Every weekday on Marketplace, Kai Ryssdal hosts a lively and unexpected exploration of the day’s business and economic news from Wall Street to your wallet.
Airing on Monday, April 13, 2015: A study finds that nearly three out of four recipients of Medicaid, food stamps and other aid are members of families headed by someone who works –meaning, someone who works but doesn’t earn a wage high enough to keep them out of poverty. The study says this amounts to a $150 billion subsidy of low-paying employers. This comes as several companies have raised their minimum pay to $9 an hour ($18,720 a year), and unions and others advocate for a minimum wage of $15, as median incomes haven’t grown in 20 years or so. Next, a historic handshake this weekend between Presidents Obama and Castro at the Summit of the Americas has helped to fuel optimism over warming relations with Cuba. But – handshakes aside – what obstacles remain to trading with Cuba for businesses both small and large? We explore.
Airing on Friday, April 10, 2015: General Electric, once a manufacturing titan, made a hard-headed decision to become a financial company and is now going back to manufacturing. Finance is simply too costly and highly regulated. Does General Electric's move mark a sea change in the American economy — perhaps the end of the dominance of finance? Next, apps on a smartwatch are going to have to be entirely re-visualized — small screen, viewed at arm’s length. It’s a new platform for any app. We look at the design challenge for app makers. Plus, Florida is placing limits on the high-stakes standardized tests. The Florida Legislature on Thursday passed a bill that caps the time students spend on state-authorized tests to no more than 45 hours a year. Will other states follow?
Airing on Thursday, April 9, 2015: Google plans to offer subscriptions on YouTube. We want to look at how this will work, and what's behind it. The answer to the latter question will take in the fact that YouTube has a profit problem, and explain the landscape that is moving Google in this direction (streaming competition with Netflix, for example). Next, will people in Massachusetts, or Michigan, or anywhere, end up with less satisfying showers because of California’s drought? California is imposing new low-flow rules on faucets, showers and toilets. We look at how its huge new market for low-flow could swing manufacturers and other states in the same direction. Also, the deceased Latina singer Selena has been given a new lease of life. Some of her unreleased songs are being remastered and released, and she is going on tour. Or a hologram of her is, at least. So many questions. How big is the market for holo-acts?
Shell is teaming up with BP — just one of the many oil and gas mergers in the works. A look at the pressure for the industry to consolidate, and if some sectors are under more pressure than others.
Next, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras is in Moscow today meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Financially-strapped Greece is making slow progress in debt talks with the EU, and some Greeks believe Russia may be able to help the country financially.
Also, California's drought is hitting the agricultural Central Valley hard. Farmers are, of course, business people, and if they only have a certain amount of water, they will invest it in the most lucrative crops.
Plus, John Hancock announced today it is the first life insurance company in the nation to offer financial incentives for customers with wearable health technology, who share that data with the company. How will it work, and will other companies follow?
Greece claims Germany owes it billions in reparations from World War II, which Germany denies. How Greece arrived at the claim, and why they are pushing for the money now — heavily in debt and badly in need of Germany's help.
Plus, recent California water restrictions will kick off higher prices to discourage waste. Cities that exceed new rations could end up paying four times as much for the extra water residents use.
Also, Microsoft announced plans to hire more people with autism. Is the initiative about altruism and corporate image, creating a more diverse workforce, attracting employees with specific skills, or all of the above?
The tentative deal with Iran to limit its nuclear activities would also lead to lifted sanctions. Iran has vast reserves of natural gas, zinc, iron and copper, not to mention 80 million consumers and a large, sophisticated middle class. The country could potentially become the largest, most important economy in the Middle East.
Plus, tomorrow U.S. Senator Rand Paul is expected to make official what's been widely speculated for months: he's running for president. When hopefuls announce can make a big difference, since candidates can't coordinate with super PACs, but those testing the water can, like Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton.
Also, farmers have produced record corn crops the past two years, driving down their own prices by 20 percent. The record number came with converting millions of acres of grassland into marginal farmland — with a carbon footprint equal to 34 coal-powered generating plants.