Wealth & Poverty

Ways to Connect

Sam Whitehead / GPB

Imagine living on a street where four out of 10 homes are vacant, nearly half of your neighbors live below the poverty line and a quarter don’t go to a job every day.

That place exists only two miles from downtown Atlanta, despite more than $100 million spent to revitalize the area since the 1990s.

Vine City and English Avenue were poised for a turnaround when the Georgia Dome, home of the Atlanta Falcons, opened in 1992.

States across the country are at war right now. A war over jobs. They are competing with each other to get companies to move within their borders. Politicians love to call this "job creation."

Episode 698: The Long Way Home

Apr 29, 2016

Most social programs in America work like this: if you qualify for assistance, you get it. Food stamps, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit all have their own criteria. But if you pass the threshold and fill out the application, the help is (supposed to be) yours. With housing though, that's not how it works. There are far more people who qualify than actually receive help. For subsidized housing vouchers, there is often a lottery. And your chances aren't good.

But why? The answer is partly about money and partly about history.

Note: This episode originally ran in November 2012.

In this episode, we consider a world in which everybody is cheating, a world where it has become impossible to succeed unless you can game the regulators: Professional cycling.

Under the leadership of Lance Armstrong, the U.S. Postal Service cycling team was wildly successful, winning the Tour de France for seven consecutive years--from 1999 to 2005.

Planning to squeeze cash out of your house this spring to do some remodeling?

You can relax a little. Interest rates on home equity loans, credit cards and car loans are likely to stay low for a while longer.

That's because the Federal Reserve Board's policymakers ended their meeting Wednesday without raising the benchmark short-term interest rate. If the benchmark had risen, then your borrowing costs probably would have been pointing higher too.

But you should be OK for now.

A Macon Program To Revitalize a Neighborhood Expands

Apr 26, 2016

A program in Macon-Bibb County that pays the down payment for Macon homes is going to expand. The target is the Bealls Hill neighborhood, a place that used to be downtrodden but is now revitalized. Twenty-thousand dollar down payments are provided as Mercer matches Knight Foundation money. So far since 2007, about a third of the project has been bought with this assistance. Now, Historic Macon wants to expand to other businesses who might match that Knight money. GPB's Michael Caputo talked with Ethiel Garlington of Historic Macon about the effort. 

Episode 697: Help Wanted

Apr 22, 2016

When you're an employer looking at a giant stack of resumes, you have to find some way to quickly narrow the field. But how do you do that fairly? And what happens when your good intentions backfire?

Episode 468: Kid Rock Vs. The Scalpers

Apr 20, 2016

We live in a society full of people who are obsessed with making sure that prices are right and supply meets demand. And then there's the live-music business.

Concert tickets are often too cheap and the supply is too limited. Scalpers are the proof: If tickets were more expensive to begin with, or if venues were bigger, scalpers wouldn't be able to charge more than face value. Is there a better way?

Sen. Bernie Sanders says that if he is elected president in November, one of his first acts in office would be to begin breaking up the large financial institutions that pose a grave risk to the economy.

But there's a problem with that idea: It's not clear the president has the legal authority to break up the banks.

"It's not something the president can do. It's not even something the Treasury can do," says Karen Shaw Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics.

Episode 696: Class Action

Apr 15, 2016

Can you spot the difference between these tins? It's the basis of a class action — a lawsuit, filed by a few people, on behalf of millions.

Class actions have been around for centuries. But the modern version was created in the 1960s — in part by a young lawyer working on a manual typewriter in the back seat of a car. At the time, class actions were seen as a way to advance the civil rights movement.

Episode 695: Put A Chip On It

Apr 13, 2016

Credit cards and debit cards have tons of safety features. The extra security code on the back. Sometimes your picture. Your signature. That little hologram of a bird that nobody looks at.

But, until recently, there's been a big safety feature missing from credit cards in the U.S.: The chip. It was rolled out to stop fraud in France decades ago. It worked. Every other major economy adopted it, except us. Until now.

Episode 694: The Gun That Wouldn't Shoot

Apr 8, 2016

Colt is an iconic American gun company. It has a proud history of invention. It perfected the revolver before the Civil War. One advertising slogan went, "God created man, Sam Colt made them equal." Big words for a big leap for the gun industry. The company also manufactured the famous M16 rifle for the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. The Colt .45 name even inspired a malt liquor.

But by the 1990s, Colt had fallen on hard times. Gun-control activists were on the march. Lawsuits were threatening gun company profits. Colt was facing bankruptcy.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

The tick tick tick with the turn of the key only meant one thing: this moving truck wasn't starting.

Battery? Dead.

Not too long before on this sunny Wednesday afternoon, Kenny Howell Jr. had pulled up behind the apartment he, his girlfriend and their three kids shared in the Tindall Heights public housing project in Macon, ready to load up and go.

Episode 562: A Mall Divided

Apr 6, 2016

Note: This episode originally ran in August 2014.

The Westfield Valley Fair Mall in California is like any other mall, except for one thing: Half of it is in the city of San Jose, and the other half is in the city of Santa Clara. The boundary line runs right through the mall.

Episode 693: Unpayable

Apr 1, 2016

Puerto Rico is part of the United States, but not one of the United States. And this limbo status has brought a world of economic trouble.

Today on the show, the peculiar Puerto Rican debt crisis explained.

Along the way, we help an adorable mom sort out what's left of her investments in her own government, we meet a chemist who benefited from the boom, and hear how it all ties in with a dramatic jail heist.

Thousands To Lose Food Stamps In Georgia

Apr 1, 2016
Ryan McGuire / Pexel

As many as 5,700 metro Atlanta residents could lose their food stamps, part of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, starting today because of a requirement that benefits recipients have jobs.

For workers who want a raise, this was an encouraging week, with minimum-wage legislation gaining momentum and employers paying more across the board.

In fact, the Service Employees International Union labeled this "a historic week." Here's what happened on the wage front in recent days:

The U.S. economy gained 215,000 jobs in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says in its monthly report released Friday. The unemployment rate rose slightly to 5 percent, up from 4.9 percent in the month before.

"The increase in the unemployment rate came because we had more people looking for work," economist Gus Faucher of PNC Financial Services tells our Newscast unit.

Note: This episode originally ran in September 2012 with an update in December 2012.

The story picks up several months after we set up a our shell companies — Unbeliezable, Inc., in Belize, and Delawho? in Delaware.

Trevor Young / GPB

President Obama is in Atlanta today to speak at the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit. Although the rise of opioid abuse is a national problem, opioid addiction is especially critical in this state, where drug-related deaths increased by 10 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Episode 692: The Secret Life Of Line 24

Mar 25, 2016

A lot of the stuff on IRS form 1040 — the basic tax form — is straightforward enough. But there are a few lines that you look at and say: What is that? And how did it get on my tax form?

Music: "Starlight." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook

Episode 691: The Great Unbundling

Mar 23, 2016

There's a revolution underway in the world of cable TV--more and more people are getting rid of it. And there are some unforeseen consequences when we cut the cord and go our separate ways. Today on the show, we track the fate of channel 9409.

Music: "One Simple Push" and "Simply Irresistible." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook

Episode 690: All In

Mar 18, 2016

At big money poker tournaments, what you see on TV is just the surface of things. There's a game going on behind the game. We talk to a professional poker player who lost on the first day of a major tournament--then went on to get the biggest payout of his life.

Music: Sarah Chernoff's "Turn The Lights On." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Note: This episode originally ran in July 2012.

In this show, we dive deep into the world of offshore companies and bank accounts. We set up our own company in a tax haven and we find the easiest place to register a business anonymously.

Federal Reserve policymakers said Wednesday that the U.S. economy is chugging along at a decent pace with an improving job market.

Still, they fear risks from "global economic and financial developments."

So given that balance of good news and growing risks, the Federal Open Market Committee decided to take no action on the target range for the federal funds rate at the close of its two-day meeting.

In this episode, we follow a debt default drama to its bitter end. Argentina decided that it could take on the world--it defaulted on its loans, dug in its heels and took a hard line against its lenders. The country would not pay what it was owed. Lenders blinked. Victory seemed near. But a group of hedge funds had a different plan. They took the entire country to court.

Note: This episode originally ran in November 2012.

One day in the early 1990s, a man walked into the U.S. embassy in Ecuador. He said he had information somebody would want to hear — information on how to go after some of the most powerful drug traffickers in the world.

Episode 688: Brilliant vs. Boring

Mar 4, 2016

In 2006, Warren Buffett posed a challenge. He bet that the smartest hedge fund managers out there couldn't beat the world's simplest, most brainless investment. In this show, we tell you who's winning.

For more on the bet, see Long Bets.

Many Americans tell pollsters and politicians that they're angry. Why?

At least part of the answer might be tucked inside the February jobs report, released Friday by the Labor Department. Consider this:

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