Wealth & Poverty

Ways to Connect

Episode 779: Shrimp Fight Club

Jun 21, 2017

What Senator Jeff Flake hates: frivolous government spending; what he loves: puns.

So, every year, he releases a list of what he considers wasteful government expenditures. It's called a wastebook. He titles his with an over-the-top pun. The 2015 edition was "The Farce Awakens." The one from this January goes by "PORKemon Go." When he's presenting his reports to congress, Flake looks like he's having the time of his life.

Eighty years ago, Qatar's primary industry was pearl-diving. Today, the tiny Persian Gulf nation is the richest country in the world per capita. It's also in a lot of trouble.

Saudi Arabia and several nearby countries have blockaded tiny Qatar, cut off all trade, closed the border. It seemed like overnight, Qatar went from being on top of the world to being a regional pariah.

So we wondered: What's going on?

Flickr / Right to the City Alliance

Atlanta’s demographics are in flux, and city neighborhoods are following suit. A new study from Georgia State University took a comprehensive look at the last 45 years in the Atlanta metro area. It found the city is more diverse, more educated and wealthier than ever. That sounds like good news. The bad news is, the city has lost five percent of its affordable housing units every single year since 2012.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Frederick Hutson is an entrepreneur whose biggest early venture landed him in prison for nearly five years—distributing marijuana through UPS and FedEx.

In prison, he became determined to design a business plan for when he got out. He spent his days drawing up spreadsheets by hand, making plan after plan, no matter how ludicrous.

Updated at 3:55 p.m. ET.

Federal Reserve policymakers have raised their target for the benchmark federal funds interest rate by a quarter-point, to a range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent.

fatseth / Foter

Thousands of Georgians were dropped from food stamp benefits this year – roughly 62 percent of the state’s recipients. The state told them they had an April 1 deadline to find a job, or lose their benefits. We talk with Melissa Johnson, Senior Policy Analyst for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. Also Craig Schneider, reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution joins us.

In the 20th century, Oneida was a household name: One of America's biggest flatware manufacturers. The company's knives and forks were a symbol of middle-class elegance. The advertising was so prolific, Oneida came to represent the very idea of a well-set table. The company was as American as the rolling hills and open farmland of Sherrill, NY - near Oneida - where the flatware was made.

There is nobody more sunny and optimistic than a politician writing a budget, and Donald Trump is no different.

His budget promises a golden age of new jobs and progress, with tax cuts and a border wall to boot. To make all this possible, it assumes one thing: that the economy will grow at 3% every year. This is very hard. Other countries do it all the time, but the United States hasn't consistently seen that kind of growth in decades.

On today's show, we come up with a plan to get there, but Donald Trump might not like it.

Do you know your credit score? More importantly do you truly understand the concept of credit?

In this episode hosts Matt Goren and Michael Thomas of UGA's College of Family and Consumer Sciences take a shot at simplifying an often complicated issue, and even manage to have some fun with it! Take a listen to find out more.

The pace of hiring in the U.S. slowed last month. Employers added just 138,000 jobs. But the unemployment rate dropped to 4.3 percent, the lowest it has been in 16 years.

The monthly snapshot from the Labor Department is one of the most closely watched indicators of the health of the economy.

Episode 775: The Pigweed Killer

Jun 2, 2017

The border of Arkansas and Missouri is a land of open skies and long stretches of farmland. It's also the scene for a fight against a weed – specifically the pigweed, which will overwhelm a crop in a season.

Updated at 11:46 a.m. ET

The U.S. economy added 138,000 jobs in May, according to the monthly jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning.

The national unemployment rate nudged lower, to 4.3 percent from 4.4 percent — a 16-year low. The 4.4 percent level had been the lowest since since 2007, before the recession hit.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Hernando de Soto's parents always talked about Peru as he was growing up. His family had moved to Switzerland after a coup. They were kicked out of the country, and for many years de Soto thought of Peru as this magical place.

When he was 38, de Soto moved back to Peru. He knew the country was poor, but he didn't really understand the extent of the poverty until he got there.

Warning: This episode has explicit language, for unavoidable and soon-to-be obvious reasons.

Growing up in California, Simon Tam had some tough moments. He was Chinese-American, and in middle school, kids called him all kinds of racial slurs.

Those moments stuck with him.

Simon grew up, and eventually started a band that was beginning to take off. He decided on a band name that said something about being Asian. Something that asserted an identity. He picked "The Slants," as a way to own a stereotype and turn it into something completely different.

A few years ago, a rumor started going around the casino world. There was a crew of Russians hitting up casinos across the U.S. They'd roll up, find their favorite slot machine, play for a couple hours, and walk out with thousands of dollars. They didn't lose.

All of it was caught on camera, but there was no evidence that these men ever physically tampered with the slot machines. There was, however, something unusual about the way the men played: They always kept one hand buried in their pockets or in the bags they carried with them.

Here is a thing we hear approximately every day: The world is changing faster than ever before. Robert Gordon doesn't buy it.

He's an economist who has spent decades studying technological change and economic growth in America. He argues that, contrary to popular belief, the world is not changing faster than ever before. In fact, it's not even changing as fast as it was 100 years ago.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Spreadsheets used to be actual sheets of paper. Sometimes, a bunch of sheets of paper taped together.

Any calculation made on a spreadsheet was done by hand, and these could take days to complete for an accountant or bookkeeper. It was tedious. One little adjustment to these calculations meant a whole day of erasing and filling the same boxes out again.

JOSEPH SHAPIRO / NPR

In Georgia, county courts have contracted with private probation companies to collect fines from offenders. People are sometimes jailed for not being able to pay, even though the Supreme Court outlawed debtors’ prisons some 35 years ago. In the last couple of years, Georgia law changes made it harder for private probation companies to operate. What happens now to people who don’t pay the fines?

This part two of a two part series. Listen to part one here.

Valerie / Flickr/CC

As Georgia State University and its development partners move forward on redeveloping downtown Atlanta’s Turner Field, neighbors of the former Atlanta Braves stadium are locked in a bitter struggle over how to secure things like affordable housing, green space, jobs and connectivity.

Last November, India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, made a move that brought India's economy to its knees.

Modi said, starting on November 9th, most of the country's paper money would no longer be legal tender. Everything over the equivalent a US $5 bill would become worthless pieces of paper.

For an economy where 90 percent of business transactions happen in cash, this was a big deal.

About 1,800 economics graduate students converged on the chilly Chicago streets in early January. Some of them ran through those streets, trying to get to the next hotel on time.

They were trying to find a job.

At some point in time, the economics profession decided it was going to create a job market unlike any other. They were going to create a system that is the most efficient job market imaginable.

In this second episode of "Nothing Funny About Money," hosts Matt Goren and Michael Thomas get a bit philosophical about the supposed corelation between money and happiness, the discussion might just surprise you.

The U.S. economy added 211,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. The number is a sharp rebound from March, when fewer than 100,000 jobs were created.

Both the national unemployment rate, at 4.4 percent, and the number of unemployed people, at 7.1 million, saw only incremental changes last month, according to the bureau. By falling from 4.5 percent to 4.4 percent, the unemployment rate remains at low levels that were last seen in 2007, before the recession hit.

Georgia's Bad Credit Score

May 4, 2017

Thinking of getting a new credit card or buying a house? Your credit score can determine those things, and a whole lot more. A new report puts Georgia at the top of the list for worst credit in the country.  That’s according to the website, cardratings.com. Georgia’s lousy rating is the result of low credit scores, foreclosures, unemployment and bankruptcy.

Today on the show, we sit down with Dr. Ben Bernanke, the medicine man of the markets and the money supply.

Ten years later, we're still dealing with the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. Some industries and parts of the country are still trying to recover from the worst economic period since the Great Depression.

It was Ben Bernanke's job to stop the crashing and pick up the pieces.

Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged as they ended their policy-making meeting in Washington, D.C., today.

The Fed raised its benchmark rate by a quarter of a percentage point back in March, to a range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent, where it remains. In their post-meeting statement today, the central bank policymakers provided little guidance on when their next rate hike might come.

A class at Georgia Tech focuses on the history and community of Auburn Avenue in Atlanta. The neighborhood was home to Martin Luther King Jr. and an important setting for the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Now, Georgia Tech students are documenting that community, while trying to raise awareness of issues there. We speak with Professor Nassim JafariNaimi, and students Nick Tippens and Ali Yildirim.

Ben Bernanke had to guard his public comments closely in his eight years as the world's most powerful central banker. His words could move global markets.

He hasn't had to be quite as circumspect since leaving the Federal Reserve chairmanship three years ago — and he's kind of enjoying that.

"It's been good! It's nice not to have those responsibilities anymore, and to have more flexibility, more time," he tells NPR.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2014.

As World War II was ending, world leaders realized they had a problem. Countries no longer knew how to trade with each other. Their economies were devastated. So representatives from 44 nations gathered in the small town of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to come up with the solution.

Pages