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economy

Saul Gonzalez / KCRW

As good as life can be for many in Southern California, there are still lots of people who think about pulling up stakes and moving out of state. And many of them are looking at Texas.

Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage?

Apr 9, 2019

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It's not uncommon for people who want to start businesses in lower-income neighborhoods to have trouble getting bank loans. But increasingly, there are investors looking specifically to help businesses in those areas, with the aim of reversing the cycle of disinvestment.

Updated at 3:08 p.m ET

Frustrated by the large number of Central Americans who have been entering the country from Mexico, President Trump doubled down on his threat to close the Southern U.S. border.

"I'm ready to close it," Trump said Tuesday. "If we don't make a deal with Congress, the border is going to be closed, 100 percent."

A version of this story was first posted by member station WBUR.

What Alan Krueger Taught Us

Mar 19, 2019

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Princeton economics professor and former Obama adviser Alan Krueger died this past weekend at the age of 58. The cause of death was suicide. Krueger made enormous contributions to the field of economics and, more broadly, to policies that affect the lives of all Americans.

Updated at 5:55 p.m. ET

There aren't many people who can command attention at the White House, the classrooms of Princeton University, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Alan Krueger did all three.

Krueger, who served as economic adviser to former President Barack Obama, died over the weekend at age 58. The cause was suicide, according to a statement from his family, released by Princeton University where Krueger taught.

From Texas Standard:

In the United States, over 10 million children live below the federal poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It's the lowest child poverty rate in decades, but researchers and public policy experts are determined to bring down that number even further.

In a recently published report called "A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty" from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, its co-authors suggest policy changes that they claim could cut child poverty in half in just 10 years.

Cynthia Osborne contributed to the report. She's associate dean and director of the Center for Health and Social Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Osborne says the irony of child poverty is that it's expensive.

Bri Rodriguez buckled her son Rocky into his car seat. “Little grumps,” she said, teasing the 1-year-old as he scrunched up his face, unhappy at having to be in the car.

Shutterstock

Baby's first year is full of milestones, like first smile, first steps and first round of shots.

Everything about the first 12 months is new — including a major new line item in the family budget.

From left: Robert Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Terry Flowers of St. Philip's School and Community Center; and Richard Clarida of the Federal Reserve just before the listening session.
Syeda Hasan / KERA

Officials with the U.S. Federal Reserve were in Dallas Monday to launch a series of national conversations. The goal of these meetings is to understand how federal monetary policy impacts everyday people.

Updated at 4:39 p.m. ET

President Trump promised that his tax changes, passed in 2017, would give most Americans a tax cut.

However, as the first federal returns for 2018 come in, some taxpayers are discovering an unpleasant surprise: Their refunds are smaller than expected. In fact, as of Feb. 1, the average refund is down by about 8 percent from the same time last year, according to the IRS.

From the campaign trail to election night victory speeches to promises in the halls of the Texas Capitol, property taxes are the top priority for lawmakers. Depending on which metric you use, the state generally ranks in the top 5 nationally for having the highest property taxes. Lawmakers say they have to do something to lower those bills.

But what is that something?

From Texas Standard:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is reportedly reconsidering plans to locate the company's HQ2 in New York City. The plan has been controversial from the start, but on the surface, looked like a big win for New York – $3 billion in performance-based incentives in exchange for an estimated 25,000 jobs and $27 billion in tax revenue. But a new study suggests that taxpayers are right to be skeptical of big incentive deals.

The U.S. government's public debt is now more than $22 trillion — the highest it has ever been. The Treasury Department data comes as tax revenue has fallen and federal spending continues to rise. The new debt level reflects a rise of more than $2 trillion from the day President Trump took office in 2017.

Despite being in the second-longest economic expansion since the post–World War II boom, the U.S. is projected to rack up annual deficits and incur national debt at rates not seen since the 1940s, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Cash is still king around the world, but there are pockets of places, especially in Europe, moving away from cash. And no one is dropping cash as fast as Sweden.

In 2018, only 13 percent of Swedes reported using cash for a recent purchase, according to a nationwide survey, down from around 40 percent in 2010. In the capital, Stockholm, most people can't even remember the last time they had coins jingling in their pockets.

Student loan debt in the United States has more than doubled over the past decade to about $1.5 trillion, and the Federal Reserve now estimates that it is cutting into millennials' ability to buy homes.

Homeownership rates for people ages 24 to 32 dropped nearly 9 percentage points between 2005 and 2014 — effectively driving down homeownership rates overall. In January, the Fed estimated 20 percent of that decline is attributable to student loan debt.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers received their first partial paychecks this week as the government reopened Monday after a 35-day partial shutdown.

Some 400,000 workers had been furloughed, and another 400,000 had been on the job but were not getting paid.

While the financial costs for those workers were high, the shutdown also took a heavy toll on employee morale. And it may have the longer-term impact of making it more difficult to bring new people into the government.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

The economy is growing at a "solid rate" and inflation is hovering near the Federal Reserve's target, the central bank said Wednesday. As expected, the Fed did not raise its key interest rate. But in a reversal from December, the Fed said it will be "patient" as it decides when to change them again.

Forever Stamps have gotten a lot more expensive, relatively speaking.

The price of a first-class Forever Stamp went up by a nickel Sunday, from 50 cents to 55 cents. That 10 percent increase "is the biggest price increase by total cents in the history of the Postal Service," according to The Associated Press.

The Postal Service has been running a multibillion-dollar deficit for years, and the price increase is an attempt to contend with a United States that just doesn't send as many letters as it used to.

A new government report says that the U.S. budget deficit is set to hit $897 billion this year and predicts that economic growth will slow as the effects of President Donald Trump's tax cut on business investment begin to drop off.
Associated Press

The federal government shutdown will cause slight permanent harm to the economy — about $3 billion — according to a report Monday by the Congressional Budget Office.

The report says the five-week shutdown has slowed growth in the near term but that most of the lost growth "will eventually be recovered."

If you've ever applied for a job, chances are you never heard back from some prospective employers — even after an interview. But now that jobs are plentiful, it seems the tables have turned on employers.

For government workers who haven't been paid in more than a month, the shutdown is feeling increasingly dire. Savings are drying up; bills are coming due.

The people of Oakdale, La., are among those feeling the pressure. The city of about 8,000 is in the middle of the state — more than three hours' drive from New Orleans or Houston.

A federal prison there was one of the most reliable employers, providing good salaries and benefits. The typical family in Oakdale has an income of about $30,000 a year. The starting salary at the prison is about $35,000.

A worker lifts a lunch bowl off the production line at Spyce, a restaurant which uses a robotic cooking process, in Boston.
Associated Press

Robots aren't replacing everyone, but a quarter of U.S. jobs will be severely disrupted as artificial intelligence accelerates the automation of existing work, according to a new Brookings Institution report.

Thursday's report from the Washington think tank says roughly 36 million Americans hold jobs with "high exposure" to automation — meaning at least 70 percent of their tasks could soon be performed by machines using current technology. 

From Texas Standard:

On March 29, the United Kingdom is set to pull out of the European Union – a decision made by the British people in a 2016 referendum. The end of March is coming up fast, and what's the plan for the pullout? There isn't one. Lawmakers bickering in the shadow of Big Ben have, for a second time, rejected a so-called "Brexit" strategy, and leaving the EU with no plan could cause major economic and other problems for Britain and its trading partners and allies.

Harold Clarke, professor in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, at the University of Texas at Dallas, and adjunct professor in the Department of Government, at the University of Essex in England, says a messy Brexit could also be destabilizing for the U.S. and Texas.

What The Future Of Work Means For Cities

Jan 15, 2019

NOTE: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

In 2016, San Antonio College started a program to meet the needs of students living in poverty.

Since then, the Student Advocacy Center has helped hundreds of students through financial emergencies and family crises, with the goal of keeping them on track to complete a degree.


Since millennials first started entering the workforce, their spending habits have been blamed for killing off industries ranging from casual restaurant dining to starter houses. However, a new study by the Federal Reserve suggests it might be less about how they are spending their money and more about not having any to spend.

From Texas Standard:

According to the Department of Labor, it's 1969 again, meaning unemployment now stands at 3.7 percent, with earnings up over the past year by more than 3 percent. That's in part because, since March of this year, there have been more jobs than workers every single month.

Economic Innovation Group

While economic conditions vary across North Texas, its suburbs are considered some of the most prosperous in the country.

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