Marketplace - American Public Media
In Nicholas Carr’s new book, "The Glass Cage – Automation and Us," he describes an academic study in which researchers discover a key difference between how we feel at work versus at home. At work, people can’t wait to clock out, whereas at home, they dread returning to work.
But surprisingly, the study also found that by many metrics, people are actually happier on the job. And in a world where the main goal of technology seems to be to reduce the work we do, Carr thinks maybe we should take a different tack:
“I think most of us, if we really thought about it, know that it’s really when we’re being challenged and when we’re really immersed in a task or a job…that’s when we feel like we are experiencing life in some better, more fulfilling way.”
In the book, Carr offers one example of how the video game, Red Dead Redemption, helped him realize that games can be a good model for software designed to engage and challenge us in an activity. Carr argues that if we are simply more mindful of how technology influences our experience of life, we can make better decisions about the things we buy, even if it’s as small as a video game.
Click the media player above to hear Nicholas Carr in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.
How to enter:
1) Follow @Marketplace on Twitter.
3) That’s it! Check your direct messages on Monday, October 13, 2014, to see if you are a winner.
Marketplace NYC Road Show Twitter Giveaway Official Rules
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HOW TO ENTER THE ABOVE GIVEAWAY: No contribution or purchase is necessary to enter the Marketplace NYC Road Show Twitter Giveaway (the "Giveaway"). To enter, a) become a follower of @Marketplace on if you aren't already, then b) tweet @Marketplace a photo of one of the city bus ads promoting the Marketplace Roadshow with the hashtag #numberslove BETWEEN between 5:00 p.m. ET October 6, 2014 and 11:59 p.m. ET October 12, 2014 (the "Entry Period").
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PRIZE: One (1) winner will each receive one (1) pair of passes (two admissions) to see Marketplace 25th Anniversary National Tour: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Numbers Hosted by Kai Ryssdal on October 16, 2014. Prize retail value is $60.00.
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Of the following four people, which one runs the Federal Reserve?
The answer choices were:
a) Janet Yellen... correctly picked by 24 percent of people.
b) John Roberts... 5 percent.
c) Sonia Sotomayor... 6 percent.
d) And this one, the troubling part: Alan Greenspan... 17 percent.
Those who admitted to not knowing? Forty-eight percent.October 6, 2014
The corn harvest is coming in, and great weather has produced a record crop. This is terrible news for farmers: Oversupply means cratering prices.
If that sounds like a paradox, consider this: Corn, the biggest crop in our agricultural powerhouse of a nation, is not a foodstuff. It’s a highly refined industrial material—more like aluminum than apples. And a hard look at corn economics puts world hunger in a different light.
Let's start at an ethanol plant: Lincolnway Energy, in Nevada, Iowa. CEO and President Erik Hakmiller is our guide.
The plant includes several big buildings, lots of loud noises... and some unexpected smells. One is hard to place at first. "What you smell is residual carbon dioxide, and a cooking— very much like a bakery smell," says Hakmiller.
Then Hakmiller opens the door to a giant building with a corrugated metal roof.
It’s a barn. Inside are these golden mountains—piled-up flakes of grain.
For every bushel of corn that comes to Lincolnway Energy, only a third comes out as ethanol. Another third comes out as carbon dioxide, which goes into soda pop.
The rest—the fat, fiber and protein—ends up on one of these piles. "Each pile being about a thousand tons," says Hakmiller.
That’s one day’s worth of this stuff, called distillers grains.
"It’s good food for cows, chickens and pigs," Hakmiller says. Just as important, it’s cheap.
"For animal feeding, you feed the lowest cost to get the most growth out of the animal," he says. "So, everything has to price itself into the ration. Because a cow doesn’t say, ‘I’m eating Italian tonight.’ He’s got to eat whatever he gets fed."
If he’s in a feedlot—where most cows gain half their body weight—he’s probably eating corn, either distillers grains or the whole kernel.
And we are not. We wouldn’t recognize it.
Chris Edgington has been growing corn for decades. Here’s what his corn isn’t: "It is not the corn you eat off the cob," he says. "It is not what’s in the can. It is not what’s in the freezer, in the bag. It is not that product."
That product, sweet corn, is a different crop. And a lot smaller. Last year, for every pound of sweet corn, U.S. farmers grew more than 260 pounds of field corn.Sweet corn-- the stuff on the cob-- is not the corn that's grown on 90 million acres. | Create Infographics
Which goes to farm animals. If you are what you eat, they are, more than anything else, corn.
So, when we eat a ham-and-cheese omelette, that’s mostly corn.
"It’s a very small component of other foods," says Joseph Glauber, chief economist of the United States Department of Agriculture. "People talk about high-fructose corn syrup, but..."
Want to guess how much of the corn crop goes to corn syrup?
Three-and-a-half percent. A little less than that goes to other sugars, plus alcohol for vodka.
Actual corn-type food—Doritos, Jiffy cornbread mix, cornflakes—represents 1.5 percent of the corn crop.
For stuff we eat and drink, that’s about it.
Other than as a low-cost ration for animals, the big use for corn is ethanol.
Ethanol has been booming since 2000; there’s eight times as much now.
That’s been great for corn farmers because they have so much corn to get rid of.
"The joke in farm country has always been, if you give a farmer a market, he’ll overproduce it," says Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, the state’s ethanol lobby. "And quite frankly, for over 200 years, that’s been pretty true, except for these last eight years, when ethanol sucked up all that extra corn production."
Extra production is not one year’s bumper crop, and it is not just the extra acres that got planted after the ethanol boom.
It’s a long-term constant. Productivity—the yield from one acre of cornfield—has been ratcheting up for decades and decades.
Even in 2012—a terrible drought year, with the worst yields in more than 15 years—productivity was more than twice as high as any year before 1960.
Which puts the whole food-versus-fuel question in a new light.
We plant more than 90 million acres of corn, and it’s in huge surplus. And it’s not even food. What if we planted actual food instead?
I put that question to Bruce Babcock, an economics professor at Iowa State University who studies corn, ethanol and renewable fuels.
"Our ability to supply the world with vegetables is practically unlimited," Babcock said.
Take corn, and add in other giant crops that basically just feed animals—crops like soybeans, barley, hay, sorghum—and two-thirds of U.S. farmland goes to animal feed.
"Such a small portion of our land goes to grow actual food that people consume," said Babcock, "that if we really wanted to increase that supply, it would be pretty easy."
The trick would be convincing the country—and other countries that import animal feed from the U.S.—to go vegan.
"There would be such a surplus of farmland to grow kumquats and pecans that we would be awash in those, in a heartbeat," says Babcock.
Would it be enough to feed the 10 billion people the United Nations projects as global population by 2100?
"We would have more land available for the 10 billion than they would know what to do with," says Babcock.
But we don’t. Thank markets.
"That’s not what consumers want," says Babcock. "As they get more money, they want to eat meat."
So farmers plant corn.
Members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra remain locked out in a labor dispute, unable to reach an agreement with management for the second time in two years. Both sides have now agreed to talk through a federal mediator.
But what's happening isn't unique to Atlanta. Orchestras in Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Louisville and Nashville have also faced contract and budget issues.
So why does this keep happening?
Tom Smith, an economist at Emory University's Goizueta Business School, says to think of an orchestra player like a professional athlete.
"You have these uniquely talented people, and they deserve more money," he says.
Smith says just like sports teams, orchestras depend in part on ticket sales to pay their players. But whereas pro sports teams usually have packed stadiums, orchestras are struggling because of aging audiences and lagging box office sales.
So that's the problem, right?
Well, sure, says Smith, but it's more complicated than that.
"A team like the Chicago Bulls or the Atlanta Hawks or whomever else—maybe 35 percent of their revenue comes from ticket sales," he says. "So just filling the seats doesn't help the Hawks pay for their salaries on their players."
Smith says orchestras suffer from something called "cost disease."
Think of a string quartet: To be a quartet, there always need to be four players, and it takes them the same amount of time to play a piece today as it did 100 years ago.
But the costs associated with that performance—paying the players, renting a venue, promotion—increase over time.
That's cost disease: Expenses go up, but they're not offset by more accuracy or efficiency.
"Most people who work in the performing arts expect their pay to increase roughly at the same rate as pay in the rest of the economy," says Robert Flanagan, a professor at Stanford University and author of "The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras: Artistic Triumphs and Economic Challenges."
"But unlike the rest of the economy," he says, "the labor requirements for putting on a performance don't change."
To a lesser extent, sports teams suffer from the same economic affliction. It still takes 10 people to play a basketball game that's four quarters long. But sports teams have billion-dollar broadcasting deals, stadium naming rights and merchandise sales to round out their budgets. Orchestras don't have that luxury, so they have to rely on corporate donations, large individual gifts and endowments.
Flanagan says this is where declining demand comes into play: fewer large donors.
"Most of that declining demand is also people who had previously contributed to the support of orchestras," he says.
But Emory's Tom Smith says even when big donations do come in, they often come with a catch.
"People aren't usually going to just give you money and say, 'Oh, here's a million dollars and go ahead, use it to pay the salary of your violin players,'" he says. "They're going to say, 'I want a building, and I want a building with my name on it.'"
And that has led to the downsizing of orchestras, including Atlanta's.
Two years ago, the players agreed to salary cuts and the elimination of seven positions.
But cuts come with their own consequences, as the best musicians will leave for spots at bigger orchestras that haven't had to make the same cuts. So what's a struggling orchestra to do?
Symphony consultant Darrell Edwards says today's orchestras may need to diversify their music, opting for more of a mix of popular music and symphony classics.
"The orchestras that are doing well are doing both," he says. "And it's not to take away from the importance of orchestras playing the master works, because that's how they really grow artistically. You're not going to get better as an orchestra playing pops concerts."
Which leaves orchestra directors in a tricky spot. Do they play the score from "Star Wars" for the umpteenth time to bring in people, or play something new that might not appeal to a wide audience?
Edwards says it's a decision many directors may be reluctant to make.
The NBA announced a new deal with TV networks today that gives us a glimpse into what one aspect of the future of TV might be like.
The deal, which kicks in two years from now, gives TNT, ABC and ESPN the rights to broadcast professional basketball games through 2025, and one part of that deal will allow ESPN to stream some games online to customers regardless of whether they have a pay-television subscription, allowing the channel to have a much more direct relationship with viewers.
But don’t rush to cut that cable cord just yet. ESPN’s move is a baby step, and we don’t really know yet in what direction.
“What ESPN doesn’t want to do is compete with itself,” says Peter Kafka, a senior editor for Re/Code who covers media and technology. Kafka says ESPN is likely only going to offer live streams to basketball games that are not going to be broadcast on one of its channels.
“What you're not going to be able to do is watch a full suite of NBA games without getting ESPN,” says Kafka.
That’s because ESPN’s cable channels are its cash cow. The network gets about $6 per pay-TV customer, more than any other channel.
At a Re/Code conference last month, ESPN’s CEO John Skipper signaled this latest move is a part of the company’s future, but would not replace its present business model, which relies on pay-TV subscriptions.
“We have two big revenue streams: payments from distributors, advertising. We think about, are there sports events we can offer that the consumer will pay us directly?” Skipper said, adding that the live-streaming services he envisions would be a third revenue stream, but would offer content that’s different than what’s on the TV channels.
“It is incumbent on the NBA and on ESPN to reach audiences that are attractive to advertisers,” says Rebecca Lieb, a media analyst at Altimeter Group.
Lieb says among the most attractive and hard-to-reach audience for advertisers is the 18-to-33-year-old male demographic, which is increasingly cutting the cable cord. And yet, if this audience tries to live stream a sports game today, it would have to have a cable TV plan.
“What I see in this deal is the beginning of a kind of uncoupling of that," Lieb says, predicting that other pay TV networks, such as HBO and Showtime, may also take steps away from a cable-only approach.
The web series "Frankenstein, MD" recasts Mary Shelley's titular doctor as "Vicky," fresh out of med school and vlogging with her assistant "Iggy," who only moans "yes, master" sarcastically. The show is born out of a partnership between PBS Digital Studios and Pemberley Digital, which made a name for itself with similar adaptations of Jane Austen novels.
Bernie Su developed "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" and "Emma Approved" — webcam updates on "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma" respectively — and now "Frankenstein, MD." He says telling stories in four-to-five-minute increments "speaks to our modern culture."
“People want to just get in and get out, get in and get out,” says Su. “What’s challenging for that format for us is when you’re talking about a long story, like a grand narrative.”
But Pemberley Digital’s challenge is even bigger than that. The studio doesn't only update classic literature broken up into YouTube-able chunks, it creates shows with an eye toward building franchises and making real money, which isn't something all web-series creators can say.
Here are five ways Pemberley has turned its web series into a business, starting with "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries."
YouTube's partnership program allows Pemberley and other users to get a cut from ads shown before their videos.
The world of Lizzie Bennet and William Darcy has not only expanded to spinoff videos, but pins, a mug, posters and more.
Similar to the YouTube ad program, if Su's company links to another website and that site makes a sale, Pemberley gets a piece.
You can still stream "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries," but Pemberly has also put the series out on home video.
"We’ve sold, I believe now, 7,000 units," Su says. "Again, for a show that is available for free online, which is amazing.”
Simon & Schuster published a novelization called "The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet," which retells the series as journal entries. For those keeping score at home, Su says, "Lizzie Bennet is now "a book based on the web series, which is based on a book.”
Hewlett-Packard is splitting in two, the company confirmed this morning. The printing and computer side of the business will go in one direction, and in the other direction will go... everything else, under the name HP Enterprise.
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is a software and services business. It does advanced analytics, enterprise development and a number of other consulting services.
The computer printer side is still grappling with the age of the tablet and smartphone, which hit the computer sector hard.
“Not only were consumers purchasing fewer desktops and laptops where HP was strong,” says Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research, “but on the smartphones and tablets consumers were doing less printing because tablets can be taken with you and you can view the documents on the tablet itself instead of having to print it.”
The printer and computer side has stabilized over the past few years, and paid down some of its debt. Even so, the Enterprise group had higher margins, says Rubin.
“HP is splitting because there are two different directions and two segments of the business,” he says. “They have different market dynamics, different margin structures, different distribution systems.” HP Inc. (the computer-printer people) has a much bigger consumer-facing marketing component, whereas the Enterprise group is more consulting- and services-focused.
Generally speaking, “independent companies can pursue what’s best for them rather than what a board of directors looking at various subsidiaries would be doing, and Wall Street tends to value that highly,” says Bill Caffee, a securities lawyer with White Summers Caffee and James.
Investors who might’ve liked one side of HP but not the other will be free to invest in just the side they want, another reason why splitting can help valuations. Consumers won’t see much difference; computers and printers will keep the high-powered HP brand.
During the past few days, there has been no wait at Texas Health Presbyterian’s emergency room in Dallas. Usually, it takes about 45 minutes to see a doctor. But a week after a patient confirmed to have Ebola came through the ER, it’s not the most popular place.
“If I lived in Dallas and became ill, I would head straight for the Texas Health ER knowing that the waiting lines are so short,” Dr. Albert Wu says. Wu is professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I would bet that Texas Health is a safer hospital,” Wu says, “and their ED is safer than the other hospitals they would otherwise compete with.”
Wu says even if fear about catching Ebola is not always rational, the panic will have a short-term effect on business. “Emergency departments are certainly one of the main routes to getting hospital admissions," Wu says. "So for almost every big hospital, the emergency room is a crucial way to get patients.”
There are more than 80,000 visits to the ER at Texas Health Presbyterian each year. On average, an ER visit brings in anywhere from $150 to $1,000 in revenue, according to Dr. Angelo Falcone. That might not sound like a lot, but Falcone says if you multiply that by the number of patients that are not coming, it “dramatically affects both the hospital's and the group's bottom line.”
Falcone is CEO of Medical Emergency Professionals, which staffs emergency departments in Maryland and Connecticut. He says the real financial loss isn’t from not treating a broken arm or prescribing pills. It’s from not admitting a patient. Nearly half of hospital patients come through the ER. When you lose one of those customers, Falcone says it could be a loss of tens of thousands of dollars in revenue. Falcone says patients probably won’t avoid the hospital permanently, and fluctuations in patient numbers come with the territory. “It’s the nature of the beast,” he says. “In emergency medicine, you’ll have some days where all of a sudden all the patients show up and other days where it’s not quite as crazy.”
In the long run, Alex Wu at Johns Hopkins says Texas Health Presbyterian could actually benefit. “I’m not sure they’re going to make their reputation on ‘We do the best job curing Ebola cases, send them to us!’ but they are getting their name mentioned and that might not be a terrible thing,” he says.
Right now, we just have the hospital’s symptoms; the prognosis is uncertain.
The crowd of protesters in Hong Kong reached 80,000 this weekend, organizers said. The pro-democracy movement and the government were still at a standoff on Monday morning, after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he would "take all necessary actions to restore social order." The crackdown didn't materialize and protesters cleared a small path to the government headquarters as their ranks thinned. Quartz reported that neither side seems to have a clear plan.
Here are the stories we're reading, and other numbers we're watching, Monday.55,000
That's the number of jobs HP says it will cut—5,000 more than expected—the New York Times reported. The bump comes amid the news that HP will split into two companies, one focused on business technology and the other focused on consumer hardware.$290
Bitcoin's value fell nearly 20 percent over the weekend to $290, the BBC reported. It's the sharpest drop yet in a steady decline for the online currency, which was worth more than $1,000 late last year.$6 billion
Meanwhile, the mobile payment market was roiling with rumors Monday. Square nabbed $150 million at a $6 billion valuation, but the Verge reported new cash might confirm Square is in trouble. Elsewhere in Silicon Valley, Facebook seems to be experimenting with peer-to-peer mobile payment. A few users found the functionality already hidden in the company's Messenger app, TechCrunch reported.2016
Last week, the FCC fined Marriott $600,000 for jamming guests’ Wi-Fi signals at one of its hotels. The Marriott Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, was operating software designed to protect networks from threats, but instead used it to disrupt and shut down the Wi-Fi hot spot that guests had set up in one of its conference rooms. Marriott charges up to $1,000 for setting up Wi-Fi hot spots of its own, but doesn’t bar people from using other Wi-Fi systems.
Marriott, for its part, says the hotel acted lawfully and that the FCC is vague about what kinds of jamming are allowed. The FCC seems to have been pretty clear for several years now that pretty much no jamming is permissible. Also, if you think you’re being jammed, they have an online tip line.
Here are some of the creative ways people have been using signal jammers to mess with GPS, cellphones and Wi-Fi (and how they got busted for it).
1. If I can't talk to anyone on the bus, nobody will!
This guy used a jammer to keep people from chatting on the bus.
2. Putting the "mute" in commute
A Florida man didn’t want people talking or texting while driving. So he put a jammer in his car to disrupt the phones of everyone who drove around him as he commuted to work each day. Unfortunately, he was also interfering with 911 signals. And people who were lawfully using a headset.
3. Welcome to the People's Republic of Workistan
4. You're not the boss of me
Employees have used jammers to fight back. This guy’s boss put GPS trackers in his truck to track his whereabouts and lunch breaks, so he got a jammer to disable it. Unfortunately, he also messed with planes landing and taking off at the airport.
5. Jam tomorrow. Jam yesterday. But never jam today.
In the largest fine of the agency’s history, the FCC said it would assess a $34.9 million penalty against a Chinese signal jammer manufacturer for marketing its products in the U.S. over two years. It’s gone after smaller manufacturers as well, after jammers were found being used in a Texas cosmetology school and another disrupted communications in a sheriff’s office in Florida. As Mitchell Lazarus writes for CommLawBlog:
“Ironically, in both Texas and Florida, it is legal to openly carry firearms into a Starbucks, say. But not a phone jammer. So when the cell phone at the next table erupts into The William Tell Overture and its owner bellows, “HELLO? HEY! YEAH, IN A STARBUCKS! IT’S RAINING HERE! SO WHERE’RE YOU?” pulling out the jammer is not an option. It’s the firearm or nothing. This may not be good public policy.”
Another day, another corporate breakup. Hewlett-Packard confirmed today it will split into two companies. One will focus on personal computers and printers, and the other will focus, among other things, on the enterprise space of the cloud. It turns out HP is not the only old tech company that's been refocusing in a divergent tech landscape.
It's the job of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to regulate powerful Wall Street banks. It's not the only regulator, of course, yet it's a crucial one. But has the New York Fed become too deferential to the financial institutions it watches over, too cozy? This question moved to the foreground after the public radio program This American Life with news organization ProPublica obtained audio recordings made secretly inside the New York Fed. The recordings were made by a then–New York Fed employee who would later sue for wrongful dismissal. William Dudley, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, joins us to discuss. He'll also talk about one of the most consequential economic decisions of the decade: when, at long last, to raise interest rates. That determination, which will have the effect of tapping the brakes of the economy, will revolve around how strong the labor market has become and whether prices are threatening to rise too quickly.
LinkedIn is entering the crowded field of college rankings and giving it a big data twist.
When you join LinkedIn, you tell the site where you went to school, your field and where you work. The job site ran the numbers on its more than 313 million members to see where they went to college and what they’re doing now, says spokesperson LinkedIn Crystal Braswell.
They used it to “narrow down the list of top schools that are really launching their students into successful, desirable jobs,” Braswell says.
LinkedIn defined “desirable jobs” by crunching the numbers to find companies that are good at both attracting and retaining employees.
“Right now, only the top 25 schools in any of the fields is displayed,” he says.
And so it’s mostly the usual colleges that top the lists. Still, Schneider favors this data-driven approach, especially in the current economy.
“I think the 2008 financial crises scared the life out of everybody,” Schneider says. “You go to college and now you’re not even guaranteed good employment.”
And with college tuition rising, Schneider says students are increasingly interested in what their college degree will get them in the job market.
As Marketplace celebrates its 25th birthday this year, we are looking at the surprising, sometimes delightful and sometimes destructive ways that prices have changed during that quarter century. And that means an examination of our old friend inflation.
William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, thinks a lot about inflation. He joined Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to talk about when to raise interest rates to thwart inflation, and why he thinks it's good to let the economy run "a little hot" before taking action.
Among the topics discussed, Dudley also addresses concerns that the New York Fed has become too deferential to the financial institutions it watches over. This question moved to the foreground after the public radio program This American Life—along with news organization ProPublica—obtained audio recordings made secretly inside the New York Fed. The recordings were made by a former New York Fed employee who later sued for wrongful dismissal.
Click on the media player above to hear William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in conversation with Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio.
DB: From APM in NY, I’m David Brancaccio. It’s the job of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to regulate powerful Wall Street banks. It’s not the only regulator, of course, yet it’s a crucial one. But has the NY Fed become too deferential to the financial institutions it watches over? Too cozy?
This question moved to the foreground after the public radio program This American Life with news organization ProPublica obtained audio recordings made secretly inside the New York Fed. The recordings were made by a then NY Fed employee who would later sue for wrongful dismissal. Marketplace talked to the president and CEO of the NY Fed about this. William Dudley, thanks for joining us.
WD: Happy to be here.
DB: We all heard some tapes on the radio that make it sound like your team went soft on at least one big Wall Street firm that you’re supposed to be regulating. Is that not what you hear on the tapes?
WD: I completely stand behind the work and integrity of our staff. They’re operating completely in the public interest. That’s the first point I’d make. The second, improving supervision has been and remains a priority for me. When I became president of the bank in 2009, soon after that I commissioned Professor David Beim of Columbia to come in and do an evaluation of supervision.
DB: He did that big internal report that you got a look at that came out in some filings.
WD: That’s correct. And I basically told him, "Go anywhere you want, ask any questions you want, and tell me what you think about the state of play in supervision of the bank." And I think the record will show that we were actually quite responsive to the recommendations in the Beim report. We’ve had a significant reorganization within our supervision groups in terms of how we do supervision. We do a lot more horizontal and quantitative reviews. Examiner independence is completely paramount to how we run supervision. We try to ensure that independence by rotations, so people don’t stay within the same institution indefinitely. We rotate them every couple of years, but the real key is to look at what we’ve done. Is the banking system safer and sounder today than it was five years ago? And I think when you look at that you’ll see a whole bunch of things that the Federal Reserve system has done to make the banking system much safer and sounder. Higher cap rate requirements, higher liquidity requirements, capital surcharges for systemically important financial institutions…
DB: Here’s the thing though, we study it in poli-sci class, the tendency of government regulators to adopt the values of those they regulate. The watchdogs can become, what were we taught, captured. Now avoiding capture, it seems to me that it’s something that you don’t achieve once and for all. Isn’t it something that you have to continually fight against?
WD: In terms of the bank culture, this is something that you’re always… you never arrive at the destination of the culture you’re trying to strive for. We continue to work to have the best culture in the bank that we can possibly have. When I became president of the bank in January of 2009, I came back to the bank after an FOC meeting. We had a town hall. And I made it very clear then, in fact, the primary mantra of that address was “best idea wins.” And we continue to strive to make sure that is embedded in the culture of the bank.
DB: You saw what Senator Elizabeth Warren said in this statement, “When regulators care more about protecting big banks from accountability than they do about protecting American people from risky and illegal behavior on Wall Street it threatens our whole economy.” She and Senator Sherrod Brown have called for a congressional investigation. What do you think of the idea of an investigation given the stakes are quite high in this area?
WD: It’s the Congress' prerogative to investigate. If they want to investigate, we’re going to completely cooperate because we think the facts are very much on our side.
DB: Mr. Dudley is a regulator, but he’s also one of the guardians of America’s interest rates as a member of the Federal Reserve’s open market committee. In that regard, Dudley told me there is room to be patient before he would recommend raising interest rates to thwart inflation.
WD: We’re going to be assessing the progress towards our dual mandate objectives, maximum sustainable employment in the context of price stability. Right now we’re missing on both of our objectives. The unemployment rate is high and inflation is low relative to a target of 2 percent. It calls for a very accommodative monetary policy. Now, if the economy evolves as most people are hoping over the next year, hopefully we’ll get to a point where we actually can raise interest rates in 2015, and I would be delighted if that could be the case.
DB: You would be delighted to raise interest rates if that’s the case? Why?
WD: In other words, if the economy is strong enough and we’re closer to our objectives, raising interest rates would be a sign of success. So it would actually be good news.
DB: I saw you said that you would be willing to let the economy run a little hot, those were your words, in the interest of the economy being healthy. What did you mean by that?
WD: A lot of people that are currently long-term unemployed, they’ve been out of work for a very long time. This is obviously very bad for them, but it’s also very bad for the economy as a whole. Allowing the economy to run a little hot would make it more likely that inflation would actually move up towards the 2 percent objective. And two, it would pull some of these long-term unemployed back into the workforce. Getting these people employed is critical to the long-term health of the economy, because if they’re not employed over the next year or two, they’re going to lose their job skills and become unemployable.
DB: Does this make you a dove, sir? On the question of inflation.
WD: I don’t think so. I’m reacting completely to the Fed's mandate objectives. We’re trying obviously to hit 2 percent, but we’re not going to hit it precisely. We should be spending some time a little below it and a little above it. It’s not a ceiling.
DB: Inflation is an odd thing though. It’s often in the eye of the beholder. The consumer price index is telling us there’s hardly a dram of inflation, but if you have medical bills or you’re sending a kid to college, prices might be going up and your household budget might be under pressure even now.
WD: That’s absolutely correct. I think people experience inflation in different ways depending on their particular circumstances and what people are experiencing. Inflation is also relevant to what’s happening on the income side of the ledger. If your income is rising at a decent clip, then 1.5 percent inflation is very manageable, but if your incomes are stagnant or declining then 1.5 percent inflation is a problem for individuals.
DB: William Dudley, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, thank you very much for the time.
WD: Thank you.
Are the rich getting less generous? A new report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy finds that while overall giving is up, the wealthiest Americans are giving a smaller share of their wealth to charity. Meanwhile, the less well-off are giving away more of what they earn.
The Chronicle looked at tax returns for those who itemized deductions in 2012. Those earning more than $200,000 a year gave 4.6 percent less of their income to charity than they gave in 2006, before the recession. Americans making less than $100,000 gave 4.5 percent more.
As the rich have grown richer—partly from stock market gains—their giving hasn’t kept pace, says Chronicle of Philanthropy editor Stacy Palmer. Meanwhile, those closer to poverty have been more willing to dig deeper.
“People realize that they themselves are just one step away from possibly being homeless or jobless,” she says. “The more affluent people just aren’t as close to those folks.”
The biggest decline was in North Dakota, where residents gave away 16 percent less of their income in 2012.
That’s largely because incomes have grown so dramatically from the state’s oil boom, says Kevin Dvorak, president of the North Dakota Community Foundation.
For the newly wealthy, he says, it takes time “to kind of wrap your mind around, 'Yes, all of my needs are going to be met and beyond, and now I have the ability to give as I never did before.’”
Overall, though, he says most charities in the state will tell you they’re faring much better.