Marketplace - American Public Media

How I learned to stop worrying and love 'Silicon Valley'

Thu, 2014-06-05 02:44

Every week when we start our Marketplace Tech game of Silicon Tally, I say something like: "I've got a number for you." And this week, ahead of that game, I do. The number is one. There's a song about it, and even some discussion about it on the Interwebs this week. That's because one is the number of lead female characters in the new HBO show "Silicon Valley." 

The tech industry has a women problem, and "Silicon Valley," which is about the tech industry, also has a women problem. Amanda Crew, who plays billionaire Peter Gregory's assistant Monica on the show, is the only recurring female character in all of the first season. Some feel that this is proof that the show displays "oblivious sexism." Others think the show's depiction of real world problems involving gender lacks nuance. While I cringed at one reviewer's admission that he keeps forgetting the name of Crew's character, I don't really buy these arguments. Not yet, anyway.

I think the show is good enough to get better. When the show premiered, I asked executive producer Alec Berg about the criticisms that it didn't have enough strong women characters. His response: "do we want to do the sort of perfect satirical riff on women in tech? Of course we do, and that's our intention. If we haven't gotten to it yet, it's definitely one of the things--I mean just the fact that that is one of the hot button issues that everybody brings up, that to me means we owe it to the show to lean into that."

So OK, sure, the show isn't Sheryl Sandberg-ing just yet. But it's also far from "Entourage." "Silicon Valley" is truly funny-sometimes even hilarious. In fact, its funniest jokes don't involve the male anatomy, but jargon and self-driving cars. A show with a sense of humor beyond male anatomy jokes is a show that can grow, even if it was made by the creator of "Beavis and Butthead." Here's one of my favorite clips from the first season, featuring Martin Star from "Freaks and Geeks" and "Party Down" fame (WARNING: some strong language in there). 

I hope that in its second season, "Silicon Valley" will grow. The big question right now is whether the show will be allowed to by the network and the critics. Remember when "Girls" was criticized for not having enough diversity in the cast? That show has been allowed to exist and evolve despite that criticism--maybe "Silicon Valley" can, too.

But there's already a lot of things working against it: the focus of the show and its commitment to depicting real shop talk and happenings in the tech industry, despite the fact that most of us don't give a damn what a hash table is, or care about going to Tech Crunch Disrupt. The show isn't about a chemistry teacher or ad executive's spiral into evil or despair. But it is a show about a part of our economy, our society and our world that is a big deal these days. That in and of itself should be a strong argument for at least a few more seasons. 

Before we write it off or leave it for dead (at least until season two), let's look at another few "Silicon Valley" numbers. The last episode had 1.7 million viewers. I asked a friend who studies ratings, and he says for HBO, that appears to be pretty solid--even if the show benefits greatly from airing right after a massively successful hit like "Game of Thrones." He also points out that "Silicon Valley" is currently ranked 4th out of the network's 23 series, and that it looks like it has a good playback rating too. That means part of the show's audience isn't watching it because it comes after the thing they just watched, instead choosing to stream it online at a later date. That suggests the beginnings of a loyal audience. As long as that audience exists and builds, "Silicon Valley" will have the chance to lampoon the good and the "bro" of the tech industry. Maybe even add some more consistent female characters to the mix.

Just like the world it depicts, the show's survival and improvement probably depends on it. 

The economic backdrop to Tian'anmen

Wed, 2014-06-04 13:51

Politically, China may not have changed much from 25 years ago, but economically? It might as well be a different country.

University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies Director Mary Gallagher remembers what it was like for Chinese workers in 1989. "There’s this big population in the cities, still working for state-owned companies, not making high wages, still having an iron rice bowl, and it’s creating all of these problems in the economy and it’s also reducing China’s competitiveness."

And then, the economic equivalent of a hurricane for these poorly-paid urbanites: hyper inflation. "While prices were going up at an average of about 7 percent a year in the mid 80s, in ‘88 there was a spike where it was more like 17 percent. So that kind of inflation hit hard," says Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California-Irvine history professor and author of "China In the 21st Century".

In a TV news reel from 1988, thousands of desperate shoppers at a Shanghai department store reach over each other to buy food. Up until then, prices were set by the government. But in 1988, the government began to systematically lift these price controls, allowing goods to be sold on the open market for the first time. Nobody knew when prices were going to rise, prompting waves of panic buying. “I’ve taken out all my money from the bank and I bought a bed," said one shopper to a Shanghai television reporter. "I don’t need one, but everyone is scrambling to buy one before the price of beds begin to rise.”

(Navigate to 2:45 and 5:35 to watch the footage of shoppers).

In 1988 China, prices were rising, salaries weren’t. Suddenly, many Chinese couldn’t afford many simple household goods. A song by musician Cui Jian captured the feeling of helplessness of the times: "I have asked you endlessly," the song goes, "when will you go with me? But you always laugh at me, for I have nothing to my name."

The lyrics seem to describe a boy, down on his luck, begging his girlfriend to leave with him. But others interpreted the boy as China’s young generation asking the rest of China –including the government – to join it. The song "Nothing to my Name" became an anthem to the demonstrations that later developed at Tian’anmen Square in 1989.

"I think generally Americans and the American media and the western media focused on the political issues more than the economic issues," University of Michigan’s Mary Gallagher said about the media coverage of the 1989 protests. Gallagher says framing the Tian’anmen demonstrations simply as students fighting for democracy ignores the fact that the rest of China’s population – many of whom were blue-collar workers – were protesting for better economic opportunities, too. "I think the general support the students got from the population was much more related to economic issues like inflation, like corruption, like failure to take advantage of opportunities. And people associated those things with political change."

But political change was too much to ask from China’s leaders. In the early morning hours of June 4, 1989, China's military turned on its own civilians, shooting and killing hundreds of people.

In the year following the Tian’anmen massacre, GDP growth plummeted, so did foreign investment. But it didn’t last long. China’s government sped up economic reforms, while keeping a lid on political reforms. This is often referred to as the unspoken deal China’s government made with its people after Tian’anmen: We allow you to make more money, you don’t challenge our authority.

University of California’s Jeffrey Wasserstrom says 25 years later, with China’s economy now slowing down, there are signs the Chinese people want to renegotiate this deal – it’s no longer clear that making more money is an option. "Now I think there’s a sense that if you’ve been left behind, maybe you’ll be permanently left behind," says Wasserstrom. "And also, with the rising concern with issues like food safety, and heavy polluted air and water, I think it’s not so clear to people anymore that they can assume their children will live better lives than they did."

"People are angry, but people are worried that if something changes, would anything get better?" asks University of Michigan's Mary Gallagher. "I don’t think people in China have much confidence in democracy right now, and looking around them they may feel particularly people in the cities and people in the middle class may feel that democracy could end up even worse. It’s a much more segmented society, and people who are wealthy and who are middle class have much more to protect. And when they think about democracy, they think about majority rule. And I think majority rule is scary to them."

The song that defined China’s generation of ’89 ends with singer Cui Jian asking a question, interpreted by some to be posed to China’s government: “Why do I always have to chase you? Could it be that in front of you, I’ll forever have nothing to my name?”

This year, China’s government invited Cui Jian to sing at the New Year Gala on state television, a program watched by 700 million Chinese, six times the number of people who watch the Superbowl. Cui accepted, on the condition that he sing "Nothing to my Name".

The government wouldn’t let him.

Cui Jian's response to the government? We no longer have a deal.

 

No more Roman numerals for the NFL

Wed, 2014-06-04 13:37

In Roman Numerals, the letter "L" is the number 50, which, as it happens, is the version of the Super Bowl that will be played in February 2016.

The NFL knowing a branding problem when it sees it, has decreed that that this years game will break with the tradition of using Roman numerals to identify the sequence.

It'll be simply"Super Bowl 50". Not "Super Bowl L".

No more Roman numerals for the NFL

Wed, 2014-06-04 13:37

In Roman Numerals, the letter "L" is the number 50, which, as it happens, is the version of the Super Bowl that will be played in February 2016.

The NFL knowing a branding problem when it sees it, has decreed that that this years game will break with the tradition of using Roman numerals to identify the sequence.

It'll be simply"Super Bowl 50". Not "Super Bowl L".

You can refinance a car, but not a student loan

Wed, 2014-06-04 13:35

You can refinance payments for a house, a car, even a boat. So why can you not negotiate a better deal for your federal student loans and get out from under all that debt?

"Well you actually could," says financial aid expert Kantrowitz, "there’s no pre-payment penalties on student loans, federal or private."

So even though you could borrow from a private bank to pay off your government loan, the problem, says Kantrowitz, "is there aren’t lenders who are willing to beat the low rates on a federal education loan."

3.86 percent is the interest rate for a federal Stafford loan - if you got it today. But lots of borrowers have older loans with much higher rates. And, loaning money to students can be risky -- one in seven students defaults.   

"If you buy a house or a car and you default on that loan, the lender can reposses the car or foreclose on your house. An education lender can’t repossess your education," he says. 

But if Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has her way, students would be able to refinance their federal debt with a lower rate from the government.

David Bergeron, vice president for post secondary education policy at the Center for American Progress, says the long term solution isn't interest rates, instead it's reducing the amount of debt and the cost of college.

Though, he notes, giving students the option to refinance loans could free up an average of $2000 a year per borrower: “Refinancing would not make the underlying debt that a person owes go away,” he said. But if that money is spent on consumer goods or used towards a down payment for a house, it could help spur the economy rather than going straight to the government which stands to make almost $70 billion from the interest on loans issued between 2007 and 2012.

About Senator Warren's new proposal, “The government will still make money," says Bergeron, "it just won’t make as much money.”

At Walmart labor protests, striking isn't the point

Wed, 2014-06-04 13:33

Walmart kicks off its annual share-holders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Friday, and some Walmart workers are marking the occasion with a series of strikes across the country. Low pay is the spotlight issue--with protesters urging Walmart to raise wages to at least $25,000 a year.

But, as Walmart is quick to point out, only a tiny fraction of its workers will actually walk off the job. Depending on whom you ask, that low number means very different things.   Cynthia Brown-Elliott is a cake decorator at a Walmart in Cincinnati. She makes $8.95 an hour and lives in subsidized housing. When she strikes this week, she'll be holding a homemade sign that's a play on the Walmart slogan: Save money. Live better.   “I’m writing, ‘How Can You Save Money If You're Not Making Money? How Can You Live Better If You're Not Getting Paid Better?’” Brown-Elliot says.   She acknowledges, though, that her sign won’t have much company from co-workers on the picket line. Out of her store's several hundred employees, she knows of just seven workers walking off the job.   That relatively tiny number shows that most at Walmart are happy, says company spokesman Kory Lundberg.   “It's by and large not associates that are participating in these events. Usually the group is rounded out by UFCW* members, or people working at an organized retail competitor,” he says, referring to members of the United Food and Commercial Workers and other labor groups that have helped organize Walmart workers and protests.   “Our associates are smart. They know what a good job is. That's why 1.3 million of them have chosen to work for us,” Lundberg says.   But Brown- Elliott, the Cincinnati Walmart worker who is joining a handful of her colleagues in walking off the job, believes the low striker turn-out isn’t a sign of worker contentment; it’s a sign of worker fear. She says many of her co-workers who have families have told her they support the strikes this week, but feel they have too much to lose.   As an example, she points to a coworker who has joined the workers’ group Our Walmart, but decided not to strike. “She's a mother and she has children who are living in her house--she's scared of losing her job,” says Brown-Elliott, who is an empty-nester.   “In this economy you can’t afford to lose your job,” she adds, but says without a family to support she feels emboldened on the picket line. “I only have me to worry about.”   Fifty years ago, when workers were generally more skilled, unemployment rates were lower, and unions had more legal protections, striking didn't feel quite as risky for workers, even ones with families, according to Gary Chiason, professor of labor relations at Clark University.   Today, however, with a sluggish economy in which jobs are hard to come by, Chiason says strikes have necessarily taken on a different role: more about public relations, less about any real attempt by employees to pressure a company by withholding their labor.    “It's a question of drawing public attention,” he says. “The whole concept is to embarrass the employer as a low-wage, poor working condition employer—to go after the consumer who really holds the decision making power, and to tell the consumers that this is not a good place to patronize because they don’t pay workers well.”    In other words, in today’s economy, the number of low-paid retail workers on a picket line isn’t really the point. What matters is whether the signs they’re holding resonate with the shoppers walking by. 

CORRECTION: The original version of this article misidentified a union that is helping to organize protests by Walmart workers. It is the United Food and Commercial Workers. The article has been corrected.

Among Walmart protests, few actual strikers

Wed, 2014-06-04 13:33

Walmart kicks off its annual share-holders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Friday, and some Walmart workers are marking the occasion with a series of strikes across the country. Low pay is the spotlight issue--with protesters urging Walmart to raise wages to at least $25,000 a year.

But, as Walmart is quick to point out, only a tiny fraction of its workers will actually walk off the job. Depending on whom you ask, that low number means very different things.   Cynthia Brown-Elliott is a cake decorator at a Walmart in Cincinnati. She makes $8.95 an hour and lives in subsidized housing. When she strikes this week, she'll be holding a homemade sign that's a play on the Walmart slogan: Save money. Live better.   “I’m writing, ‘How Can You Save Money If You're Not Making Money? How Can You Live Better If You're Not Getting Paid Better?’” Brown-Elliot says.   She acknowledges, though, that her sign won’t have much company from co-workers on the picket line. Out of her store's several hundred employees, she knows of just seven workers walking off the job.   That relatively tiny number shows that most at Walmart are happy, says company spokesman Kory Lundberg.   “It's by and large not associates that are participating in these events. Usually the group is rounded out by UFCW members, or people working at an organized retail competitor,” he says, referring to members of the United Food and Culinary Workers Union and other labor groups that have helped organize Walmart workers and protests.   “Our associates are smart. They know what a good job is. That's why 1.3 million of them have chosen to work for us,” Lundberg says.   But Brown- Elliott, the Cincinnati Walmart worker who is joining a handful of her colleagues in walking off the job, believes the low striker turn-out isn’t a sign of worker contentment; it’s a sign of worker fear. She says many of her co-workers who have families have told her they support the strikes this week, but feel they have too much to lose.   As an example, she points to a coworker who has joined the workers’ group Our Walmart, but decided not to strike. “She's a mother and she has children who are living in her house--she's scared of losing her job,” says Brown-Elliott, who is an empty-nester.   “In this economy you can’t afford to lose your job,” she adds, but says without a family to support she feels emboldened on the picket line. “I only have me to worry about.”   Fifty years ago, when workers were generally more skilled, unemployment rates were lower, and unions had more legal protections, striking didn't feel quite as risky for workers, even ones with families, according to Gary Chiason, professor of labor relations at Clark University.   Today, however, with a sluggish economy in which jobs are hard to come by, Chiason says strikes have necessarily taken on a different role: more about public relations, less about any real attempt by employees to pressure a company by withholding their labor.    “It's a question of drawing public attention,” he says. “The whole concept is to embarrass the employer as a low-wage, poor working condition employer—to go after the consumer who really holds the decision making power, and to tell the consumers that this is not a good place to patronize because they don’t pay workers well.”    In other words, in today’s economy, the number of low-paid retail workers on a picket line isn’t really the point. What matters is whether the signs they’re holding resonate with the shoppers walking by.   

What the VA and the Cleveland Clinic have in common

Wed, 2014-06-04 13:32

One of the country’s top hospital executives may be on the short-list to become the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Toby Cosgrove could replace Eric Shinseki, after Shinseki resigned over veterans waiting prolonged periods of time for an appointment and staff covering that up.

If there’s one thing the VA needs to do right now, it’s figure out how to make sure patients are getting the right care in the right place at the right time.

On paper Cosgrove’s resume seems ideal.

He’s a veteran, a successful surgeon and is seen as one of the few hospital executives in the country who has improved patient care and controlled healthcare costs.

Greg Anrig with the left-leaning Century Foundation says he thinks Cosgrove could hit the ground running because the VA and the Cleveland Clinic are similar creatures.

“They are team focused. They are focused on data, they are oriented on using technology effectively,” he says.

While this patient scandal has certainly marred the VA’s reputation, the VA has a sturdy track record delivering quality care that’s often similar to -- or better than -- what can be found in the private sector.

But one certain challenge ahead is addressing high patient demand in areas with sizeable veteran populations.

Cosgrove has shown he knows how to treat patients in hospitals when they need it, and elsewhere when they don’t.

The VA could likely benefit from that kind of patient management.

Some in the healthcare world believe if Cosgrove becomes the next secretary – and is successful - his reforms could influence hospitals around the nation.

The student-debt burden: online vs traditional schools

Wed, 2014-06-04 11:05

There were dueling Congressional hearings on student loans today.

The Senate Banking and Budget committees talked about what a trillion dollars in student-loan debt might mean for the economy.

Our colleague, Sally Herships reported on legislation proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; it would allow students to refinance their federal student loans. 

We thought we’d compare the debt load for students who graduated from exclusively online program, to the debt load for students whose programs were not entirely online.  Financial-aid expert Mark Kantrowitz ran the numbers for us, based on data from  the 2011-2012 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS).

&nbsp Average debt at graduation, by program type | Create Infographics
  Percentage of students graduating with debt, by program type | Create Infographics  

This summer's most boring read

Wed, 2014-06-04 10:41

There's a new book out today, but it's not exactly the hottest of summer reads.

It's commonly called "The Beige Book", but its formal name is "Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions." Sound exciting?

The Beige Book is a Federal Reserve report that compiles information from local banks and businesses in different districts of the country.

But New York Times Washington Correspondent Binyamin Applebaum says its contents are so dull, they spawned the very idea of the book in the first place back in 1970:

“The head of The Fed was bored of listening to the regional reserve presidents show up at meetings and read long, prepared speeches about how things were going in California and Kansas City and Chicago, and he basically said, ‘Enough! I don’t want to listen to this stuff anymore. I want you all to submit it before the meeting and we’ll make a nice fancy book and distribute it. And anyone who is interested can read it.”

The book’s original cover was actually red, and it was only distributed within The Fed. Until Paul Volker took over the reigns as Fed Chair and came up with an idea:

“Volker had a problem,” Applebaum says. “He was engaged in this big war on inflation and he was trying to drive inflation down. It was making people unhappy, unemployment was high, the economy was not doing that well, Congress was breathing down his neck and they wanted more information about what he was doing. They wanted him to explain what’s going on inside the Fed, and he didn’t want to do that. So he came up with an idea. He said, ‘Hey, we’ll give you this book we’ve been publishing for 13 years at that point. You can have it. Maybe you’ll like to read it. No one around here reads it, but it’s all yours.”

How can you make a book you don’t want people to read even more boring?

“The Fed actually gave it a beige cover to make the point that it was pretty boring,” Applebaum says. “It’s no accident.”

Applebaum says it worked so well that Congress considered changing the cover colors of some of its other reports from green and blue to beige as well.

Where all those digital cookies came from

Wed, 2014-06-04 10:19

I’m at work, taking a little web surfing break. I check out vacation rentals on Airbnb, I update my Netflix queue, I glance over a New York Times article. Then I go to Marketplace’s website. That five-minute break was a lucrative one for data brokers: 53 companies are now tracking me, from just those four sites, most using cookies (the top cookie host, by far, was Marketplace itself, 25! trackers hitchhiking on our URL). 

But the cookie wasn’t always the sinister character it is today.

 "The cookie was invented shortly after HTML itself was invented, in the early to mid 1990s," says Aram Sinnreich, a professor of media at Rutgers University and author of "The Piracy Crusade." Sinnreich says the cookie was created because websites needed to tell advertisers how many visitors they got, and they needed a way to tell the difference between 10 different people visiting their site and one person visiting their site 10 times.

"The easiest way to accomplish this without getting internet users themselves to install a bunch of clunky software," he says, "was to just drop a little piece of code without their knowledge or consent onto their computers, so that the next time they visited, you’d be able to read that code and recognize that they were the same person."

Then websites started using cookies to interact more seamlessly with consumers. 

"It was about consumer convenience," says Ryan Calo, a professor of internet and privacy law at the University of Washington. "The idea is that you drop a little file on a person’s computer and then you know them again when you see them."

You have cookies to thank for being auto-logged onto your email, having Amazon remember what you put in your virtual shopping cart last week and having Google remember that you like the mountain landscape background.

Cookies made the internet faster, more convenient and more personal. Consumers and cookies had a sweet, uncomplicated relationship.

"I think the turning point in all this is when ad networks really started to take off," says Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of non-tracking search engine DuckDuckGo. "What the ad network realized is they could drop a cookie and then track you across many different sites and, in essence, build a profile about your browsing habits."

The once-sweet and humble cookie became the linchpin of the $16 billion data mining industry. Those little, innocent files that were making the internet easier to use were spying on us.

But… maybe not for long. For the most part, cookies don’t work on mobile devices. And now companies like Facebook and Google have found a way to replace the cookie.

"If you’ve ever been to a website, and it’s said, 'Log in with your username and password or log in with  Facebook,' you’ve seen that technology in action," Sinnreich says. 

If you log in the regular way, you’re in cookie-land, but if you log in with Facebook, Google or Twitter, those companies get all of your web surfing information.

"That puts Facebook in a really, really powerful position to really pick up where the cookie left off," Sinnreich says. He says that technology will likely put a handful of companies in control of most of our data.

So…the cookie’s life as the internet’s tracker of choice is crumbling, but that doesn’t mean it’s going away. "We will see tracking move to other fields," Ryan Calo says. "And basically what will be left will be the kinds of uses of cookies for which they were originally developed."

Like remembering what was in your Amazon shopping cart; logging you into your email and remembering the mountain landscape theme you like Google to have.

And consumers’ relationship with the cookie can become uncomplicated once again…. More or less.

"Back to the original cookie… like your grandmother used to make," Calo says.

The UN says, "Raise your voice, not the sea level"

Wed, 2014-06-04 07:48

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Thursday, June 5:

In Washington, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee discusses developments in Ukraine.

Did consumers hit the malls over Memorial Day weekend? Chain-stores are scheduled to release sales figures for May.

Performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson turns 67.

The Great American Brass Band Festival, a 25 year tradition, gets underway in Danville, Kentucky.

And the United Nations marks World Environment Day with the theme "Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level."

PODCAST: Implementing Chip and PIN; 25th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square

Wed, 2014-06-04 07:26

More on Mel Watt, the man behind the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and overseer of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Plus, with Sam's Club offering the country's first Chip and PIN credit cards, a look at the barriers to switching to the more secure technology. Last up, on the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, a conversation about the blue collar workers who joined the protests and why they were there in the first place.

Job-seeking grads embrace the obvious

Wed, 2014-06-04 07:07

Here's some shocking news: San Francisco is tech central for recent grads;  New York has finance nailed and DC is the top spot for budding policy wonks. That's according to LinkedIn, which has mined its own data and put together the top 10 cities for new graduates. But not everything in the survey is painfully obvious.  

  • Minneapolis/St. Paul is a magnet for corporate types, who can stand the cold. Target, General Mills and Cargill are all head-quartered there  
  • The Twin Cities and Chicago attract more graduates than San Francisco. 
  • Bangalore is the Silicon Valley of India, with lots of homegrown students flocking there for tech jobs. 

Read the full survey above.

The day I realized a taxi medallion costs $1 million

Wed, 2014-06-04 06:55

This happened more recently than I'd like to admit — the day I realized that a New York City taxi cab medallion costs $1 million. 

I was in the newsroom reading about the fight between yellow cab drivers and their new green cousins roaming the outer-boroughs. The story, from last June, was that yellow taxi drivers disliked the fact that green cab medallions were first sold for a mere $1,500. Quite a price differential from the yellow cabs, of course.

I grew up in the country, but for as long as I can remember my city family has been in the taxi business. So on hearing this fact my first thought was, "Woah, my uncle has $2 million on wheels." My second thought was, "the city absolutely had to lower the cost of a green medallion. How could an immigrant just starting out possibly purchase a $1 million taxi cab now?"

New York is the kind of place that is always in danger of becoming a city of 'haves' and 'have-nots.' Unless we're careful — unless we purposely create opportunities for those willing to capitalize on them — the pace of this city can leave people behind.

It's impossible to think about this and not think about growing income inequality on a national or global scale — and what kind of measures we as a society need to take to ensure things don't get worse.

If you do a quick Craiglist search you can see that green medallions can go for around $15,000 now. It's a tough buy for someone starting with nothing, but not an impossible dream.

And ideally, New York is a city of possible dreams.

While more secure, Chip and PIN technology is costly

Wed, 2014-06-04 06:19
Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 09:03 Scott Olson/Getty Images

A shopping cart sits in the parking lot of a Sam's Club store

Sam’s Club, the warehouse chain owned by Walmart, is unveiling credit cards with chip-enabled safety technology. In fact, they’re declaring themselves the first mass retailer to do so in the U.S. The cards will be co-branded with MasterCard.

Chip and PIN technology is more secure than the magnetic strip on the back of many cards. Target learned that the hard way when it was hacked last year.

Carl Howe, vice president of research and data sciences at Yankee Group, says the biggest obstacle to adopting chip-enabled technology in the U.S. has been cost, including the price tag for overhauling all those point of sale devices where we swipe our cards now.

“Those are expensive devices -- a few thousand dollars each -- and they have a lot of them,” he says. “And there’s all the backend programming that’s required for it too. So this is not a small move, it takes a lot of infrastructure to make this work.”

Still, credit card companies want all retailers to follow Sam’s Club’s lead and adopt the technology by late 2015. 

Marketplace Morning Report for Wednesday June 4, 2014by Kate DavidsonPodcast Title While more secure, Chip and PIN technology is costlyStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

While more secure, Chip and PIN technology is costly

Wed, 2014-06-04 06:03

Sam’s Club, the warehouse chain owned by Walmart, is unveiling credit cards with chip-enabled safety technology. In fact, they’re declaring themselves the first mass retailer to do so in the U.S. The cards will be co-branded with MasterCard.

Chip and PIN technology is more secure than the magnetic strip on the back of many cards. Target learned that the hard way when it was hacked last year.

Carl Howe, vice president of research and data sciences at Yankee Group, says the biggest obstacle to adopting chip-enabled technology in the U.S. has been cost, including the price tag for overhauling all those point of sale devices where we swipe our cards now.

“Those are expensive devices -- a few thousand dollars each -- and they have a lot of them,” he says. “And there’s all the backend programming that’s required for it too. So this is not a small move, it takes a lot of infrastructure to make this work.”

Still, credit card companies want all retailers to follow Sam’s Club’s lead and adopt the technology by late 2015. 

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