Category Archives: PBS: Educational Resources

Online, nonlinear exploration of the economy through a suite of resources.

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.

Understanding PhRMA

The Sunlight Foundation digs deep into the new White House health care proposal and how it may anger the powerful drug lobby, PhRMA.

Just last week, former Louisiana Senator Billy Tauzin resigned as head of PhRMA, the trade group representing the pharmaceutical industry. The group had worked closely with the White House to craft a health care bill that didn’t slam the drug companies.

Sunlight reports:

Throughout 2009, PhRMA and major pharmaceutical companies crafted a deal with the White House to limit cost cutting by the industry in exchange for the industry’s support, through over $100 million in television advertising, for health care reform…The White House’s new proposal contains deeper cost cuts than previously agreed to and contains regulations on the relationship between brand-name and generic drug companies that the industry opposes.

Fresh Air’s Terry Gross spoke with Sunlight Foundation writer Paul Blumenthal to clarify the connections between PhRMA and the administration:

Blumenthal says that the CEOs of pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca attended a series of meetings at the White House throughout the spring and summer, and agreed to spend more than $150 million on ads touting a health care overhaul. That spending and the subsequent lack of progress on the bill, Blumenthal notes, may be why Tauzin resigned.

The Washington Post recently described Tauzin’s role at PhRMA as key:

Tauzin came under sharp criticism for taking the job at PhRMA shortly after helping push through a costly Medicare prescription drug package, which was a boon to drugmakers. Tauzin said he took the position in part because of the role that experimental drugs played in helping him survive a battle with intestinal cancer.

PhRMA, one of the largest health-care organizations in Washington, spent more than $26 million on lobbying last year and has contributed more than $200,000 to federal candidates, mostly Democrats, since 2007.

NPR’s Julie Rovner explains the changes the administration has made to its original proposal:

Sunlight Foundation also analyzed the construction of the first PhRMA health care deal with the administration. The Sunlight Foundation’s commitment to creating more openness in government and providing tools to the public for understanding government data has provided more information about health care reform and other recent initiatives than has ever been available. In an interview with PBS Newshour, Sunlight director Clay Johnson explained the need for Sunlight and similar projects:

Johnson says that feedback is crucial in creating a more transparent relationship between the government and the governed, calling on the American public to be more forgiving with the government in order to see progress. “[Allowing] bad data to exist allows feedback to exist, to correct the data,” he said. “[The public] needs to give government, in some cases, permission to fail.”]

How to watch the State of the Union

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over a year since President Obama took office. Tonight he addresses Congress and the country in his first State of the Union address, which will focus on the economy, health care, and the outlook for 2010.

In the age of digital technology, we’d be remiss not to share with you some cool ways to follow along with the President’s speech, and share your thoughts, and respond during tonight’s event.

NewsHour is streaming the State of the Union live, and you can submit your reactions via YouTube to share them with Jim Lehrer and the NewsHour staff.

You can also share your ending to the sentence “The State of our union is ___” by posting it on WNYC’s site looking at the state of the presidency. In past years, “strong” has been a pretty popular choice.

What happens at a State of the Union? This behind the scenes look from Benjamin Shaw at WFUV in 2007 shows the pomp and circumstance of how a president prepares for the event. There’s also a new teacher’s guide from the NewsHour to help students understand how the State of the Union works and its significance in presidential history.

The State of the Union may also give some clues as to how the Democrats will fair in the 2010 midterm elections. Patchwork Nation’s Dante Chinni provides pre-speech analysis from communities around the country.

Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have slipped in nearly all 12 of Patchwork Nation’s community types in recent months. But, more important to the 2010 elections, there is also a disconnect between how people feel about Obama and how they feel about the Democratic Party, according a recent poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. As it turns out, Obama numbers look OK compared with some numbers for the Democratic Party.

For more video features on the Obama presidency, check out this PBS video collection, which includes clips from the past year about the president’s work and the challenges he’s faced so far.