Marketplace - American Public Media

Does LinkedIn work for job seekers?

Tue, 2014-06-24 07:13

Looking for a job hunting can feel like dropping resumes into a black hole.  And what about your LinkedIn profile? Is anyone actually reading it? Or your updates? Turns out – yes. Someone, many someones, like Dwight Scott,  a recruiter with ExecuSearch in New York, are searching LinkedIn, potentially for you.

Scott says he doesn't spend a lot of time reviewing resumes of applicants. Instead he’s searching LinkedIn for potential hires. He says 65 percent of his placements this year are a direct result of reaching out to prospects on LinkedIn.

A version of LinkedIn just for recruiters offers powerful search options, Scott says. "Degrees, field of study, industry -- you can add custom filters if you like: status, what industry are they in, what groups have they joined? Are you interested in interviewing people that have joined Deadheads with Ties? Well, it’s right there -- that's a group."

"Everybody" Scott says, "uses LinkedIn."

 So what does this mean for people who belong to LinkedIn because they’re looking for a job? Or because they have a vague understanding that belonging to the site might somehow help them? I heard from a lot of workers who said they found jobs through the site – both by making new contacts and being contacted by recruiters. Claudine Halpern, who worked in management consulting for 35 years, says she’s used LinkedIn to get a lot of projects but is still reserved about the site.

“It’s a tool," she says. "It’s not A+. Nothing is A+ without the work you do around it.”

Halpern says anyone looking for a job needs to have a strategy, like updating their LinkedIn profile on a regular basis so it gets in front of lots of eyes – like Dwight Scott’s.

“You can’t put out a profile out and ignore it," she says. "You've got to keep it rolling. It’s like a snowball. You've got to keep it rolling and rolling and rolling and you've got to keep it growing, otherwise it doesn’t work for you."

LinkedIn says it’s used for a lot more than jobs – like marketing and education. And it says it’s impossible to track how many jobs are filled through its site. But Halpern says you’ll have a better chance of getting noticed if you’re a joiner, and an updater. Providing ever more information. Which is what LinkedIn promises its paying customers – recruiters.

Peter Cappelli, a professor of human resources at Wharton, says that employers and recruiters have to be careful to see through all that white noise on the site. They have a tendency to look at workers' current titles to see if they match jobs that need to be filled, which Cappelli says can mean ignoring creative hires and potential. At the same time, he says, LinkedIn makes it easy to game the system. And no one is going to post a bad recommendation on the site.

“Everybody gets good references," Cappelli says,  "and everything is glowing, so at some point it’s kind of useless.”

Like this reporter's mother, who endorsed her skills on LinkedIn

“I hope," said Cappelli, "she gave you a good reference.” 

PODCAST: Specialty drugs

Tue, 2014-06-24 03:00

Home prices are up, but not by as much as predicted - more on the context behind the numbers. Plus, a new angle on climate change is aiming to portray the issues as an economic problem. Also, 2015 will be the first year that health care costs are expected to rise since the recession. The reason? Specialty drugs. 

That's not a beach ball, it's radar equipment

Tue, 2014-06-24 03:00

Vacations take many forms. Some even include an itinerary with a social conscience. But hotel guests at the Fort Walton Beach Holiday Inn Resort are in for something entirely different.

Atop the hotel is what appears to be a very large beach ball. But upon further inspection, underneath that shiny, beachy veneer is military equipment.

More specifically, it's a rooftop station designed to receive radar signals. It also houses a secure conference room for meetings. 

To the vacationers, it's like any other resort, but to the military, it's Eglin Air Force Range Test Site A5 -- The military allowed the new hotel to be built on its land to raise money in an era of tight Pentagon budgets. 

Though, guests probably won't notice anything out of the ordinary -- access to the beach ball will be limited to very few people.

At most, the giant beach ball/military base makes for an interesting photo op.

 

D.C. starts taxing more services, like yoga studios

Tue, 2014-06-24 02:13

The following story was updated after the D.C. Council approved the city’s new budget today. It also voted to start charging sales tax on gyms, yoga studios, and other services.

Yogis in Washington D.C. are taking deep breaths. Very deep breaths.

Partly because that’s what they always do. And partly because the D.C. Council gave final approval to a tax proposal that has yoga teachers and fitness buffs worried.

It also highlights the changing nature of the sales tax. The council expanded the sales tax on the things we buy to include more services like gyms and yoga studios.

Debra Mishalove owns Flow Yoga Center (where, full disclosure, this reporter used to cat/cow).

“I have people who come to my studio, they’re dealing with symptoms from MS,” Mishalove says, referring to muscular sclerosis. “I have people who are dealing with depression, the pills weren’t working the yoga is. I have people who are coming for weight management, for eating disorders.”

The list goes on.

“I hate to see anybody have to pay any more than they do right now to access wellness.”

Opponents have dubbed this a wellness or fitness tax. But the tax expansion will also cover tanning salons, carpet cleaners, and car washes -- services that weren’t exactly mainstream when the sales tax began in the 1930s.

Back then, we spent most of our personal consumption dollars on stuff -- physical goods -- and that’s the base of the sales tax. But now, the service sector accounts for two-thirds of what we buy.

“If you don’t tax services in the long run, you don’t have a sales tax. End of story,” says Matt Gardner, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. He says states should tax more services, ideally at a lower rate. But broadening the tax base isn’t easy, he says.

“Nobody really knew that Ohio tattoo parlors had a lobby in 2003. They found out really fast that they actually did,” he says. “In Maryland in 2007, I certainly don’t think lawmakers dreamed that landscapers would be surrounding the state capitol, but they did.”

What’s at stake is revenue for education, health care, transportation.

A group of tax wonks called the Federation of Tax Administrators compiled a list of 183 services that conceivably could be subject to sales tax -- everything from automotive rustproofing to taxidermy. D.C. currently taxes about 75 of them.

D.C.’s new sales tax expansion is part of a larger budget and tax proposal that reduces business and personal income taxes.

Kim Rueben, a commissioner on DC’s Tax Revision Commission, says the idea is to tax services that aren’t that portable. For example, you're not going to remove your wall-to-wall carpet to get it cleaned. That has to happen in your house.

Likewise, "If you live and work in D.C., it’s going to be really tough for you to decide that you’re going to go to a gym in Virginia or Maryland instead,” she says.

Chelsea Clinton wants more girls involved in STEM

Tue, 2014-06-24 02:00

Chelsea Clinton has been out in force these past few weeks. Last week, she spoke at an event in New York City for Google's pledge of $50 million dollars to close the gender gap in the tech industry. This week, she's in Denver, Colorado for the Clinton Foundation's event Clinton Global Initiative America, where she's been hosting conversations about getting women and girls to engage with careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The disparity between the number of women and men in STEM fields is no secret. It's a problem that Clinton says starts as early as middle school.

“Research is saying that teachers call on girls less than they call on boys in math and a science classes...which sends an invisible but insidious message their opinions aren’t as valued as boys,” says Clinton.

She also cites research showing that gender and race can play a role in the effectiveness of medical treatment, which makes increasing diversity in the science and medical fields all the more important. 

Recently, Clinton's $600,000 salary as a correspondant for NBC came under scrutiny. When asked if she felt the response was inherently gendered, Clinton pointed to a need for a larger conversation about opportunity for women on all levels instead of zeroing in on top earners like Sheryl Sandberg or Meg Whitman.

"The real question is how do we ensure that there are both equal opportunities for women, and that that work is valued commensurately...one of the challenges is, you know, we have so many fewer women, that those comparisons are still just hard to make," says Clinton.

In her own life, Clinton credits her parents for encouraging her to have diverse interests -- she still remembers when Santa Claus brought her a commodore computer.

Chelsea Clinton wants more girls involved in STEM

Tue, 2014-06-24 02:00

Chelsea Clinton has been out in force these past few weeks. Last week, she spoke at an event in New York City for Google's pledge of $50 million dollars to close the gender gap in the tech industry. This week, she's in Denver, Colorado for the Clinton Foundation's event Clinton Global Initiative America, where she's been hosting conversations about getting women and girls to engage with careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The disparity between the number of women and men in STEM fields is no secret. It's a problem that Clinton says starts as early as middle school.

“Research is saying that teachers call on girls less than they call on boys in math and a science classes...which sends an invisible but insidious message their opinions aren’t as valued as boys,” says Clinton.

She also cites research showing that gender and race can play a role in the effectiveness of medical treatment, which makes increasing diversity in the science and medical fields all the more important. 

Recently, Clinton's $600,000 salary as a correspondant for NBC came under scrutiny. When asked if she felt the response was inherently gendered, Clinton pointed to a need for a larger conversation about opportunity for women on all levels instead of zeroing in on top earners like Sheryl Sandberg or Meg Whitman.

"The real question is how do we ensure that there are both equal opportunities for women, and that that work is valued commensurately...one of the challenges is, you know, we have so many fewer women, that those comparisons are still just hard to make," says Clinton.

In her own life, Clinton credits her parents for encouraging her to have diverse interests -- she still remembers when Santa Claus brought her a commodore computer.

AT&T and DirecTV defend proposed mega-merger

Tue, 2014-06-24 02:00

Top executives from AT&T and DirecTV will appear before a House Judiciary subcommittee to make the case for their proposed $48.5 billion merger. The deal faces anti-trust questions, as does the $45 billion proposed merger of rivals Comcast and Time-Warner. The final decision will be made by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Justice Department.

AT&T already has a strong customer base in mobile phone and internet, and it has a smaller pay-TV business, U-verse. It wants DirecTV so it can compete better in the pay-TV market. With all the satellite subscribers from DirecTV, AT&T would end up with 25 percent market share nationwide, though it would still trail a merged Comcast-Time Warner.

Carl Howe, technology analyst at the Yankee Group, says all this consolidation may lead to fewer choices for consumers — especially since cable companies tend to lay lines to an entire neighborhood or city.

“The number of companies that serve any individual consumer is usually one or two,” says Howe. "When you shrink one or two down to one, that’s called a monopoly.”

And a monopoly could mean higher prices for cable-TV customers.

Antitrust attorney Mark Ostrau at Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West says companies that make television shows and other video material won’t welcome all these mergers among cable-TV distributors, either.

“They (the cable companies) really do compete both for content and for advertising,” says Ostrau. “If you’re a content provider, you would be very nervous about too much concentration.”

AT&T argues that the merger with DirecTV will allow it to bundle stations and services. The company claims that could lead to better prices for consumers.

 

The share of pay-TV market held by various companies 

Cabletv.com

Specialty drugs could fuel health care inflation

Tue, 2014-06-24 02:00

Since the recession, U.S. employers' health care spending growth has been slowing from year to year. That's about to change, according to a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute.

The report says employer health care spending will accelerate in 2015, rising by 6.8 percent, a slightly faster rate of growth than what the company projected for 2014. The report’s authors say expensive specialty drugs will play a role in fueling the sharper rise in spending.

"It's actually a very big deal in terms of dollars. It's one of the reasons we single out that factor for 2015,” says Ceci Connolly, managing director of PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute.

Connolly points to a new treatment for Hepatitis C as an example of the new, high-cost drugs. Hepatitis C is a virus that causes liver disease and affects about 3 million Americans. One breakthrough drug, Sovaldi, can completely cure Hepatitis C in a high percentage of patients. But a twelve-week treatment costs $84,000.

However, in the case of Hepatitis C drugs, the hit to employers might not last long, according to Princeton University health care economist Uwe Reinhardt.

“Eventually all the people with Hep C will be cured, and all you have to do is deal with the new ones, which is not that heavy a growth,” he says.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers researchers say that in the short-term, employers will probably try to offset higher medical costs by shifting more of them to workers.

Explaining the stock split: Some financial gymnastics

Mon, 2014-06-23 22:08

There are plenty of financial advisors out there who recommend that their clients take a hands-off approach to investing, and really only check on their portfolio once a quarter or even once a year.

If you're that kind of person, and you're invested in Apple, your latest stock check might have given you a bit of a jolt. That's because in May, Apple shares hit $600. And today they're at $90.

Hold on ... What? NINETY dollars?

Yes, NINETY. But before you break into a cold sweat, check the number of shares you have.

Back in May, you had 100 shares, each of which was trading at $600. Today you've got 700 shares. That's right, you've got seven times the number of shares. And guess what...$90 is about a seventh of $600.

Quick math check: 100 shares x $600 equals $60,000. Which is what you had in May.

And today? You've got 700 shares x $90, which equals $63,000. So, you've got about the same. Phew! In fact, you've got a little more. Yay!

So whatever happened between then and now seems to have done you a favor.

What happened was a stock split, specifically a seven-to-one stock split, which Apple implemented on June 9. The stock split is an interesting piece of gymnastics designed to please the investing crowd.

Specifically, it's designed to make it easier to invest. Not cheaper, because the value of the investment remains the same, but easier. And that makes sense, if you think about it: The mental hurdle involved in buying multiple shares in a company is easier to overcome if those shares are trading at $90 than if they're trading at $600.

So why don't all companies split their stock? The fact is that many do.

When your individual shares have such a high dollar value that you worry they might deter a sector of the public from buying them, it's worth splitting them. That way, your shares are more accessible to more people, and they may attract more investors. And your shares may go up.

It's strategic. But splitting your stock, purely because you feel your company shares  need a bit of a lift that you might get if they look less expensive, is a fool's errand. That's because there's no guarantee that the shares will go up. They could go down. And if they do go down, then suddenly you have a stock that looks not inexpensive, but cheap. And who wants to be seen in a cheap stock?

How many schools are ready for digital testing?

Mon, 2014-06-23 14:44
<a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/broadband">View Survey</a>

You say potato, I say po-tah-toe... in the tech world

Mon, 2014-06-23 13:28

Bloggers at eBay did a poll asking people how they pronounce tech-related words, and the results are fascinating. 

For instance, 55 percent of people pronounce data as 'day-tuh', and 42 percent say 'datt-uh.' Also, 91 percent pronounce wi-fi as 'why-fi' and 8 percent use 'wiffy.' 

And finally, 65 percent of people call a remote control a 'remote' and only 5 percent say clicker.

The value of 'second-best solutions' to global warming

Mon, 2014-06-23 13:20

Over the weekend a prominent Republican, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, came out for a more-comprehensive attack on global warming than anything the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed: In a New York Times essay, he called for a tax on carbon. Economist and Times columnist Paul Krugman quickly challenged Paulson: A carbon tax won’t happen because of politics, so will Paulson support “second-best” solutions? 

Economists agree that regulating carbon-dioxide emissions like other pollutants doesn’t work. Carbon is everywhere: producing energy, driving cars, making cement. "We’re talking about hundreds of millions of sources," says Robert Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard, "so the whole notion of trying to reduce those emissions with source-by-source regulations is simply infeasible."

A carbon tax is a tax on carbon sources, proportionate to how much carbon each source emits. "It provides incentives for everyone" to use less carbon, says Stavins, "from the electical generator, to the cement company, to myself, in terms of running the dishwasher."

So a carbon tax is like a bug bomb. Everything else -- the world of second-best solutions -- is running around your apartment with a flyswatter.

MIT economist Michael Greenstone proposes a different metaphor for second-best solutions. "I like to think of all of these policies as kind of a bank shot in the game of billiards," he says. "You’re shooting the ball to one side of the table, although the pocket is on the other."  So it’s harder to make your shot -- and you may hit something you don’t mean to.  

He uses fuel-efficiency standards for cars as an example. Although the standards "do make cars more fuel-efficient," he says, "they also cause people to drive more. You've reduced the cost of driving."

Similarly, because the EPA’s new power-plant regulations aim at carbon-intensity, not carbon emissions, they produce some unintended effects, says University of Colorado economist Daniel Kaffine.  Because gas is less carbon-intensive than coal, the strategy "sort of acts like a tax on coal and a subsidy to gas," he says. "But what we really want is a tax on both coal and gas."

Meanwhile, evaluating the tradeoffs creates work for economists. "You know, given this menu of second-best policies," says Kaffine, "how do they compare against the reference point of doing nothing?"

 

Wimbledon: An occasion for white

Mon, 2014-06-23 13:02

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Tuesday, June 24:

In Washington, the Commerce Department lets us know how many new homes were sold in May.

On Capitol Hill, Congress' Joint Economic Committee holds a hearing on "The Economic Impact of Increased Natural Gas Production."

In London, the tennis tournament Wimbledon enters its second day and continues through July 6. Strawberries and cream all around.

The Conference Board issues its monthly Consumer Confidence Index.

And he played Al on TV's "Happy Days." Actor Al Molinaro turns 95.

Why do marketers want young men so badly?

Mon, 2014-06-23 12:58

Listener Brock Groth of San Francisco hit us with this one:

“I've always wondered why marketers care so much about the ‘all-important’ male 21-to-35 demographic. What is so important about that group? As a male in my mid-40s I spend a lot more money than I did back then. What am I missing?”

Short answer is -- it’s actually the opposite sex who marketers spend the most to reach. After all, women are responsible for most consumer spending decisions, especially in families.

But, Brock Groth is also right. Younger men are an 'all-important' marketing target for key consumer categories and brands—everything from late-night TV, to alcoholic beverages, athletic footwear, sports entertainment, and pickup trucks.

Here are some examples:

Here’s one of those super-expensive Super Bowl ads, featuring NFL linebacker Terry Tate, busting office dweebs’ heads . . . for Reebok.

Michael Jordan -- the old, and the young -- battle it out in a one-on-one, for Gatorade.

There’s the battle for ratings on late-night TV:

It’s an insult-a-minute . . . when it’s not a frat-boy comedy-fest featuring various bodily fluids.

And then there’s the attraction of pretty much anything suggesting sex.

Media analyst Jack Myers is author of the forthcoming book 'The Future of Men: End of the Age of Dominant Males,' and he says: “Beer commercials continue to be appealing to men as completely male-focused misogynists who have women around them at bars or sporting events only to serve their needs. Or, men are idiots, they’re the buffoons who aren’t even capable of knowing which analgesic they should take.”

Still, retail-industry expert Patty Edwards at U.S. Bank Wealth Management says it pays to try to grab them now, before they get older -- and likely more mature.

“That 18-to-34-year-old male demographic are either newly married or not yet married,” says Edwards. “In a lot of cases they’re living at home or living with friends. They have a lot of disposable income.”

The so-called Yummies -- “young urban males” -- are getting a lot of attention after a report from HSBC pegged them as the most promising market for luxury goods—things like $1,000-plus briefcases, clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, for brands like Coach, Burberry, Michael Kors and Prada.

But Edwards says even young men on a modest salary will spend: “A bottle of aftershave, if it gets you the girl, it’s worth every penny.”

Government consumer spending data show that young men (up to age 34) spend more than young women overall, and also in key categories for marketers—new cars and trucks, alcohol, entertainment. For booze and eating out, they even spend more than older men, who have significantly more disposable income.

Patty Edwards says once women enter the picture, men make fewer consumer purchasing decisions. “It’s actually women who control the majority of spending, even over this demographic,” says Edwards. “And it’s because no guy does much of anything without permission from his wife or girlfriend.”

So why then is the 18-to-34-year-old male still such a key demographic for marketers? Because his wallet’s full. Unlike the typical female consumer, he’s more likely to spend what he wants, without thinking too much about what he needs. So if you’re Bud, or Jeep, or Nike, you want to get him hooked on your brand, before someone with more grown-up spending habits—likely a woman—starts putting him right.

Why do marketers want young men so bad?

Mon, 2014-06-23 12:58

Listener Brock Groth of San Francisco hit us with this one:

“I've always wondered why marketers care so much about the ‘all-important’ male 21-to-35 demographic. What is so important about that group? As a male in my mid-40s I spend a lot more money than I did back then. What am I missing?”

Short answer is -- it’s actually the opposite sex who marketers spend the most to reach. After all, women are responsible for most consumer spending decisions, especially in families.

But, Brock Groth is also right. Younger men are an 'all-important' marketing target for key consumer categories and brands—everything from late-night TV, to alcoholic beverages, athletic footwear, sports entertainment, and pickup trucks.

Here are some examples:

Here’s one of those super-expensive Super Bowl ads, featuring NFL linebacker Terry Tate, busting office dweebs’ heads . . . for Reebok.

Michael Jordan -- the old, and the young -- battle it out in a one-on-one, for Gatorade.

There’s the battle for ratings on late-night TV:

It’s an insult-a-minute . . . when it’s not a frat-boy comedy-fest featuring various bodily fluids.

And then there’s the attraction of pretty much anything suggesting sex.

Media analyst Jack Myers is author of the forthcoming book 'The Future of Men: End of the Age of Dominant Males,' and he says: “Beer commercials continue to be appealing to men as completely male-focused misogynists who have women around them at bars or sporting events only to serve their needs. Or, men are idiots, they’re the buffoons who aren’t even capable of knowing which analgesic they should take.”

Still, retail-industry expert Patty Edwards at U.S. Bank Wealth Management says it pays to try to grab them now, before they get older -- and likely more mature.

“That 18-to-34-year-old male demographic are either newly married or not yet married,” says Edwards. “In a lot of cases they’re living at home or living with friends. They have a lot of disposable income.”

The so-called Yummies -- “young urban males” -- are getting a lot of attention after a report from HSBC pegged them as the most promising market for luxury goods—things like $1,000-plus briefcases, clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, for brands like Coach, Burberry, Michael Kors and Prada.

But Edwards says even young men on a modest salary will spend: “A bottle of aftershave, if it gets you the girl, it’s worth every penny.”

Government consumer spending data show that young men (up to age 34) spend more than young women overall, and also in key categories for marketers—new cars and trucks, alcohol, entertainment. For booze and eating out, they even spend more than older men, who have significantly more disposable income.

Patty Edwards says once women enter the picture, men make fewer consumer purchasing decisions. “It’s actually women who control the majority of spending, even over this demographic,” says Edwards. “And it’s because no guy does much of anything without permission from his wife or girlfriend.”

So why then is the 18-to-34-year-old male still such a key demographic for marketers? Because his wallet’s full. Unlike the typical female consumer, he’s more likely to spend what he wants, without thinking too much about what he needs. So if you’re Bud, or Jeep, or Nike, you want to get him hooked on your brand, before someone with more grown-up spending habits—likely a woman—starts putting him right.

Facebook's unassuming jobs program

Mon, 2014-06-23 12:26

Partnerships between colleges and corporations have been around for decades. But government funding for research and state college budgets have shrunk in recent years. So now, more companies are stepping in to fill that funding gap.

Back in 2010, there was this virus going around on Facebook. It was called the Koobface virus.

"And the Koobface virus was the first virus that we knew about that could actually infect your friends through your social network," says Gary Warner, head of computer forensics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The Koobface virus would log in to users' accounts with stolen info "and send messages to all of your friends on FB that said something like 'I can't believe this video caught you naked!' and has a picture of a shower curtain," Warner says. Users would click on it, and boom­­all their friends would get infected. Warner put a graduate student on the case full­time.

"And we actually wrote a program that was able to enumerate every Facebook account that had been stolen by the criminal," he says.

They shared info about the hacked accounts with Facebook, and the company was grateful, to say the least. So grateful, Facebook built a $250,000 wing in the university's computer forensics department. What was once 4,400 square feet of bare concrete is now the Facebook Suite. It feels very Silicon Valley, with sleek chairs and trendy lighting.

But the relationship goes way beyond a shiny new space. Facebook and UAB consult with each other on what to research and even what to teach. And this is typical nowadays when corporations team up with colleges. Relationships are cozier and more targeted.

Jennifer Henley, director of security operations at Facebook, says there's a reason Facebook is partnering with the University of Alabama at Birmingham: It builds a pool of candidates with the right job skills.

"The reason why is they are giving hands­ome real­ world experience to students about the type of issues we face on a day­-to-­day in the security space," she says. Facebook offers scholarships and flies top students to conferences. Henley says the company needs to fill a pipeline gap.

"By the year 2020, they predict that we're going to have over two­-thirds of security jobs unfilled," she says.

So getting graduates into jobs is good for colleges. Letting companies have too much control? Not good. In fact, Donald Heller, dean of the education school at Michigan State, says universities are careful to avoid this.

"But on the other hand the universities want to enjoy the resources that the corporations can provide, so there's a very fine dance that goes on between the two parties to make sure that both are getting what they want out of the relationship," he says. Heller says companies are looking for an immediate return on that investment. It could be research that makes the foods we eat safer, or a medical breakthrough that helps prevent heart attacks.

"So certainly research is an important outcome of these relationships, but also eventually hiring the graduates of a university," he says. "And they're checking out the corporation and the corporation is checking them out as a potential future employee, so that's an important outcome of the process as well."

And the more colleges give their students a golden ticket to the real world, the better they look.

Bad transactions can lead to losing your bank account

Mon, 2014-06-23 11:33

Zikomo Fields carries around a prepaid debit card with around $23,000 on it. This is the only way he can control his money because he doesn’t have a bank account -- and this isn’t by choice. He makes more than $100,000 a year and has a steady job as a software engineer. But when he applies to a bank, his name appears in a consumer credit reporting database called, ChexSystem.

Danielle Douglas, a Financial reporter for The Washington Post, wrote a story on Fields and how many people are shut out of the banking system because of a past history of bad money transactions. Whether it’s repeated overdrafts or bounced checks, ChexSystem has it on file. And these transactions don’t just disappear from your record overnight:

“Most of these accounts will have some kind of bad mark in your file for up to seven years, which is a problem. If you’re trying to get back in the traditional banking system, then it’s gonna be difficult to get a checking or savings account” says Douglas.

While there are other options to store your money -- like the prepaid debit card Fields owns -- it still prevents one from taking out loans or mortages, even if you could now afford it. 

Hollywood's influence on politics

Mon, 2014-06-23 07:14

Celebrities endorsing politicians--and, indeed, the idea of politicians becoming celebrities themselves--goes back a lot further than you might think.

"It's always been driven by a mix of obsession and fascination with power, the desire to be seen with the celebrity that is politics," says Timothy Stanley, author of the book "Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics." 

But in the late '20s and early '30s, Stanley says, it was mostly driven by "hard-headed business decisions."

"People do make money out of this connection," he said.

Hollywood has always been able to raise a large amount of money for political campaigns throughout its history -- $13 million in one month during the 2012 Presidential campaign, Stanley says.

These days, however, he argues that Hollywood has had a poisonous impact on politics. A lot of it started with the election of one John F. Kennedy, and his father's ambitions to make one of his children President of the United States.

"When [Joe Kennedy] wants Jack to run for the Presidency, where does he send him to learn charm and star power? He sends him to Hollywood," Stanley said. "And the Kennedys discovered that what it required was being seen with beautiful people, it was going to expensive events, and developing that Camelot glamour."

It's this commitment with charm and star power, Stanley says, that has diluted American politics.

"I always find it sordid that you could drop names and get elected based on the people you're seen with," he said. "It's not healthy for a constitutional republic to have that kind of glamourization of its political leaders."

As Stanley points out below, there's a point where having star power for the sake of having star power doesn't help your case.

Remembering a Rockefeller and his gift of time

Mon, 2014-06-23 03:00

 

I was deeply saddened in recent days to learn that the great-grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller had died. Richard Rockefeller, a physician who practiced for nearly two decades in Portland, Maine, was killed while piloting his light plane. He was 65.  

Richard was a philanthropist and humanitarian whom I had the pleasure to meet during the production of a documentary film I co-produced a couple of years ago. His work with Doctors Without Borders/Medecins San Frantieres has been widely noted.  He was instrumental in establishing the organization in the United States and sat on its board of advisors for 21 years. He spoke passionately about the need to give people in poor parts of the world access to medicine.

My interview with Richard Rockefeller for my doc “Fixing the Future” was about a different kind of community-building. Rockefeller was among those who helped fund the creation of a fascinating initiative in Maine called "Hour Exchange Portland." The exchange is a what is known as a “time bank.” People in the Portland area agree to provide their skills, whatever those skills may be, by the hour. Maybe it’s cutting a lawn. Maybe it’s physical therapy. People who provide their skills via this bank don’t expect money in exchange. What they do expect is to be able to get an hour of someone else’s skill in return. 

There are time banks of one form or another in spots across the country. After my film came out, some volunteers put together a time bank in my own part of New Jersey. Rockefeller explained to me during the filming that an hour earns a person the same “time dollar," no matter what the service.

“Right away, (that’s) a radical departure from the formal economy where different services are worth different things depending on scarcity and supply and demand,” Rockefeller told me. Within the time bank, everybody’s time is equal, so economists, for that reason, often find this “completely foolhardy and incomprehensible,” he said.

Rockefeller also noted with a smile that “fortunately” the system also does not compute for the Internal Revenue Service, which has ruled that time banking involves the swap of what are termed “friendly favors," and are, therefore, non-taxable. 

The best way to understand a system is to try it out. So I did. What I put into the time bank was an hour squirting in and nailing in insulation for a nice Portland woman’s basement. What I got in return was magnificent: an hour-long sailing lesson riding the waves of Maine’s Casco Bay.

With the hard work of volunteers and Dr. Rockefeller’s moral and financial support, Portland has ended up with an extensive time exchange system. Some people without health insurance are even able to swap their skills by the hour for medical treatment from doctors and other health professional who are part of the bank.

What I noticed was that swapping skills is a handy way to bring diverse individuals together. People often talk while they are together giving or taking the labor. They talk about a lot of things, but often they talk about community challenges and opportunities. They even might talk ways to fix those challenges. In this way, Richard Rockefeller should also be remembered as a man who helped build something that was more than a time bank. He also helped build what I like to call a social capital generation device, a system that pulls people out of their living rooms and puts them together to get important things done. 

 

Michael Jackson: the businessman behind the musician

Mon, 2014-06-23 03:00

Few artists have rivaled Michael Jackson’s lasting impact, but the strength of his image went beyond musical talent. The superstar was able to make an estimated $700 million (according to reporting by Zack O'Malley Greenburg) after he passed away, five years ago this week -- that's more than any other artist during that period.

Greenburg, senior editor at Forbes and author of "Michael Jackson, Inc.," joins host David Brancaccio to talk about the rise, fall and resurgence of Michael Jackson’s fortune. 

Click the audio player above to hear Zack O'Malley Greenburg in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio

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