Category Archives: NBR

Parting thoughts

Signs of the times

Signs of the times

Over the past 10 months, has featured some of the most poignant, informative and visual stories about communities coping in the ongoing crisis.

These stories are what make public media stand out – the voices featured from around the country and the innovative ideas that have inspired news stories.

It’s been so exciting to learn how the economy has changed over the past year – at times the stories have been hopeful and uplifting, often they’ve been upsetting and grim, but never boring.

Here’s a quick review of a few stories that continue to be relevant:

Book Club (4/12/2010) and Book Keeping (3/11/2010) Funny names of old financial texts, and a Paul Solman list of the best books on the financial crisis.

One Sixth of What? (9/22/2009) Back in September, before the health care reform legislation was passed, we examined what makes up the health care costs.

Trading Up (2/24/2010) looked at bartering’s comeback – from help with school projects to borrowing a rake from your next door neighbor.

Shifting Gears (4/2010): Tens of thousands of people work building vehicles in the U.S. And while Ford and GM are reporting that their books look better, many people are still riding the waves of the the hard transition in this industrial sector. That’s why Shifting Gears, a public radio special, will have relevance for some time to come. The latest EconomyBeat podcast features highlights from the program.

Pictures of Transition: One of the most popular aspects of the blog this past year was the weekly collection of user-generated images about the state of the economy. These powerful, witty and painful pictures illustrate the compelling drama of the recession that communities and individuals continue to navigate.

I can’t write about EconomyStory without including stories that came directly from readers, listeners and viewers in the form of comments, six-word memoirs and responses on Facebook and Twitter.

A comment from reader Carlos Tobin about bank size, one of many active discussions on Facebook:

Limiting the size of banks could hurt a innovative start up bank that wants to form and take out the banks that caused the problem. Legislation will just entrench the existing players, and stifle innovation.

And the Six-Word Memoir Project with SMITH Magazine, which collected creative tales of economic hardship. The most recent ones, posted on the SMITH site include:

Whitney Cole: Goodbye, economy. Hello, credit card debt.
Charles: Exchanged credit cards for library card
Kali: Buying a camper, not a house!

EconomyStory will continue to serve as a jumping off point for exploring all that public media has to offer. Projects like Patchwork Nation and Youth Radio aren’t going away, so the links on this site will still take you to the best coverage of the economy. However, as the EconomyStory collaboration comes to an end, this blog will no longer be updated. You can still follow the great work that the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) does at and you can follow my work on Twitter @laurahertzfeld. Thank you for all your support and input! And a big thank you to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for making this possible.

Follow the (tax) money

Now that you’ve paid your taxes, where is all that money going?

KQED’s YouDecide tool lets you answer a poll about whether your money is being well spent, and shares data about where the money really goes.

It turns out that in three major categories – defense, health care and education – we direct more of our budget than the average member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

So far, 55% of respondents have said that tax dollars aren’t being spent well by the federal government. Add your voice at YouDecide.

YouthRadio’s Making Cents series tackles taxes and gets young people sharing what comes to mind when they hear those letters: I.R.S.

And to lighten up Tax Day a bit, Nightly Business Report has a piece on the pressures of filing taxes. Watch tax experts go head-to-balance sheet in: Iron Accountant.

Many happy returns

It’s that time of year again. The time when all the procrastinators start fretting April 15: tax day. Paying taxes isn’t what most of us would consider fun, but here are some great resources for getting your filing in on time and taking advantage of credits along the way.

Nightly Business Report’s Tax Tips with Kevin McCormally of Kiplinger’s Finance reviews the best ways to get the most out of your possible credits. This week he explores college tax credits:

For 2009, the hope credit is replaced by a more valuable American opportunity credit for most students. The new credit is worth up to $2,500 for up to four years of college. If you paid bills for three undergrads last year, you could knock $7,500 off your tax bill. And if you earned too much in the past to qualify for the hope credit, don’t give up hope for the American opportunity credit.

Now that it’s crunch time, should you still try to file on your own, or is it worth it to hire an accountant? NPR’s Tamara Keith asked Facebook fans of NPR to tell their stories of tax preparation, including this one from David Falcheck, who is happy to go it alone:

“This year I think I really got over the hump and it took me less time than I thought it was going to take,” says Falchek. But there was a time when Falchek decided his taxes had gotten too complicated to handle on his own.

And there are several stories of marital tension (and at least one of bliss) about tax season:

In Lincoln, Neb., Jody Boyce and her husband do their taxes together on the same date every year. The tradition started several years ago… But taxes don’t spell romance for everyone. One person who commented said she and her husband turned to an accountant after doing their own taxes caused the ugliest argument in their eight-year relationship.

Whether you’re an early starter who has already filed and put your refund safely in the bank, or you’re still procrastinating, here are some tips from Marketplace about how we can all do better end-of-year planning in 2010.

Former Wall Street Journal tax columnist Tom Herman suggests:

Start by taking a fresh look at your investments. Focus on your losers, that are now selling for less than you paid for them. If you were thinking of dumping them between now and the year end, this is a good time to do it. I know that it’s painful to admit you’ve lost money on a stock.

What’s Greek to us

Greece is in major debt and the ancient country is facing some very modern problems trying to get out. As a newer member of the eurozone, the European countries who have adopted the euro as their one currency, more financially stable nations like Germany and France are nervous about the implications coming to Greece’s aid.

NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff spoke with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou about what his country needs from the U.S. and how Greece got into its current financial situation.

Marketplace commentator David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute falls on the side of questioning the expansion of the eurozone. He notes that the weaker countries in the eurozone are making sacrifices to stay in the club, and this approach will not help them succeed in the long run.

These governments — and others in Europe — are accepting higher unemployment in order to defend their currency…And yet, while Spain’s socialist government has seen its poll numbers drop, neither Spain, nor Greece, nor Portugal, nor Ireland is experiencing serious public pressure to quit the euro.To the leaders of these countries, the euro means Europe, and Europe means prosperity, stability, democracy, and peace.

How will the Greek crisis affect your investments here in the U.S.? Nightly Business Report spoke with foreign exchange experts on why investors here should care.

Standard & Poors analyst Alec Young:
Europe and the UK represent about two thirds of overseas market capitalizations. So anybody that owns an international mutual fund or an international ETF, there’s a very good chance, if it’s broadly diversified, that they do have significant exposure to Europe and to the UK.

Some experts say that while Greece is having trouble and there is a threat to other struggling eurozone nations, the fears about the global economy’s stability as a whole are secondary.

NPR’s Corey Flintoff spoke with economist Joseph Stiglitz:

The Greek crisis has contributed to the general air of uncertainty in international financial markets… Greece is one of five euro zone countries now struggling with big national debts. “The major implications are for Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland and therefore in some sense for all of Europe,” says Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University.
The problems in the euro zone could impact the U.S., too, Stiglitz says, especially if they dampen sales of U.S. exports to Europe.

Paying for disaster

Relief workers in Concepcion, Chile. Credit: Flickr/Globovision

Relief workers in Concepcion, Chile. Credit: Flickr/Globovision

Chile and Haiti suffered similar massive earthquakes, but the aftermath and impact of the disasters couldn’t be more different.

Chile’s much more economically developed than Haiti and has made huge progress over the past 20 years, which partially contributed to limiting the country’s death toll after the earthquake. So recovery, as Marketplace’s Tess Vigeland reports, will be focused (after human relief) on not losing the economic gains in areas like natural resource developments and infrastructure improvements. She spoke with Kevin Casas-Zamora, of the Brookings Institution:

Vigeland: You mentioned that there’s been a lot of economic growth in Chile. How much of that do you know went into infrastructure that perhaps contributed to the death toll not being greater?

Casas-Zamora: I think why the death toll was as low as it has been given the magnitude of the tragedy, it ultimately has to do with development in general. The glaring comparison between Chile and Haiti showcases very well why development matters. And it matters because it saves hundreds of thousands of lives.

Vigeland: What do you think the rest of the world, other governments, are taking away from how Chile has handled this crisis thus far?

Casas-Zamora: My sense is that the most remarkable aspect of all this is that it comes in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. And the contrast couldn’t be greater. Really, in Chile what we’re witnessing is a state that works, whereas in Haiti the most glaring absence in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake was of a state at all. I mean it was sort of a phantom state. Whereas in the case of Chile, you can definitely see what a difference a functioning state makes when a disaster such as this one strikes.

The effect of the earthquake on Chile’s natural resources business is a major concern. Nightly Business Report’s Terri Cullen reports:

The location of the disaster can inflate commodities prices as well. For example, Chile is the world’s largest copper producer. The quake briefly sent the price of copper soaring to a seven-week high, before settling back on word the country’s biggest mines are undamaged. Oil prices also rose after Chile’s government said the quake disrupted oil production in the country, so it would need to import more fuel.

The threat of escalating inflation and the loss of human productivity will no doubt hamper economic growth in Chile and Haiti in the months, and perhaps years, to come. But the rebuilding and recovery effort could potentially wind up helping the economy in the long run.

Haiti’s economic status isn’t the only reason the quake there was so much more devastating than Chile’s. Other factors, including a direct hit to the capital city, and that Haiti hasn’t been an earthquake-prone area, also contributed to a greater impact in the Caribbean nation.

But it’s not a contest. Both countries have much rebuilding to do and “donor fatigue” is a real issue. The Christian Science Monitor compares the giving to both countries so far. After the 2004 Asian tsunami, NPR published this guide to giving wisely and advice how citizens can assist both ongoing causes and the cause-du-jour.