2017)

Qatar Airways’ plan to invest in American Airlines seen as a bid to undercut criticism
Qatar Airways, the national airline of that embattled Persian Gulf nation, plans to invest about $808 million in American Airlines. This is an unsolicited investment — a purchase of voting shares on the open market. This comes as U.S. airlines, including American, have criticized Qatar Airways and two carriers based in the United Arab Emirates about alleged unfair competition. They say the Persian Gulf governments subsidize ticket prices and service, undercutting U.S. carriers on routes to the Middle East, Africa and the Far East. Qatar may also have a geopolitical goal in mind. The country is in a bitter fight with Saudi Arabia and its gulf neighbors that have accused Qatar of supporting terrorist organizations in the region. In the past, Qatar has made big investments in the American economy to try to insulate itself from criticism and pursue better diplomatic relations with the U.S. Click the audio player above to hear the full story. (06/22/2017)

What it's like running a state health care exchange right now
Now that the Senate health care bill has been released, it’s being digested by all the relevant interested parties. Some of those interested parties are people running the state health exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. Peter Lee is the executive director of Covered California, California's health exchange and the first created after the bill became law back in 2010. He talked with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about the health care policy conversation in Washington. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation. Kai Ryssdal: What's it been like for you the past, what I don't know five, six months since the inauguration, trying to run essentially a health care business with the uncertainty in health care policy that's going on? Peter Lee: Well, here in California, we have 11 health plans participating in the individual marketplace, and we have a lot of stability because we can make things work for consumers and for the health plans. So it's been relatively stable. But around us, there's a huge amount of froth and churn that we're trying to navigate. Related Why health care is like a Rubik's Cube How small businesses are dealing with health care limbo California leads in lowering health insurance premiums Ryssdal: Explain that a little bit, would the froth and the churn? Because, as I'm sure you know, the health care bill from the Senate came out this morning, there's the House version that's going to have to be reconciled, and there is so much that you can't possibly know about how this is going to go. Lee: Yeah, there's a couple of things. First, right now, we're sitting down and negotiating for 2018 and health plans have been uncertain if they're going to get paid a major part of a subsidy for the federal government called cost-sharing reductions. So, in California we said, “Let's take it off the table.” We've given the plans a way to build the cost into their rates and make sure the federal government still pays for it. So, there are ways to negotiate and navigate these choppy waters, but on some levels what we're seeing right now with the Senate bill release is very choppy waters coming down the future for millions of Americans. Ryssdal: What do you make of the Trump administration, which obviously wants Obamacare to go away, what do you make of the policy decisions that it has made so far about cost-sharing subsidies and about other things that seem to put Obamacare in deliberate peril? Lee: Well, there's a number of things this administration has done, which in some ways are encouraging health plans to leave the market that's already unstable. At the same time, I want to give a tip the hat, the secretary the treasury and the IRS issued a policy saying they will continue to enforce the mandate. This is the law. And I think that's what we all, as Americans, need to hold them to. Ryssdal: The mandate, of course, being the individual insurance mandate that was part of the Affordable Care Act. And we should say here that you worked in health care in the Obama administration. What is the best-case for you in the next six months to a year in health care in this country? Lee: The best case for the next six months is — remember, there are millions and millions of Americans that have coverage today that did not five years ago. But also, millions of Americans have the peace of mind that if they get sick and they've got health insurance, when they show up it's still there for them. So, the last thing we want, I think anyone, is to go back to the bad old days of health care where you had an insurance card but whoops, sorry, we don't cover cancer. And that's the prospect of what we're seeing right now with the Senate health bill. Ryssdal: Is that what you're anticipating then, that some version of the Senate or the House bill passes and these changes come to pass? Lee: I'm not the right guy to game are they going to get 50 votes or not. If it does, millions of Americans are guaranteed to lose coverage and millions more are going to be facing coverage terms that are a lot more onerous then they have in the past. And that's one of the main things I think we all need to look at is the CBO next week is going to come out estimating the impact of this bill, and they're going to look at how many people are going to lose coverage. But all health coverage is not created equal. And a key question we all need to look at is: Are we going back to the days of skimpy benefits? Meaning, people have coverage in name only and can't get access to the care they need. (06/22/2017)

Republican Arkansas looks to cut its once-expanded Medicaid rolls
Willie Freeman works in the meat department at Edward’s Food Giant in Little Rock, Arkansas. He is 54 and has been insured through the Affordable Care Act for four years. “All the time. I use it all the time,” he said. His job pays $9 an hour, too much for him to be on traditional Medicaid, which covers low-income people, and too little to be in the health care exchange. But because Arkansas opted to expand Medicaid to fill the gap, Freeman was able to start going to the doctor. “I had my leg, my left leg, was kept pain for some reason, like it had a burn in it. And I thought it was like my blood wasn’t going through my body right,” he said. “I went to a doctor and they said it wasn’t nothing," he said. "Like I pulled a muscle or something like that.” Though he'll only earn about $16,000 this year, he may soon make too much to stay on Medicaid expansion under the state's pending plan, which would cap eligibility at the current U.S. Census Bureau's poverty threshold, about $12,500 for a single dependent. Willie Freeman, 54, outside his parents' house in Little Rock, Arkansas. Sarah Whites-Koditschek/Marketplace Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is joining a handful of Republican governors around the country to pursue conservative modifications to their state programs in anticipation of major cuts by Congress to Medicaid. These are changes that had previously been blocked by the Obama administration. He's seeking federal waivers to the program that will include new work requirements and a lower income ceiling for recipients who wish to qualify for Medicaid expansion.   “You will see more people working and signing up for work and worker training, and you’ll see cost savings to the state and cost savings to the federal government,” Hutchinson said in a March press conference. Hutchinson needs to make those cuts because Congress is looking at proposals to lower the federal Medicaid match rate to states. If his waivers are approved, the governor estimates about 60,000 people, like Freeman, would be able to get insurance through the marketplace. But whether Freeman would be able to afford health care outside of Medicaid expansion remains unclear. It depends on whether Congress retains some subsidies for low-income people.  Joe Thompson, health policy expert and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said the governor’s plan is a middle of the road Republican compromise that emphasizes personal responsibility. Related Despite gains, Medicaid expansion is on the chopping block How a Republican plan to shrink Medicaid could hurt red states Why a proposed Medicaid cut terrifies the parents of a severely disabled man “I think it’s politically easier to say we’re helping people below the poverty level. I think it clearly saves the state money,” he said. Health care advocates say the changes will increase premiums, raise uncompensated care costs for hospitals and make coverage too costly for some beneficiaries, who currently pay a $13 monthly copay. The Arkansas Hospital Association has said that under the Affordable Care Act, its uncompensated costs for emergency room services were cut almost in half. That helped to keep some rural hospitals open.  Eddie Pannell, retiring executive director of Little Rock’s low-income Harmony Health Clinic, doesn’t think people shifted out of the program will be able to get coverage. “That reminds me of a song, 'Fairy tales can come true. It can happen to you,'" he said, singing the lyrics. “I don’t believe it." He said that for people hovering just above the poverty line, leaving the Medicaid expansion pool for the marketplace will mean higher deductibles and new penalties if they miss paying a bill. “We’re seeing them now coming back to the clinic," he said about clients who are insured through the marketplace but struggling to afford premiums. "They got in there, paid their first month premium, their car broke down, they’ve got to fix their car in order to get to work. And they didn’t pay their premium the next month, and they were kicked off the exchange."   Under the Affordable Care Act, about half the clinic’s uninsured clients were able to get coverage.  In fact, Arkansas, after Kentucky, saw the greatest drop in uninsured residents nationwide since 2013, according to data by the Gallup poll.   Arkansas has seen more than $3 billion from Medicaid expansion over the last four years. The program’s continuation is now critical to the state’s budget plan. The state plans to submit the waiver request to the federal Department of Human Services by the end of the month.  (06/22/2017)

What national monument status means for one vast Montana landscape
President Trump has ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review whether more than 20 large areas designated as national monuments should remain protected. The goal is to determine if monument status too greatly restricts access to public land and economic activity, like timber cutting or oil and gas drilling. The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana is one of the areas under review. Nearly 400,000 acres in northern central Montana, it gained national monument status in the very last days of the Clinton administration in 2001, cited for its historical significance and rare ecosystem. The law that made that possible, the American Antiquities Act of 1906, is only four paragraphs long, and just one of those paragraphs gives the president power to set aside land of historic or scientific interest as a national monument. Matt Knox is a Montana rancher who's been against national monument status for the Montana site since talk of it started. From a bluff that's part of his family ranch, the expansive view includes land that intersects and overlaps with the federally protected area. Strong winds blow across the breaks — rough, broken land, deeply cut by the winding Missouri River. Think Western movies, bone-dry gorges with a few stands of evergreens. Though in early June, the land still holds on to a soft blue-green hue of spring. Knox said he and other ranchers want to manage this land as they have for generations, without a lot of government oversight. “We cuss the county commissioners, we cuss the state legislature, we cuss the governor," he said, "and we reserve our, most of our cussing for the federal government.” Matt Knox has been against national monument status for the Montana site since talk of it started.  Dan Boyce He’d like Zinke to shrink the footprint of the monument, saying the Antiquities Act is supposed to protect specific sites, like the Statue of Liberty or Gettysburg. “The original intent was not to set aside huge swaths of land,” he said. Knox would be OK with protecting, say, the famous sandstone White Cliffs or important Native American battle sites. River guide Nicolle Fugere said that’s too narrow. “I think it’s really important to find a place that is as it was and is unchanged," she said, "and that is the Missouri River.” Fugere owns Missouri River Outfitters and paddles tourists in canoes to ancient rock drawings, remains of teepee camps and historic vistas. Related At 100 years old, the national parks need $12 billion of TLC America's national parks, a century of nature and economics How social media hurts and helps the great outdoors She gestured toward an area of the national monument that's important to the story of westward expansion. “You go down there, and you see the same rocks that were described in Lewis and Clark’s journals,” she said. Fugere worked summers in the area for years and bought the guide business a few months ago. She’s now part of the state’s multibillion dollar tourism economy. She’s afraid of the area losing protected status. Nicolle Fugere owns and operates Missouri River Outfitters in Fort Benton, Montana. She leads canoe tours into the monument and wants current protections to remain just as they are. Dan Boyce Chris Mehl, who directs research at a Montana firm called Headwaters Economics, looked at 17 national monuments in the West before and after they received the federal designation. He said the local economies diversified and expanded. “All net new jobs are in services," he said. "Everything from health care and accountants and lawyers on the higher-paying end to folks who work in a hotel or the tourism industry on the lower-paying end.” But the number of people who work in agriculture around those areas is shrinking. That would likely be true with or without national monument status, yet for ranchers like Knox, the switch from an economy that makes use of the land to one that relies on people looking at it is disheartening. Back on his property, Knox just wants to hold on to his way of life. His worst-case scenario: The Upper Missouri River Breaks goes from national monument to national park. “A national park would be a disaster for us," he said. "We don’t want to be an inn holder in a national park and flip hamburgers for a living. That’s not what we do, that’s not who we are.” He said scaling back the acreage covered by the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument would send a signal that ranchers like him can have a future in the area working the land. (06/22/2017)

Is there really a political divide between people who leave their hometowns and those who stay?
Many view the divisions in our current political environment through a "conservative vs. liberal" or "Democrat vs. Republican" filter. After all, a large number of people in both of the major political parties have said that the other group elicits feelings of fear and anger.  But what if there was another way to look at the tension and disagreements that exist in the U.S.? The Guardian's Chris Arnade makes the case that the country is structured in a couple of major ways: Those with elite educations and those without, and those who have left their hometowns and those who have stayed. Those who stay in their communities, for example, are more likely to support President Trump, he said. Especially white voters.  We wanted to know whether this analysis rings true in your life. Here were some of your responses.  Many of you were on board with Arnade's argument: True. I'm criticised by hometown friends for pursuing my education. Some people are uncomfortable with change, while others embrace it — Brandon Holmes (@_bholmes) June 22, 2017 Yes! Some of my family have lived in the same town their entire lives. They are very conservative and devoted Trump supporters. — Bridget Garland (@BridgetGarland) June 22, 2017 Absolutely. 100% comports with my experience. Grew up in rural South and now live in Houston. Massive gap in worldview b/n the two. — Stan Perry (@perry_stan) June 22, 2017 @Marketplace agree on assmt of education + moving from hometown creates diff w/those who stayed. Public hs-> Ivy League, Cincy -> NYC — Kendall Miller (@kendallontherun) June 22, 2017 Others gave their reasons for why they think worldview could be connected to your decision to leave or stay home: Travel exposes you to differences in ends, ways and means ... inculcates empathy. But doesn't always equate liberalism. — Trae York (@trae_york) June 22, 2017 @Marketplace I think it's based on experiencing other parts of the world and encountering diversity. when you stay put that is limited — Lisa Thompson (@lmdthompson) June 22, 2017 @Marketplace People who travel beyond familiar parameters develop an appreciation for cultural contrasts and challenge parochial ideology. — Reetika (@ReetikaWrites) June 22, 2017 It's more a personality thing. Hometowners often fear change & are content with status quo. Movers are restless – embrace change-want more. — Kathy Vetter (@klvetter) June 22, 2017 Some of you disagreed with the analysis — whether you moved away and are pro-Trump, or stayed home and are liberal: @Marketplace Disagree. Relocated, upper middle-class, college educated. Pro Trump! — Sondra Taylor Wesley (@Wesley_911) June 22, 2017 @Marketplace I disagree with the staying close to home Trump voter thing. 25th reunion coming & my classmates moved away but are all RED. — Moore Thought (@complexsavage) June 22, 2017 Most of my family has not left upstate NY. We are lower middle class, and none of us have a college degree. We are all proudly liberal. — Kelsea Purdy (@PurdyKelsea) June 22, 2017 I don't have a college degree. I've lived in the same, rural area my entire life. I am very liberal. I definitely DID NOT vote Trump. — Kristin Noel (@awkwardkristin) June 22, 2017 ...while others made the argument that factors such as racism had to do with Trump's victory: @Marketplace.Guardian analysis off.White people elected trump.Racism&misogyny root cause.POC who didn't move frm home did not vote for trump — donna (@nawalkowsky) June 22, 2017 Some made the argument that political preferences transcend location: @Marketplace Born: DetroitEducated: Vancouver BCWorked: Dallas, Phoenix, LA, San Fran, Kodiak Island, PortlandI vote America first — DP🐾Ashby (#Resist) (@DPAshby) June 22, 2017 Made this seem like folks who stay and care abt making their communities better are close minded & spiteful. — Erin (@SpiralLight1) June 22, 2017   Related America's great divide: Those who stayed in their hometowns and those who left How local communities are trying to rebuild America 100 days into Trump's presidency, Union City, Pennsylvania stands behind him (06/22/2017)

06/22/2017: Disagreement in the Fed over another rate hike
As of the late, Janet Yellen and co. had seemed keen on another rate hike, but the mood appears to be shifting. Diane Swonk of DS Economics stopped by to explain why there's some dissent among Fed members. Afterwards, we'll talk about why the major banks are required to take "stress tests," and then look at how America's productivity rate is doing.  (06/22/2017)

What's the difference between the national debt and the deficit?
Politicians love to talk about the national debt and especially the deficit. But as different factions jockey for their plans and policies, things can start to get confusing. Whose plan is going to cost more? How important is it to be "deficit-neutral"? How does the debt ceiling factor into all of this? On this week's Make Me Smart, we asked The Budget Guy, Stan Collender, about  it all. He says don't worry if you don't get it, you're not alone. "This is the series of definitions, debt and deficit, that most confuses the most people, including members of Congress," Collender said. But it's important to bone up, because this is all going to come up over and over again. Senate Republicans unveiled their health care bill Thursday morning, and it's broadly similar to the bill that passed the House. The health care bill is sort of a tax bill in disguise, and the White House is still crafting broader tax reform. That's next on the agenda. President Trump's 2018 budget proposal is steeped in "trickle-down" or supply-side economics, which can increase deficits.  So, what are we talking about when we talk about deficits? Simply put, a deficit is the difference between what the country is spending and what it's making. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that for fiscal year 2017 the U.S. will spend $559 billion more than it took in. The debt is the total amount the country has borrowed trying to make up that difference year after year. That number fluctuates a bit, but it's usually around $19 trillion. It hasn't been at zero since 1835. Here's the most updated tally from the Treasury. For our "Whiteboard" series a couple years back, Paddy Hirsch explained the difference between debt and deficit using another one of Trump's favorite topics: The trade deficit. Simply put, deficits, when it comes to the budget or trade, aren't good or bad. They're just kind of weird. Debt is bigger, scarier and subject to bitter partisan showdowns in the eleventh hour over how much the U.S. can borrow. Don't hold that last bit against debt though. Another vote on the debt ceiling could come as soon as next month, by the way. The House health care bill would cut the deficit by $119 billion in the next decade, according to the CBO. That savings was a key selling point for the GOP, especially since the same CBO report found the bill would cause 23 million people to lose their insurance. Meanwhile, the CBO reported President Trump's budget proposal would increase the deficit in that same period, albeit more slowly. Trump acknowledged that in his conversation with The Economist last month.   "It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll…you understand the expression 'prime the pump'?" he said. We do, actually, but that's not exactly what Trump is doing here, and the difference is important. His budget isn't spending big to kick-start economic growth. The economy is actually pretty healthy, and Trump isn't spending as much as he's cutting taxes for the rich. The longer-term issue is how those cuts will affect the national debt. Trump boasted he was "the king of debt" during his campaign — not to be confused with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the so-called "Bankruptcy King" — and, indeed, the Atlantic points out that Trump's tax plan could add trillions to the debt. But Trump's public statements on the debt have promised a different course. During the campaign he promised to eliminate the debt in eight years. Economists scoffed, in no small part because the U.S. hasn't been debt free since before the Civil War. A little over a month after being sworn in, Trump boasted that the debt fell by billions. The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017 But that statistic, while technically true, is close to meaningless. Leaving aside the nation's economic health in 2017 compared to 2009, and the tiny dent $12 billion makes in a $19 trillion obligation, debt changes all the time. The Washington Post's Wonkblog wrote at the time: The level of debt fluctuates day to day and week to week, depending on seasonal changes in growth and when the government makes payments, collects tax revenue, issues new debt and other debt matures — making the data very susceptible to cherry-picking. Using the same logic, for example, you could claim that after four days in office Trump increased outstanding public debt by more than $10 billion, and that Obama had reduced it by $6 billion. There's also the fact that Trump simply hadn't taken any action in his first month that would have changed the debt in a meaningful way. So, the debt and the deficit are very different, but they're both used by politicians to obfuscate and sell the public on all kinds of stuff. Under an administration that famously distrusts economic data, knowing how Washington does the numbers is all the more important. (06/22/2017)

How to prevent a financial crisis
The Federal Reserve is releasing the first part of its annual stress tests for big banks today. All of the major banks are expected to pass this year, which is good news if you want to see the U.S. financial system survive a future crisis. The test applies to more than 30 of the biggest banks in the country, and aims to ensure that banks have enough cash reserves to withstand a severe global recession like the 2008 financial crisis. Also today, Jay Powell, a governor of the Federal Reserve, is expected to testify before the Senate that the Volcker Rule, which prevents banks from making risky bets with their own money, is too constricting.  Click the above audio player to hear the full story. (06/22/2017)

For NBA stars, branding goes beyond the court
Remember these commercials? The shoes were Nikes, but to basically every kid in America, they were "Air Jordans." Michael Jordan was, and still is, the brand. His net worth today is $1.3 billion. The lucrative partnership is an example of how Nike leveraged an athlete's popularity to sell shoes. Back then, what mattered most was Jordan being a great player. Nowadays, how good you are on the court is only one factor in a star athlete's earning potential. “These guys now see themselves as businessmen, professionals," said Todd Fischer, Senior Vice President of Global Sports and Entertainment at GMR Marketing. "They play basketball but then they also understand that they have that platform to do other things with, and they are thinking beyond their playing careers." The average NBA career lasts less than five years, so the earning window for a pro basketball player is short.  In fact, social media savvy kids who are good at sports start developing their personal brands in high school, according to Denise Lee Yohn, author of the book "What Great Brands Do." “Athletes have become much more aware of their long-term earning potential and they want to start early and feed that,” she said. Related Nike dominates basketball shoes. Adidas wants in. Why aren't people watching women's basketball? Most stars will sign with a large company like Nike, Adidas or Under Armour. But some want to try to make it on their own. Lonzo Ball is expected to be one of the top three picks in this year's draft. His father, LeVar, has been outspoken about his belief that his kid's brand is going to be worth billions. And he doesn't want to share the wealth with those big companies. The Balls have already launched an independent label, Big Baller Brand. The Sports World is Forever Changed. Introducing Lonzo's 1st Signature Shoe: The ZO2 Prime. — Big Baller Brand (@bigballerbrand) May 4, 2017 You can pre-order a pair of BBB sneakers that will be autographed by Lonzo and ship in November, or you can buy shirts or hats with the company's logo. It's no Nike swoosh, and the Balls aren't Nike. They can't lean on economies of scale like those larger brands. They're not filling millions of orders, so they can't just manufacture a bunch of products on the cheap in China. If you want a pair of Lonzo's autographed shoes, they're going to cost you $995. (06/22/2017)

America's great divide: Those who stayed in their hometowns and those who left
It feels like America is more divided than ever before. Surveys even show that the country's major political parties have very unfavorable views of each other. But maybe we need to reframe the cause of some of the polarization happening in our country. Chris Arnade, a reporter for The Guardian, argues that it might not be about conservatives vs. liberals. Instead, polarization in the U.S. might have to do with those who had an elite education and those who didn't, along with whether or not you decided to leave your hometown. He joined us to talk about these divisions and how they play into a person's worldview. Below is an edited transcript.  David Brancaccio: You've come up with a very interesting construct here. You don't think it's liberal vs. conservative, rural vs. urban? Chris Arnade: It's back row vs. front row, meaning people with elite educations vs. people without them. Currently, and the way our world is structured, I think you have a lot more power and a lot more economic and cultural power when you have that education. So I think it's really divided the world into people who have that and those who don't. Related We asked you: Is there really a political divide between people who leave their hometowns and those who stay? In an Ohio community, division over a Trump presidency From Donald Trump to Sheryl Sandberg: what they want graduates to know about success Brancaccio: And also it's connected to people who haven't left where they grew up?  Arnade: Right. People who define themselves by their careers and are willing to move very often vs. people who stay in their communities. Brancaccio: And the people who stay in their communities, you think they skew more in support of, for instance President Trump? Arnade: Especially white voters. That's very much the case. If you're white and you stayed in your community, you generally vote for Trump. Brancaccio: You stayed in your community — what accounts for that, do you think? Is it about economic opportunity? Is it about the culture that comes from sticking around where you're from? Arnade: It's a little bit of both. I think that there are people who define themselves and define their worldview and define their sense of worth as what they add to their community, or what they add to their family, or what the family adds to them. That takes precedent over, perhaps, career. Now there are also people who don't have the opportunity to move who may have to stay to take care of relatives. But again, it's kind of just a different worldview. It's the idea that "this is where I want to be." When I ask people who generally have lived their entire life in the same community, why they stayed there, they just kind of look at me like I'm asking an absurd question. They just simply say, "Well, it's home," as if that wasn't really ever an option.  Brancaccio: But what do you mean? I mean, people who have traveled for their careers are no longer anywhere near their hometown and they want the best for their family, want the best for their country. They probably would agree with the hometown folks on things like, "I wish public education were better. I wish bridges weren't crumbling in America." Arnade: I think everybody cares about their family, wants their children to have a better life than them. But it's kind of how they play that out. Do they go to a new town and form a new family and raise their family there, or do they stay connected to to where they were born and the land that they remember as a child? That's kind of given them different perspectives on how they think the country should move going forward. (06/22/2017)

Etsy got famous with macramé and Mason jar chic — then it got more like the rest of them
Ask a stranger what comes to mind when they hear the name Etsy, and you might get an answer like Peter Cohan's. "I think it's an artsy place where artsy people exchange things?" said Cohan, who teaches strategy and entrepreneurship at Babson College. "It's my sort of cliche of what Brooklyn's all about. Kind of twee, long beards and stuff like that." That's certainly how Etsy started. The company launched with four employees in 2005 and has since grown into a $1.6 billion publicly-traded company. But now Etsy is laying off 15 percent of its staff — the second round of cuts this year. Its problems seem to stem back to when the company let the mass-produced sell alongside the homespun. "Ten years ago, Etsy was a marketplace where craftspeople and artisans sold their wares," said Gil Luria, director of research at the investment firm D.A. Davidson. "But before they went public a few years ago they changed direction, and tried to be everything to everybody in e-commerce." Luria says the biggest change in the run up to Etsy's 2015 IPO — the company removed its requirement that all goods sold on the platform had to be handmade. This gave big manufacturers access to Etsy's loyal customer base. Related If I say it's artisanal... maybe it is Etsy goes public, hoping to remain 'authentic' People are already selling ‘bad hombre’ and ‘nasty woman’ merch? Yup. "Removing that limitation allowed to accelerate growth in the short-term, but that's when Etsy lost its way," Luria said. "Allowing manufactured goods onto Etsy ruined it for the craftspeople that built Etsy with their own hands." When Etsy started listing $10 bracelets from Chinese factories right next to $100 bracelets handmade by homemakers in Wisconsin, the homemakers could no longer compete. And this fundamentally changed Etsy, Luria said. It became a different company, one in the same business as companies like Ebay, Amazon, and Alibaba. Much like Etsy's artisan craftspeople couldn't compete with cheap factory products, Etsy itself couldn't compete with the giants of online retail. The current layoffs are an effort to turn things around and appease new, activist shareholders. Venture capitalist Charlie O'Donnell was one of Etsy's first investors, 12 years ago. He said that public financing changed the company. "You're kind of dealing with a different set of owners now. You're dealing with public owners that are watching their bottom line," O'Donnell said. Watching that bottom line got the former CEO Chad Dickerson ousted in May. Now investors want the new leader to bring the company back to its DIY, artisanal, profitable roots. (06/21/2017)

Some economists think technology might be slowing inflation
Should inflation be added to the list of things disrupted by tech? For years, we’ve accepted the integrity of the idea of the Phillips curve: that as unemployment declines, wages rise and companies pass along those increased labor costs in the form of price hikes on goods and services. Inflation. But as unemployment has declined in this economic cycle, we’re seeing very little inflation. Is that because of the influence of technology? Click the audio player above to hear the full story. (06/21/2017)

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