Money plays a crucial role during the political campaign season. The amount of money backing your campaign could mean a win or loss in a seat in Congress. And when Super PACs were deemed legal by the Supreme Court in 2010, the game changed.
Before Super PACs were "super", a PAC was limited to spending no more than $2,500, with corporations and unions strictly forbidden from making donations. Now corporations and unions are allowed to make donations and the limit to spending? Well there is none.
Fair or not, this is one issue that is set in stone... or at least was. Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor, wants to take down these Super PACs... by creating one of his own. This past weekend, the MayDay PAC reached its fund raising goal of $5 million. Lessig plans to start the anti-Super PAC campaign for this year's House of Representative election.
"We want to win five seats so we can convince the people of Washington that this issue really matters to voters so that we can build the campaign we have to have for 2016 that will win a Congress that is committed to changing the way that elections are funded."
This goal isn't an easy feat. The elections take place in a few months and the majority of people who donated are from areas that have a Democratic seat in the House, according to a map from the MayDay website. But Lessig says this issue is as important to people on the right as well as the left.
"You know, when Dave Brat beat Eric Cantor, the number two issue he talked about was that Eric Cantor had become a Crony Capitalist. So our view is this is cross partisan and we can talk about this in a way that gets people on the right and people on the left to recognize that though they don't have a common end, they have a common enemy. And the common enemy is the way we fund campaigns today."
Now that Lessig has done his part to raise money for the MayDay PAC, he'll hand it over to the campaign shops "that are experts at winning campaigns" and wait until November to see if it was all worth it.
We're asking listeners about what they could tell their 18-year-old selves about money if they had the opportunity to:
New question for next week's @MarketplaceWknd: what would you tell your 18-year-old self about money?
— Lizzie O'Leary (@lizzieohreally) July 3, 2014
Here's a few of your responses:
— Andy Lancaster (@andylancaster) July 3, 2014
— Trevtor (@Trevtor) July 3, 2014
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) July 4, 2014
So what would you tell yourself if you had the chance? Let us know in the comments!
Don't like your job description? Let Marketplace generate one for you.Your Job in 5 Words #JobIn5Words
Forget paper and pencils, and filling in all those little dots.
Kids are increasingly being asked to take standardized tests on computers .
And those who aren’t, soon will be.
There’s a big push to get kids online at school, so they will be ready when testing begins on the Common Core standards, which will be implemented in many states over the coming months.
Not all schools are prepared. In some districts, there is a computer for every child - and the bandwidth needed for the tests.
Other places aren’t close.
A recent survey of K-12 educators, found that 60 percent don’t feel well prepared to administer online tests.
When things are in order, however, kids will probably be fine.
There’s a general sense among educators that kids are way more comfortable online than most of us grownups will ever be… so they have that going for them.
There is one small thing to be concerned about: making sure kids can use a keyboard. Keyboarding classes are becoming routine in elementary schools.
Schools that don’t get up to speed in time to offer tests online, will still be able to use papers and pencils for the next few years.
For more about online testing, listen to my conversation with Ben Johnson, host of Marketplace Tech, by clicking on the audio above.
If you’re traveling abroad soon, make sure to have your electronic devices charged up on the way back to America. If you don’t, your smartphone, tablet, or laptop may not be able to come back with you.
The Transportation Security Administration is announcing new security measures at certain overseas airports with flights to the U.S.
Security screeners will ask flyers to turn their devices on. Those that don’t power up will not be allowed on the plane.
The move is meant to foil plots to use smartphones and tablets to disguise bombs, amid concerns Al Qaeda terrorists are planning to attack airlines. But the new screening procedures are bound to frustrate innocent travelers. They’ll be forced to abandon their cherished electronic devices if they’re unfortunate enough to have dead batteries.
Just like taking off our shoes and limiting the liquids we carry on, we’ve got yet another new security habit to form. The best way to make sure you don’t lose your devices abroad is to have all your chargers packed in carry-on luggage, including any adapters needed for foreign power outlets.
Still, one person’s security hassle is another’s business opportunity. The limiting of carry-on liquids created an expanded market for beverage sellers inside the security checkpoints. This new move may provide similar opportunity for clever entrepreneurs. Soon, before flyers can pass through airport security to buy overpriced bottles of water, they’ll likely see merchants with an array of overpriced chargers and adapters just outside the security gates.
With Congress back from recess, one piece of legislation that needs to be hammered out soon involves funding for transportation. With a dwindling Highway Trust Fund, delays to construction projects could be seen as soon as August. Plus, Walmart will be using a new logo to denote products from women-owned companies. But will special labels combat or perpetuate stereotypes? Also, New York's Museum of Modern Art just released Bjork's Biophilia app for $13. It's part of a larger initiative by the museum, treating technology as art.
Congress is back after the July 4th recess with at least one major piece of legislation that really needs to get worked out: funding for transportation.
The Highway Trust Fund is financed by an 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax, which hasn’t increased in 20 years. And that’s just part of the reason there may not enough money.
“Sometime in August, perhaps late July, you’ll see the trust fund running low on fumes to the point where the Federal Highway Administration will have to slow down payments to states,” says Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, a nonprofit based in Washington DC. “The immediate effect would be a slowing down or termination of construction projects around the country.”
That means a possible dip in jobs -- According to the Obama administration, as many as 700,000 jobs in all.
But there’s also a long term reason to be concerned.
“The road network suffers dramatically, the transit systems can’t expand, and all of this really has an economic downside to it," says Jack Basso, a former Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and CFO at the US Department of Transportation.
Basso says poor infrastructure slows the movement of people and goods. Plus, he says those bridges and roads become even more expensive to fix later on.
Shoppers at Walmart this Fall might notice something new on some of the products on store shelves: a little logo that says it was made by a women-owned company. It will first appear on Maggie’s Salsa, Anise Cosmetics, the Smart & Sexy brand of underwear, and the household cleaner called CLR.
“Women in general, if there’s a product that they can tell is a women-owned product, they’ll actually buy that product over the next product,” says Pamela Prince-Eason, president and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, one of the organizations working with Walmart on the logo.
Those organizations will be watching closely to see if the logo affects sales in either direction. Women buy more cosmetics, but CLR skews male. It’s an open question whether the logo will help combat gender stereotypes, or perpetuate them.
In general, though, consumers think highly of women-owned businesses.
“There might be a sense of trust, and confidence in the fair dealings in the organization,” says Laura Kray, Professor of leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
And, even if consumers have no opinion, just seeing the logo could get consumers to want to learn more about gender issues in business.
“It brings that issue to the forefront and actually makes people look into it and say what is this and why is it important?” says Marlene Morris Towns, Teaching Professor of Marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
Backers of the symbol are talking with Macy’s and Office Depot about expanding its use to those stores.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York added the first downloadable app to its collection this month: Björk’s Biophilia, which the singer released in 2011 along with an album of the same name.
The app opens to a swirling constellation with a brightly colored star for each song from the album. In a recent demo, Paul Galloway, who manages MoMA’s Architecture and Design collection, selects a song called “Virus,” the screen of his iPad filling with gently jostling pink cells.
“It’s like looking in a microscope down at cells,” he says, noting that Björk is using the virus as a metaphor for love.
As the song progresses, small green virus cells come into view and start to attack the existing pink cells.
“Like a virus needs a body, soft tissue, as soft tissue feeds on blood,” Björk sings. “Someday I'll find you, the urge is here.”
If Galloway flicks the green virus cells off screen, the vocals stop.
The whole display is oddly beautiful and mesmerizing. Each song has its own unique design and way for users to interact with it.
“You now becomce a part of the team that’s creating Björk’s music,” says Galloway. “That’s a really powerful thing to enable your users to do.”
Beauty and interactivity – these are two elements of Biophilia that make the app art, says Galloway.
“[What] we also look for is this something that’s moving the field forward,” he adds. “Is it a masterpiece? Because we aspire to be a museum that’s chock full of masterpieces.”
Galloway thinks this is Björk’s equivalent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
While it’s the museum’s first downloadable app, it follows other digital acquisitions in typography and video games like Tetris.
It’s the latest example that museums are taking digital art seriously, says Heather Corcoran, the executive director of Rhizome, an art and technology organization. She says it’s natural for artists to work with technology as a medium given its current impact on culture. But even still, she notes this app is part of MoMA’s design department.
“I think that design within museums has a lot more freedom to push boundaries,” she says. “It’s not quite as attached to this really established canon of art history, so a lot of the most adventurous collecting is happening within the design departments.”
Corcoran says digital art can also present new preservation challenges for museums, as technology becomes obsolete very quickly -- much faster than a painting would need restoration.
It’s something MoMA is very aware of.
“This iPad is going to look hilariously dated in five years,” says Galloway. “That’s really soon, so how do we make sure this thing lives and continues to impact people? It’s a headache.”
When Bank of America merged with NationsBank and moved out of its headquarters in San Francisco after 94 years to decamp to North Carolina, people said that's just business. When Boeing announced it was moving its headquarters halfway across the country after 85 years as a mainstay of the Seattle economy, people said that's just business, too.
So, isn't it just business when companies move their headquarters to places like Bermuda or Ireland for the purpose of saving on taxes out of the U.S. completely? Executives of the cruise ship company Carnival work out of Miami, but the company's tax home is Panama. The GPS navigation company Garmin has letterhead that reads Kansas, but its tax home is Switzerland. The medical devices company Medtronic is based in St. Paul, but after its planned merger with Covidien, its tax home could also move to a foreign land.
The insider lingo for this tax maneuver is "inversion," and inversions are perfectly legal. Let me say that again: they break no law. But, longtime Marketplace contributor Allan Sloan is angry and thinks companies should stop with the inversions, and stop now.
It may matter that Mr. Sloan is angry. He is senior editor-at-large for Fortune Magazine and a veteran business writer who knows now to kick up a ruckus when he wants to. His Newsweek cover story in 1996 about mass layoffs in corporate America is the stuff of legend. Its headline, "Corporate Killers," drew the ire of many a corporate chief and went on to become a topic of national conversation.
Sloan has written the cover story for the latest Fortune. The article is about these inversions but its headline is in plain English. Sloan's article carries the title: "Positively Un-American." Sloan argues American taxpayers get stuck paying what the companies who shift their tax home to other countries save. By one estimate, we are talking more than $19 billion over 10 years.
Again, Sloan acknowledges that inversions are legal. Companies say they adopt this strategy to increase shareholder value. Sloan rejects that argument, saying long-term shareholder value will come from investing in the USA, not from leaving it. Then, in case anyone has missed that he is angry about this, Sloan calls the companies who switched tax homes "deserters."
Yes, fighting words, I know.
What bugs Sloan most is seeing companies that benefit in so many ways from being in America seeming to abandon it. Sloan told me he is the grandson of immigrants and comes from a family that would have been destroyed if the United States hadn't welcomed them. He thinks it is just plain wrong for companies to switch their tax home just to make more money.
"They don't even leave," Sloan told me. "They just go off and stick you and me with the tab, and that makes me pretty angry." Did I mention he's angry?
Some elected officials are talking about legislation to make switching tax homes less attractive to companies. Many corporations oppose this, arguing a better strategy would be for the U.S. to lower corporate taxes. Sloan is not opposed to comprehensive tax reform, he just doesn't see it happening any time soon. What is happening soon is that more and more U.S. companies are running the numbers on this "inversion" thing and switching to foreign addresses.
Speaking of which, there is a pharmacy on almost every American street corner by the name of Walgreen's. It is a brand so American that you can see a Walgreen's in the background of that famous photo of the sailor kissing a lady on VE day in Times Square. The Walgreen company is now thinking of moving its tax residence out of the United States, with a decision possible any day now.
Independence Day is a time for family gatherings, patriotic parades, plus picnics, barbecues, ballgames—and beer.
The July 4th weekend is one of the peak periods for beer-drinking in America—as much as 40 percent higher than normal. Summer is also beer’s big season, with sales up more than 10 percent over the rest of the year.
But it's getting harder for the major beer brands to boost sales in the U.S. market. Americans’ drinking habits are changing—shifting toward fancier, more expensive drinks—away from the standard Buds, Millers and Coors that many beer-drinkers are raised on in their early twenties.
At the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Oregon this weekend, several beers were on sale for thirsty music-lovers: Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Oregon had two ales on tap, and there was also a craft brew from Miller. They were priced around $5-per-cup. Cheaper alcoholic offerings were available from Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
Waiting on line, festival-goer Tom Bothwell of Yakima, Washington riffed about beer and the blues: “In heaven there is no beer, that’s why we drink it here.”
Tawnya Bothwell had ordered a Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale. “I’m a regular beer drinker,” she said. “Once a week I have a beer on the weekend. Compared to my early twenties, I’m drinking much less. We like to drink the local beer when it’s available to us in restaurants, or if we just go the brewery.”
And therein lies the makings of a slow-rolling market crisis for the big breweries.
Beer drinkers are moving to craft beers—or, as they age, wine. That’s leaving the mass-produced beers like Bud and Miller behind. Beer production peaked in the U.S. in the 1990s and started declining. Sales have been down in four of the past five years.
But craft beer sales are up—nearly 20 percent in 2013. “There’s been a long, slow, and relatively moderate decline,” in the mainstream beer market, said Jim Hertel, a beverage analyst at consulting firm Willard Bishop. “The more popular and premium brands, the heavily-advertised brands, are in that decline.”
Hertel said craft beers are certainly more expensive. But they benefit what marketing pros call “badging,” a kind of cachet for spending more.
“If you’re out in a bar, perhaps you’re on a date trying to impress a girl,” said Hertel. “PBR is probably not what you want to be seen holding. It turns out that the craft beers have a little bit extra panache.”
During Beer Week at neighborhood pub Saraveza in Portland, Oregon, recently, Dave Dalisky was showing off summer beers from Flat Tail Brewing, the microbrewery he works for in Corvallis, Oregon.
“People that are younger, that are 21, 22, 23, are starting to get into craft beer,” said Dalisky. “Also what’s out there, what you can get at your local store, is a huge selection.”
Young people—especially young men—are still the biggest beer drinkers.
To try to hold onto them, the big multinational brewers are trying everything. Like rolling out their own smaller-run craft-brew varieties. Or creating new citrus brews, like Budweiser's margarita-flavored beer on the market. And even introducting higher-alcohol beers, like Miller Fortune, marketed to be served in a glass on the rocks, like a cocktail.