Originally published on Tue January 7, 2014 1:25 pm
This post was updated at 12:00 p.m. ET.
A three-month extension of federal unemployment benefits for 1.3 million jobless Americans won a key procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday.
The 60-37 vote indicates there's enough Republican support to move the Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which expired on Dec. 28, forward to a full vote. As The Associated Press writes, the measure "is the leading edge of a Democratic program that also includes raising the minimum wage and closing tax loopholes on the wealthy and corporations."
The Senate has approved Janet Yellen as the next head of the Federal Reserve. At a ceremony commemorating the Fed's centennial last month, Yellen sat with (from left-to-right) former chairmen Paul Volker and Alan Greenspan, and current Fed leader Ben Bernanke.
Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 7:13 pm
The Senate has voted to approve the nomination of Janet Yellen as the next leader of the U.S. Federal Reserve. With Monday's vote, Yellen, 67, will become the first woman to serve as America's banking chief, heading an institution that was established in 1913.
Health care spending grew at a record slow pace for the fourth straight year in 2012, according to a new government report. But the federal officials who compiled the report disagree with their bosses in the Obama administration about why.
The annual report from the actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, published in the journal Health Affairs, found total U.S. health spending totaled $2.8 trillion in 2012, or $8,915 per person.
Switching gears now. Unemployment for young people is another one of those contentious political issues as well as a burden for people living through it. Overall, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is just over 7 percent, but for younger workers it's much higher. For some young workers or would-be workers in sub-groups like black teens, unemployment is at depression levels. But what you might not know is that youth unemployment is a global concern.
As far as New Year's resolutions go, saving more money is often a popular one. Actually being able to do that - well, we know how that story usually ends. But researchers may have come up with a winning method. NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, we are all ears.
SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Carolann Broekhuizen is a retired life insurance claims examiner. She lives in Waterford, Michigan. Whenever she has a little extra money, there are some things she likes to do.
Congress returns to Washington this week, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pledged the first item on the agenda will be restoring long-term unemployment benefits. Those benefits expired last week, and an estimated 1.3 million people stopped receiving checks.
And we can't get enough of the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. We're staying right there with a question: two-door or four-door? Gas or hybrid? Soon it won't be long before the car salesperson is asking Apple or Google?
Automakers unveiled an alliance yesterday that's aimed at bringing Google's Android operating system into millions of cars in the next few years. Here's NPR's Steve Henn.
We've known for some time, that having more education usually leads to higher pay. Well, now a study suggests that the advantage persists even into retirement years, in part because those with more education tend to stay in the workforce longer.
NPR's Ina Jaffe covers aging and she has this story.
INA JAFFE, BYLINE: For people in their late 60's or 70's or beyond, college might seem like a long time ago. But the impact persists, says study co-author Heidi Hartmann.
The Senate gets back to work Monday after a two-week holiday break. Just as Majority Leader Harry Reid promised, the first piece of legislation getting a vote will be a three-month extension of the long-term unemployment benefits that ran out a week ago for 1.3 million jobless Americans.
Though the Senate unemployment measure is bipartisan, it's not clear it has enough votes to beat a GOP filibuster. Regardless, Democrats are banging the drum on the issue as a midterm election year begins.
In November, 222,000 Californians opened their mailboxes to find a warning: Unemployment benefits were scheduled to end in December.
While Congress was inching closer to passing a budget, Emergency Unemployment Compensation was not part of the deal. That's the long-term jobless benefits: extra federal money that allows unemployed workers to collect payments for months longer than they could in better economic times.
Sure enough, on Dec. 18, Congress passed that budget and packed up for Christmas recess, leaving those extended benefits to expire just 10 days later.
When the North American Free Trade Agreement was being negotiated, supporters promised it would increase the income of Mexicans. And the middle class did grow in Mexico over the past two decades. But it's clear that Mexico's ultrarich are among its big winners.
Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 1:58 pm
Ford and GM are calling 2013 the best year for U.S. auto sales in at least five years. On Friday, they reported double-digit annual gains, while Chrysler reported an increase of 9 percent for its strongest year since 2007.
The new sales figures reflect a continuing turnaround from the struggles that led to a federal bailout in recent years. Here are highlights from each company's report:
Retail sales were up 14 percent in 2013, as Ford sold 2,493,918 vehicles.
Minimum wage workers in 13 states will see a bump in their paychecks this year. Host Michel Martin talks about the possible ripple effects of raising minimum wages. She's joined by Bloomberg Businessweek contributor Roben Farzad and NPR Senior Business Editor Marilyn Geewax.
Recreational marijuana has been on sale in Colorado for a couple days now. And pot shops there have been surprised by the long lines of customers. Many people have been coming in from out of state hoping to be among the first to buy recreational pot legally.
But as Colorado Public Radio's Ben Markus reports, tourists are finding there are few legal places to smoke it.
Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 10:09 am
Cost overruns are threatening to shut down a multibillion-dollar expansion of the Panama Canal aimed at allowing the world's largest ships to pass through the short cut between the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean.
A European consortium funding the project says it won't continue the work until Panama coughs up the extra cash — which amounts to $1.6 billion over and above an original $3.2 billion bid to build a third set of locks.
When members of Congress return to work next week, at the top of the "to-do" list is whether to renew emergency unemployment benefits. An extension of the benefits expired at the end of 2013, which means 1.3 million out-of-work Americans are no longer getting unemployment checks.
The widening gap between the rich and poor in the U.S. has become a central touch point for economists, pundits and politicians across the U.S. New York City's newly sworn-in mayor, Bill deBlasio, was elected after campaigning against a city divided between the haves and have-nots. President Obama has called tackling inequality the defining challenge of our time, saying that growing inequality and a lack of upward mobility jeopardizes the American dream. But what, exactly, is income inequality?
Retail sales of recreational marijuana are now legal in Colorado. Host Michel Martin looks at the highs, and possible lows of the new law with Dana Coffield of The Denver Post, and The Sacramento Bee's Peter Hecht, author of Weed Land.
A Harvard economist finds there are psychological connections between the bad financial planning of many poor people and the poor time management of busy professionals. In both cases, he finds the experience of scarcity causes biases in the mind that exacerbate problems.
And even as things are looking up for the auto industry, many Americans still feel the sting of the 2008 recession. In the years since, many banks have been hit with large fines, but no major Wall Street executive has been convicted of criminal charges for their role in the financial crisis. That's not always how it went. A few years ago, a series of corporate scandals generated outrage and some stiff prison sentences.
This famous bet — between a biologist and an economist — was over population growth. It started three decades ago, but it helped set the tone for environmental debates that are still happening today.
The biologist at the heart of this bet was Paul Ehrlich at Stanford. He wrote a best-selling book in 1968 called The Population Bomb. It was so popular he appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 9:29 am
As the new year begins, most economists' annual forecasts are brimming with good cheer.
"The economic news remains broadly encouraging," the Goldman Sachs forecasters write in their 2014 outlook.
And the brighter prospects are not limited to this country. "The global economy is likely to emerge in 2014 with modest growth of 3.3 percent compared with 2.5 percent this year," according to Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at the forecasting firm IHS Global Insight.
Villages in the Lower Shire valley of Malawi, like this one named Jasi, rely heavily on subsistence farming and steady rainfall, and are struggling to produce steady harvests.
Credit Jennifer Ludden/NPR
Saiton Ngalou lays hay over his corn field to help retain moisture and keep his harvest healthy. He also staggers beans along the rows of maize, to cut down on soil erosion from heavy downpours.
Credit Jennifer Ludden/NPR
Jasi's farmers now track rainfall with a water gauge installed by Eagles Relief and Development. Last year, when it hit 26.7 millimeters on Dec. 18, they put up signs at the local church and school informing people that they could plant millet, since the soil was moist enough for it to germinate. The trigger for planting corn was 35.6 millimeters.
Credit Jennifer Ludden/NPR
Victor Mughogho (left) is the executive director of Eagles Relief and Development, a nonprofit organization that's helping farmers adapt to climate change. He talks with villagers in Jasi, where his group has also donated goats so that people can sell the offspring if their harvest falls short.
Rain is so important in Malawi's agriculture-based economy that there are names for different kinds of it, from the brief bursts of early fall to heavier downpours called mvula yodzalira, literally "planting rain." For generations, rainfall patterns here in the southeast part of Africa have been predictable, reliable. But not now.
In the village of Jasi, in the hot, flat valley of Malawi's Lower Shire, farmer Pensulo Melo says 2010 was a disaster.
There's a drive-thru ATM in Charlotte, N.C., that looks pretty standard, but it has an extra function: a button that says "speak with teller."
The face of a woman wearing a headset sitting in front of a plain blue background flashes onto the ATM screen. "Good afternoon," she says. "Welcome to Bank of America. My name is Carolina. How are you today?"
She's one of a cadre of Bank of America employees in Florida and Delaware call centers, where they remotely control ATMs across the country. I ask for $26.