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.
The Obama administration wants to shrink the Army to its smallest size since the buildup to U.S. involvement in World War II. Plus, airlines and travelers are increasingly antsy about the screening drill at airports, and the TSA has a March 11 deadline for bids for new screening machines. We look at the hang-up in getting people through airports quickly – is it technology, or the cost? And: Netflix breaks down and pays Comcast directly for faster access. Who’s next to collect -- Verizon, AT&T? More to the point, who picks up the check? Us?
It seems the fever over U.S. debt has broken, if President Obama’s budget blueprint is any indication. Public opinion polls show it’s no longer a top issue, the economy is improving, and advocacy groups dedicated to solving the long-term deficit have petered out. But that doesn’t mean the fight over debt is gone. It’s just hibernating. Next, producers of “Anchorman 2” are releasing a new movie, “Anchorman 2 and a half,” which is the original “Anchorman 2” with all new jokes, taken from the outtakes. 700 jokes.
Gap announces it will raise wages of its lowest-paid workers above the current minimum wage. Walmart and other chains are looking at doing something like this. We examine the factors that go into their decision making. Next, Facebook’s $19 billion bid for WhatsApp essentially means it’s paying $42 per WhatsApp subscriber. That’s $12 more per user than Facebook paid for Instagram. Finally, a new report on inequality from Brookings looks at which American cities have the highest and lowest rates of inequality. What impact does the gap have on vibrancy, and quality of life?
New housing starts are down in January, but up year-to-year. We examine the mortgage factor – what role strict lending standards and rising rates have on buyers. Also, consumer debt is up, particularly among people with lower incomes and young adults. The economy depends on people borrowing and spending more, but this might not be a great sign -- we ask whether people are getting over-extended once again. Finally, Netflix seems to be slowing down. Why? Because the people who provide the pipes that Netflix streams through for free want Netflix to pay for that privilege. This flies in the face of net neutrality rulings, but the fact is that other big web firms do pay a premium for faster service.
The President announced new EPA targets today regarding fuel efficiency for heavy-duty trucks. It’s part of his much-talked-about strategy of going around Congress to get things done. But given how ambitious these new goals are, it raises the question of how much power the administration has to go around an industry in requiring new rules. Next, IPO wannabe King Digital Entertainment has made a lot of money out of peoples’ impatience: its top offering, Candy Crush, is free to play, but it makes money from impatient players who want to buy shortcuts in the game - a dubiously sustainable business model. Finally, loan applications for home purchases have slipped in recent months. One reason: student loan burdens have grown, which keeps would-be first-time home buyers out of the market.
It’s cold in some places and hot in others and that does funny things to tan lines, foliage and the economy. Plus: Without regulation, the rail industry has resorted to using pricing to impact how oil and natural gas are delivered by train. And: A check-in on the fifth year of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, iPads in schools, and those sleeved NBA jerseys.