There's a bit of a technical issue in this country: The amount of data being gobbled up by smartphones is increasing ad jnfinitum, but the digital plumbing has limits. Only so many tweets and YouTube videos can flow through it.
The FCC has proposed a solution, one that takes its inspiration from a pre-school lesson: Sharing is Caring. The FCC wants TV stations to share the spectrum with one another other, essentially doubling up on a single channel. And the very first experiment of this digital sharing idea is about to begin.
The two stations taking part in this experiment are KLCS, a PBS station, and KJLA, a commercial Spanish language station, both in Los Angeles. "We decided we would rather be informed than not informed," says Alan Popkin, director of TV engineering at KLCS.
In describing this experiment he uses this analogy, "You don't jump out of an airplane and then invent the parachute on the way down."
The experiment will begin off-air, then move to non-peak hours, and eventually, the entire schedule of both stations will be transmitted from one channel. The results will show whether two channels can be packed into one without compromising the quality of the broadcast, and will look at out how TV's will know which channel to display, when faced with two programs on the same part of the spectrum.
If channel sharing works, it could save stations a lot of money because two stations could share the cost of transmission.
"There would be one tower and one transmitter and that would cut down a lot on the cost of operation," says Lonna Thompson, chief operating officer* and executive vice president of the Association of Public Television Stations. In addition, she says, each station would be able to sell its unused bandwidth to the FCC in an Incentive Auction next year.
"The incentives auction is an effort that the FCC is leading to create incentives to use spectrum as efficiently as possible and to free spectrum for mobile broadband services," says Scott Bergmann, vice president of regulatory affairs with CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group.
Companies like T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint are currently arguing over how much of the spectrum each company should get. Bergmann says mobile carriers could use their share to improve services for customers by providing greater capacity, faster speeds, and less congestion.
"The channel sharing pilot is an effort to make the incentive auction successful," Bergmann says.
The auction is scheduled for mid-2015 and is expected to generate $25 billion.
*CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, we misidentified Lonna Thompson’s position at the Association of Public Television Stations. She is the chief operating officer. The text has been corrected.
WE GOT 99 PROBLEMS, AND CURRENCY’S ONE.
India, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina – they’ve all had currency depreciations. Brazil has faced inflation concerns. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index, an average of emerging market stocks, has fallen nearly 7 percent this month, recently reaching a five month low. Emerging market equities have lost more than $995 billion in value since May.
To explain this, we have to talk about money -- and how money moves.
THAT GIANT SLOSHING SOUND
"There are trillions of dollars sloshing around global markets looking for high returns," says Gerald Epstein, director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. That money belongs to hedge funds, institutional investors, sovereign wealth funds, and regular investors alike.
With productive investments few and far between, "there’s more money out there, more money looking for more speculative investments."
During the depths of recession, the one place you wouldn’t be getting higher returns was in developed countries like the U.S. On the one hand, their economies weren’t doing well. And on the other, Central Banks were keeping interest rates low.
"It’s kind of simple," says Andrew Burns, manager of Prospects at the World Bank. "In the past, if you’re an investor, you have options. You could invest in U.S. Treasuries; they were giving a return of 1.5 percent last April. Or you can invest in Brazil where you’re getting return of 5 or 6 percent, maybe it’s a little bit risky."
So investors put money into developing economies.
At the same time, commodity prices were high, fueling emerging markets to the point they were leaders in global growth.
"The last four or five years, supported by very strong commodity prices, we’ve had very material capital flows into these countries," says Robert Kahn, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "These are small economies relative to the U.S. or Japan, and their ability to absorb this capital is not as great, and there is a tendency for these markets to go through boom bust cycles."
When the Fed first started talking about tapering last May, it became clear to investors that the economy was getting better, and interest rates in the U.S. would start to rise. And they have. The return on some treasury bonds has nearly doubled since then.
"In that context you say, ‘You know what? I had $100 over here in Brazil. I’m gonna pull some of it back in the United States,”" says the World Bank’s Burns.
“The Fed’s decision to taper was a trigger for these outflows,” says Kahn, “but at the end of the day, it’s not the primary reason for it.” Rather, it was the simple realization that there are safer -- and possibly better -- investments reappearing elsewhere in the developed world.
And indeed, money moved out. Local currencies continue to fall. As a result, it becomes more expensive for people in affected emerging markets to buy food and energy from abroad. Inflation sets in. Politicians in these countries then have to make a “Sophie’s choice”, says Professor Epstein. In order to fight that inflation, and in order to incentivize investors to keep their money in the country, governments have raised interest rates. That creates a drag on the economy.
"Turkey doubled the interest rate, interest rates have gone up in South Africa, Argentina," says Epstein. "And not only does this slow down their economy -- which if they already have a high unemployment rate is a big problem -- but it might also backfire." Backfire as in "push some companies into bankruptcy, further scaring off international investment."
Epstein argues there are few good options for lower income countries other than to control capital flows, a tool which has its own risks.
COMPLACENCY VS. PREPAREDNESS
On the one hand, many emerging markets came out of the global financial crisis in fairly good shape. But it doesn’t mean they’re not vulnerable – as has become evident.
"Policy makers got complacent in these countries," says Kahn, "because they had access to very cheap money... We’ve seen before when things reverse – when commodity prices fall and capital flows turn around – it can be pretty hard. We’re at the beginning of that cycle."
WE’RE NOT DONE YET
"It’s not going to be smooth," says Kahn, "and there’s still more turbulence to be seen."
The process of global capital reallocation is not over. Throw in the fact that developing countries aren’t making as much from commodities, China is buying less from them, and a spate of political scandals, and it may be a very rough ride for lower income countries, indeed.
Bitcoin is a digital currency, controlled only by software, that somehow, some people have collectively decided is worth something. This can be a bit of a brain-bender.
But, it turns out, we do the same every day with cash.
“Money is a form of shared reality,” says Adam Waytz, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. It’s a shared illusion: “In order for it to have value, that means that everyone has to agree that this is something we’re going to treat as valuable.”
With cash, we take paper, with numbers printed on it, and imbue it with value greater than the sum of paper and ink. Bitcoin works the same way.
“It’s sort of the Kim Kardashian of money,” says Waytz. “Kim Kardashian is famous for being famous. Bitcoin is valuable because a lot of people have agreed to value it.”
One reason people value Bitcoin is that it is hard to trace back to a person. It’s a feature that can make law enforcement a little nervous. There’s no bank keeping tabs. No paper trail. People buy illegal stuff with Bitcoin. But, again, cash is the same.
“If you and I meet at a park, and I give you $100, and you give me something in return, and we part our separate ways, that’s a completely anonymous transaction,” says Jerry Brito, a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. There’s no record of the time, the park we met at, what we traded.
Cash can be better at keeping secrets than Bitcoin. With Bitcoin, Brito says, “you have to keep a record of the transaction, and the amount, and the Bitcoin addresses that were involved. So it’s less anonymous than cash. It's pseudonymous, is one way to put it.”
Bitcoin leaves a digital trail. That’s how Bitcoin works. It’s a trail that cash is very good at erasing.
But cash isn’t entirely invisible. It’s got a physical presence. You have to get it. Move it. And, its physical nature has costs.
“I have to spend time going to the ATM, and take money out, and that could be time that’s taken away from other productive activities,” says Bhaskar Chakravorti with the Fletcher School at Tufts University. It may not sound like a lot, but it adds up, says Chakravorti, to tens of billions of dollars. Time that you wouldn’t have to waste in a Bitcoin world.
There’s also the cost to businesses of using cash. You’ve got to hire services to protect it, and get it to and from the bank. Businesses, say Chakravorti, “incur costs because cash gets stolen from a retail outlet, or because there are robberies.” In a world where everyone uses Bitcoin, instead, there’s nothing in the cash register for robbers to steal.
There’s another big cost of cash to our society. The tax gap. All the money that we don’t send the government in taxes, when we pay for things off the books. Chakravorti estimates that cash costs the U.S. government more than $100 billion a year.
Bitcoin is enough like cash that that cost wouldn’t disappear.
Last night's State of the Union speech was all about the American perspective. President Obama focused on income inequality, wages, jobs, and the U.S. middle class. Marketplace looks at how the speech is being received in the rest of the world.
Nintendo announces third quarter earnings today and things aren’t looking good. The game maker already slashed its full year outlook -- instead of profit it now expects a net loss. You could say Nintendo’s facing an identity crisis. For thirty years, it’s made games you can only play on Nintendo hardware. But does it have to change to survive?
It now costs 49 cents to send a letter. The price of stamps went up another 3 cents on Sunday, meaning that if you've been hoarding Forever stamps since forever ago, you've made a pretty good return.
Last night in his State of the Union address, President Obama touched on several economic themes, including jobs, the middle class, health care, and something he has been talking quite a bit about recently -- income inequality. Sheldon Danziger, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, a progressive think tank, spoke to Marketplace's Lizzie O'Leary about the president's goals and the wide income disparity between the rich and the poor in the United States.
On raising the minimum wage, Danziger said this:
“The minimum wage is lower than it was in the late 1960s, if one adjusts for inflation. I also like that he referred to an employer in Minnesota who raised the wages of his workers. And it would be great if a large corporation like Wal-Mart voluntarily raised their minimum wage.”
On whether the government has a role in correcting income inequality:
“We actually have pretty good evidence that if government does not do much, inequality increases. The best example of that is since the recession ended, the stock market is back to close to all-time highs, yet wages have not budged for the median worker. So we have strong evidence that economic growth is not trickling down to the poor or even the middle class.”
To hear the interview, click the audio player above.
The city of Atlanta is in the middle of a giant two-day snow and ice storm that has left kids stranded at school, people in makeshift shelters, and commuters trying to get to or from work stuck on the roads in miles-long gridlock.
LaTeefa Dancey-Gray, a cardiac monitor technician, was among those who were trying to get to work yesterday evening while on her way to work the 7pm to 7am graveyard shift. She pulled out of her driveway at 5pm to get to work, and between 8-9pm her car came to complete standstill. Traffic didn’t move again until 5:30 this morning. Dancey-Gray joined Marketplace's Lizzie O'Leary from her car to talk about the situation. Click the audio player above to hear the interview
This month, a neuroscientist and his team announced that the ceremonial first kick at this year's World Cup opening in Brazil would be completed by a paralyzed teenager using an exoskeleton attached to her brain. Prosthetic robotic devices connected to the human brain are becoming more common. You may remember video a few years ago of a woman at the University of Pittsburgh feeding herself chocolate with a robot limb. For today's installment of Marketplace Tech's sports and tech series, "Gaming the System," we'll hear from a guy working in this field.
Video of One Giant Bite: Woman with Quadriplegia Feeds Herself Chocolate Using Mind-Controlled Robot Arm
Dr. Michael Boninger, from the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tells Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson about bioengineering and using brain signals to control exoskeletons and prosthetics.
"More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage," President Obama said during last night's State of the Union address. In a speech that touched on income inequality, wages, jobs, and the U.S. middle class, Obama touted his signature domestic policy achievement. But is that 9 million figure accurate?
You can slip into quicksand really fast, if you're trying to figure out just how many people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Technically 9 million is accurate. About 3 million people have enrolled through the federal or state health exchanges, and about 6 million have signed up for Medicaid, the program that's primarily for low-income Americans.
But -- and here's the thing to remember -- insurance isn't static. People are signing up, and re-enrolling all the time. So 9 million doesn't mean 9 million new people have signed up. Undoubtedly, some of those people, particularly those who signed up for Medicaid, are getting access due to the Medicaid expansion. But we don't know how many, and we won't know for several more months.
Another thing that's unclear is how many people who weren't covered before the Affordable Care Act was passed are covered now. The thought is that 16-17 million uninsured people will get coverage through the exchanges or Medicaid by the March 31 enrollment deadline.
Earlier this month, a survey came out from McKinsey & Co. showing that only 11 percent of people who bought policies on the exchanges were previously uninsured. But those numbers are not confirmed.
Another goal of the ACA was, as Obama put it last night, protecting people financially so "if misfortune strikes, you don't have to lose everything." While the ACA does provide more consumer protections, Obama's assertion could use some context.
There are now protections like out-of-pocket maximums for how much you will have to pay if things get really bad. While the maximum for an individual is about $6,000 and about $13,000 for a family plan, caps don't apply if you see a doctor who isn't in the network included in the insurance plan you have.
We all know health care is quite complicated. And consumers -- especially people new to health insurance -- have to make sure they understand how it works.
It now costs 49 cents to send a letter. The price of stamps went up another 3 cents on Sunday, meaning that if you've been hoarding Forever stamps since forever ago, you've made a pretty good return. At least, that's what Allan Sloan, Fortune Magazine's senior editor-at-large, thinks. To listen to Sloan praise the virtues of the exotic financial instrument known as the postage stamp, click the audio player above.
Last night's State of the Union speech was all about the American perspective. President Obama focused on income inequality, wages, jobs, and the U.S. middle class. Marketplace Morning Report guest host Lizzie O'Leary checks in with the BBC's Andrew Walker on how the speech is being received in the rest of the world. ("Basically, a much bigger American story for the most part has been the death of Pete Seeger," he says.) Click the audio player above to hear the interview.
After two years of debate and stopgap measures, we may finally have a new farm bill. The House of Representatives is scheduled to take up a compromise agreement today. The legislation includes a host of reforms to, among other things, food stamps and subsidies, but reforming subsidies might not save the government much money.
For almost two decades, farmers have gotten what are called “direct payments” from the government -- that’s a check from Uncle Sam, no matter what.
“With direct payments, you got paid the payment even if you had great yields and high prices,” explains Art Barnaby, a professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University.
Last year, those direct payments cost taxpayers about $4.5 billion.
Crop insurance is one of the things that would replace those payments, and Bruce Babcock, the Cargill Endowed Chair of Energy Economics at Iowa State University, says that would be a big deal. “But it’s not clear that it is actually getting the government at all out of the subsidy business,” he adds.
That is because these payments would be tied to commodity prices, so they would fluctuate. Taxpayers would save money when prices are high, Babcock says, “but if they fall significantly, we will be spending a lot more money on farm subsidies than we would have under the old programs.”
And when commodity prices fall, they don’t tend to rebound overnight. Babcock says it’s likely we would face many years of high subsidy payments.
Nintendo announces third quarter earnings today and things aren’t looking good. The game maker already slashed its full year outlook -- instead of profit it now expects a net loss. You could say Nintendo’s facing an identity crisis. For thirty years, it’s made games you can only play on Nintendo hardware. But does it have to change to survive?
Every good identity crisis needs a foil. You know, that character who highlights your own weakness. Hamlet had Laertes (and Fortinbras and just about everyone else).
Nintendo has The Smart Phone.
“Because anyone who’s carrying a smart phone is carrying a mobile gaming device,” says Jeff Ryan, author of “Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America.”
Ryan and other analysts say Nintendo’s market has been eaten away by phones and tablets where casual gamers get tons of games free. Nintendo fans buy a dedicated console that only plays Nintendo games.
So, will the company make its games available on other platforms? Michael Pachter is a research analyst at Wedbush Securities, and he’s dubious.
“I don’t think there’s a chance that they’ll do that,” he says. “They should. But I don’t think they have any intention of it.”
Nintendo is making a strategy announcement this week. Jeff Ryan says they may try to play nice with other people’s software. But not how you think.
“People are trying to invite Nintendo to their party, but instead Nintendo is going to invite the other people to Nintendo’s party,” he says.
He thinks they may try to increase the range of games you can play … on Nintendo consoles.
There is about to be a huge land rush on the internet. Web registries -- companies and organizations that manage and market web addresses -- are unleashing approximately 1,500 new top-level domains, or TLDs, in the next eighteen months. The TLD is the set of letters to the right of the dot -- as in, .com, .org and .biz.
Now, get ready to add .singles, .guru, .bike, .plumbing, .ventures, .holdings and .clothing -- and that’s just this week’s crop. Addresses with those endings are being offered for sale starting today through venture-based domain-name registry Donuts, Inc., which is one of the biggest players in the new TLD space. Specific addresses will be marketed through registrars, such as Godaddy, 1&1.com and eNom, according to Donuts’ website (which gives this explanation of the firm’s name: "We are nuts about domain names. We are donuts.").
JoeBike is a bustling high-end store selling bicycles, accessories and riding gear in Portland, Oregon. The owner is Joe Doebele, and initially, he expressed skepticism that a new web address ending in .bike would do him much good.
“Immediately, who would be looking at .bike?” he asked. “I’m not going to invest in a destination that people don’t even know exists.”
Doebele’s current website is joe-bike.com -- which is pretty good from a marketing perspective. Dot-com addresses are the most popular on the internet, with more than 100 million registered, accounting for more than 75 percent of the total (which also includes .net, .org, .edu and other less popular extensions).
Within a few weeks of the initial launch of new top-level domains (during which prices for individual addresses can be set high by registrars selling them), individual web-addresses will settle at approximately $10 to $40 per year. Doebele thinks that would be affordable, making the url joebike.bike worth obtaining. If he did, he’d have a better chance of staking out his brand, and could use the new address to redirect to his current .com site, or to market to cycling aficionados -- if .bike ever catches on.
When a new TLD is first launched, though, prices can be high. Addresses in the .clothing TLD will start at $12,539.99 today, but decrease daily until they reach $39.99 on Feb. 5. Other hot TLDs with higher prices include .buzz and .luxury -- under which some addresses will cost several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars apiece.
By next year, there will be approximately 1,500 new TLDs, including in foreign scripts, and for major brands, such as .apple and .google.
Not everyone is convinced this vast expansion of internet domain names is worthwhile or wise for companies and organizations that depend on their current urls.
“I don’t think there’s a strong need for the additional extensions,” says Aaron Wall of SEO Book, an expert in search-engine optimization. “I just think it’s an easy way to build a high-margin business, if you’re the person that’s selling them and you’re good at marketing.”
Wall thinks many web-users will be confused by all the new endings, so they’ll keep clicking to the standard .com and .org addresses that they know and trust.
“There are going to be so many extensions at once, they’re all going to be competing for attention,” says Wall. “There are tons of names in .biz, .info; even .net and .org still have lots of great names available.” He cautions that small-business owners may be better off going after them, rather than the new untested TLDs.
Kieren McCarthy worked as general manager of public participation at ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the international nonprofit organization overseeing this massive internet expansion. He now follows internet policy at .nxt. McCarthy is convinced many of the new TLDs will catch on in the next few years, as kinks are worked out and the addresses get more familiar.
And he says these new, more specific TLDs will make it easier for people to connect to their communities and interests, and to find resources online.
“Basically now everyone still thinks .com is the internet or is the most important part of the internet, and from a purely logical, technical point of view, there’s no reason for that to be the case,” says McCarthy. “With all these new extensions, I think the internet will start reflecting our lives more closely.
“So if you run a bike shop or you’re just a bike fanatic you’ll say ‘well, I’ll get .bike’ rather than getting something .com. So it’s going to be a very, very different internet, where what comes after the dot simply reflects what goes on in life.”
McCarthy says new top-level-domains in foreign scripts like Cyrillic and Arabic will expand global use of the internet, and spread a wider sense of international ownership of the internet as well.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:
Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.
An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.
An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world, and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil.
A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history. A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades, and give thanks for being home from a war that, after twelve long years, is finally coming to an end.
Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.
Here are the results of your efforts: The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits – cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.
That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.
The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate – one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy – when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States – then we are not doing right by the American people.
As President, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country’s future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way. But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.
In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.
Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.
Our job is to reverse these trends. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.
As usual, our First Lady sets a good example. Michelle’s Let’s Move partnership with schools, businesses, and local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in thirty years – an achievement that will improve lives and reduce health care costs for decades to come. The Joining Forces alliance that Michelle and Jill Biden launched has already encouraged employers to hire or train nearly 400,000 veterans and military spouses. Taking a page from that playbook, the White House just organized a College Opportunity Summit where already, 150 universities, businesses, and nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education – and help every hardworking kid go to college and succeed when they get to campus. Across the country, we’re partnering with mayors, governors, and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality.
The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.
Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.
We know where to start: the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job. With the economy picking up speed, companies say they intend to hire more people this year. And over half of big manufacturers say they’re thinking of insourcing jobs from abroad.
So let’s make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home.
Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.
We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. My administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh and Youngstown, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies. Tonight, I’m announcing we’ll launch six more this year. Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work.
Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other. And when ninety-eight percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped “Made in the USA.” China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines. Neither should we.
We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.
Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.
One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.
It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.
And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.
Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.
Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.
The ideas I’ve outlined so far can speed up growth and create more jobs. But in this rapidly-changing economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.
The good news is, we know how to do it. Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make them. She just needed the workforce. So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center – places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or better job. She was flooded with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees.
What Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer – and every job seeker. So tonight, I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life. It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs. And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.
I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.
Let me tell you why.
Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She’d been steadily employed since she was a teenager. She put herself through college. She’d never collected unemployment benefits. In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home. A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved. Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote me a letter – the kind I get every day. “We are the face of the unemployment crisis,” she wrote. “I am not dependent on the government…Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society…care about our neighbors…I am confident that in time I will find a job…I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love. Please give us this chance.”
Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance. They need our help, but more important, this country needs them in the game. That’s why I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and new chance to support their families; this week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real. Tonight, I ask every business leader in America to join us and to do the same – because we are stronger when America fields a full team.
Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.
Estiven Rodriguez couldn’t speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age nine. But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates – through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors – from their high school to the post office, where they mailed off their college applications. And this son of a factory worker just found out he’s going to college this fall.
Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math. Some of this change is hard. It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it’s worth it – and it’s working.
The problem is we’re still not reaching enough kids, and we’re not reaching them in time. That has to change.
Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old. As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, thirty states have raised pre-k funding on their own. They know we can’t wait. So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K they need.
Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.
We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career. We’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education. We’re offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to ten percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt. And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.
The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won’t be complete – and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise – unless we do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.
Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.
Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs – but they’re not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.
In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs. Many businesses have done it on their own. Nick Chute is here tonight with his boss, John Soranno. John’s an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough. Only now he makes more of it: John just gave his employees a raise, to ten bucks an hour – a decision that eased their financial stress and boosted their morale.
Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.
Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.
There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull themselves up through hard work than the Earned Income Tax Credit. Right now, it helps about half of all parents at some point. But I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it doesn’t do enough for single workers who don’t have kids. So let’s work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans get ahead.
Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks. That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little to nothing for middle-class Americans. Offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everyone in this chamber can. And since the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations of Americans.
One last point on financial security. For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system. And in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the process of fixing that.
A pre-existing condition used to mean that someone like Amanda Shelley, a physician assistant and single mom from Arizona, couldn’t get health insurance. But on January 1st, she got covered. On January 3rd, she felt a sharp pain. On January 6th, she had emergency surgery. Just one week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would’ve meant bankruptcy.
That’s what health insurance reform is all about – the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything.
Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.
More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.
And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.
Now, I don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice – tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda. The first forty were plenty. We got it. We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.
And if you want to know the real impact this law is having, just talk to Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who’s here tonight. Kentucky’s not the most liberal part of the country, but he’s like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth’s families. “They are our friends and neighbors,” he said. “They are people we shop and go to church with…farmers out on the tractors…grocery clerks…they are people who go to work every morning praying they don’t get sick. No one deserves to live that way.”
Steve’s right. That’s why, tonight, I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31st. Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind – plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.
After all, that’s the spirit that has always moved this nation forward. It’s the spirit of citizenship – the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.
Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it; and the bipartisan commission I appointed last year has offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let’s support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.
Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.
Citizenship demands a sense of common cause; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities. And I know this chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.
After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future. If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda. For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country.
The fact is, that danger remains. While we have put al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved, as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. In Syria, we’ll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks. Here at home, we’ll keep strengthening our defenses, and combat new threats like cyberattacks. And as we reform our defense budget, we have to keep faith with our men and women in uniform, and invest in the capabilities they need to succeed in future missions.
We have to remain vigilant. But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our military alone. As Commander-in-Chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office. But I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it’s truly necessary; nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us – large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.
So, even as we aggressively pursue terrorist networks – through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners – America must move off a permanent war footing. That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones – for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence. That’s why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs – because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated. And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay – because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.
You see, in a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power – including strong and principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than fifty countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles. American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve – a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear. As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel – a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side.
And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb. And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
These negotiations will be difficult. They may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be wished away. But these negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.
The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed. If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.
Finally, let’s remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe – to forge greater cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want. And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those opportunities than America.
Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known. From Tunisia to Burma, we’re supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and have a say in their country’s future. Across Africa, we’re bringing together businesses and governments to double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty. In the Americas, we are building new ties of commerce, but we’re also expanding cultural and educational exchanges among young people. And we will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of greater security and prosperity, and extend a hand to those devastated by disaster – as we did in the Philippines, when our Marines and civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon, and were greeted with words like, “We will never forget your kindness” and “God bless America!”
We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment – when Team USA marches the red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium – and brings home the gold.
My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might – but because of the ideals we stand for, and the burdens we bear to advance them.
No one knows this better than those who serve in uniform. As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life. We’ll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care – including the mental health care – that they need. We’ll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home. And we all continue to join forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.
Let me tell you about one of those families I’ve come to know.
I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked me through the program – a strong, impressive young man, with an easy manner, sharp as a tack. We joked around, and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.
A few months later, on his tenth deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.
For months, he lay in a coma. The next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn’t speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day.
Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he’s learned to speak again and stand again and walk again – and he’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again.
“My recovery has not been easy,” he says. “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.”
Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.
My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach.
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
Marketplace's live coverage of the State of the Union:
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I confess up front: I'm late in getting my performance goals to my boss. Anyone at APM listening in, forget you read this:
I'm not sure we needed academic research to tell us this, but it turns out that pretty much everyone hates performance reviews.
Eager beavers you'd expect to be eager for feedback? They obsess on negative comments.
Those who just want to get by and not be noticed? They just don't want to fail.
Me? I'll get my goals in... soon...
Black-owned barbershops are more than just places to get a shave and a haircut. Their position in American culture is well-known: They're places to talk about the events of the day, to swap stories -- and, according to Vassar College history Professor Quincy Mills, to let African-American men become entrepreneurs.
But it took barber shops the better part of a century to reach that quintessential place in black community life. Mills tells that history in a new book called Cutting Along The Color Line. Mills says the history of these barber shops is deeply entwined with the history of slavery.
In the 19th century, he says, most black-owned barber shops served wealthy, white clients -- businessmen and politicians.
"The black barbers were in many cases enslaved men, but also free blacks," Mills explains. Barbering became a way for some African-Americans "to find some little pockets to sort of figure out how they could at least earn a little bit of money, and control their time -- which of course was what slaves did not have control over."
That shifted in the late 1880s and 1890s, when a younger generation entered barbering. They were born after emancipation and specifically opened shops in black communities to serve black men.
Now, Mills says, it's hard to know what the place of black barber shops will be in our new, constantly changing economy. The current political rhetoric is all about jobs -- and black barber shops simply don't employ many people. On the other hand, Mills points out that it's comparatively easy to become a barber. To open an entire shop only costs about $150,000. Because of that, he says, maybe their direct economic impact is not the most important thing.
"So barbering still serves as that avenue for men, whether they want to own a barber shop or just work in [one]. But also, barber shops provide this sort of central hub, if you will, for communities across the country to understand the nature of their respective communities. And so I would argue that's just as vital to an economy as is the number of jobs one can generate."
Ever felt like you can't get through the workday without something popping up on the screen and killing your flow? An email pops up, or you get a Facebook notification, or a link on Twitter just calls out to be clicked?
If that sounds about right, you are certainly not alone. Gloria Mark is a researcher at the University of California Irvine, where she studies how office workers can do their thing more efficiently.
She says the ideal work setting is one "where people would focus on one task for a period of time, where they could take short breaks every so often."
One of her short break recommendations might come as a surprise: Facebook. Mark explains that it's all about the quickness of your time on the social network.
"Facebook does not require a lot of focus," she says. "It's very different from a face-to-face interaction, which requires a bit of a commitment. The more of these small interactions through Facebook, the happier people are at the end of the day."
Email, on the other hand, can be a momentum killer. Mark says that's because they take too much time. Emails often contain a request: "Please explain X, or please take care of Y." They make you busy, but not happy.
"We did a study where we cut off email in an organization for five days. We found that without email, people were significantly more focused, and they were significantly less stressed."
The reason why: Without emails, the office workers in her study spent more time talking face-to-face. Stopping by someone's office or stepping out for a coffee is a great way to give your brain a rest. So cut out the email if you can, she says. It'll make you happy.
Is Europe blowing hot and cold over climate change?
The European Union has been in the forefront of the campaign against global warming, but its latest climate plan has been attacked for being much weaker than it should be. Some scientists say that by 2030, the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent of 1990 levels if it is to avert a catastrophe. Europe is proposing a 40 percent cut instead.
"Although it’s better than doing nothing at all, it’s not an awful lot better,” says Dr. Doug Parr of Greenpeace,”The leadership that Europe has displayed up to now is slipping back."
Other campaigners are concerned about Europe’s new target for renewable energy use. It commits the EU to producing around a quarter of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2030. But the target is for Europe as a whole, and is not binding for each of the 28 individual member states.
"Some member states will be more virtuous, and some will be less virtuous," says Monica Frassoni of the European Alliance to Save Energy. She believes the member states will bicker over this commitment, the target will be hard to enforce, and that won’t encourage companies to invest and innovate.
"The combined effect will be much less development and research of technologies on energy efficiency and renewables," says Frassoni.
The European Commissioner for Climate Action defended her targets. Connie Hedegaard said that in these tough economic times ,the Europeans would have rejected a more stringent and ambitious plan. She pointed out that Europe still leads the world in climate action, lamenting the fact that other big economies had not followed Europe’s example by adopting emissions targets.
"That should be telling the Europeans something," argues James Sproule of Britain’s Institute of Directors.He says no one else wants to sacrifice economic growth in the name of saving the planet. And he says the new, softer targets are a sign that Europe’s enthusiasm for climate action is also waning.