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Ask the Economy Story Experts

The recent gains on Wall Street juxtaposed with 10% unemployment in the labor market may make you feel like you’re getting conflicting signals about our nation’s economic health. You might also be wondering what legislators and regulators are doing to ensure the mistakes that caused this economic crisis are not repeated - or perhaps you’re just looking for some financial advice to get you through the holiday season.

For the next two weeks we want to help you navigate these tough economic times with a direct line to some of the best economic minds in public media.

Through a partnership between PBS and Public Media’s Economy Story project we are excited to bring you economic journalists and bloggers from The PBS NewsHour, Nightly Business Report, American Public Media’s Marketplace and Capitol News Connection. These experts will provide comprehensive answers to your questions about everything from regional economic issues to regulatory reform and personal finance.

Our panel is eager to share what they know so please take advantage of this unique opportunity. If you need a little inspiration feel free to check out the links below to explore the work these experts are doing through their respective outlets.

Leave your questions for our panelists in the comments section below and tell your friends and family to do the same. We’ve worked hard to put this panel together because we know that this issue is important to you and information is critical in these tough economic times. This is your chance to finally get some answers

Week one
Economy/Recession – Terri Cullen from NBR
http://www.pbs.org/nbr/blog/economy/how_the_economy_works/

Economy/Recession – Paddy Hirsch from Marketplace
http://marketplace.publicradio.org/collections/coll_display.php?coll_id=20216

Government Regulation – Melinda Wittstock from Capitol News Connection
http://www.cncnews.org/index.php?files=issue.php&catid=15

Regional Economy – Dante Chinni from Patchwork Nation
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/patchworknation/

 

Week two
Personal Finance - Jeff Brown from NBR
http://www.pbs.org/nbr/blog/economy/riding_out_the_storm/

Economy Recession – Paddy Hirsch from Marketplace
http://marketplace.publicradio.org/collections/coll_display.php?coll_id=20216

Government Regulation – Melinda Wittstock from Capitol News Connection
http://www.cncnews.org/index.php?files=issue.php&catid=15

Regional Economy – Dante Chinni from Patchwork Nation
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/patchworknation/

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Comments

Health Insurance vs. Investments

Terri, I'm actually going from a situation in which my employer is shifting more of the cost of health care over to its employees. I'll have to decrease the amount of my 401K contributions to make up the difference. So, I wonder: Are there any economic projections on what might happen to savings and investment participation when looking at the economics of public health insurance? Would there be more savings and investment because of having to spend less on health care or would increased taxes prevent consumers from saving and investing more?

TAXES

In this horrible economy we are cutting back. Now I hear that the State will need to RAISE taxes on our bracket and the Federal Govt will be taxing us for a healthcare plan that our family does not need. Tax increases are in the plan in the Govt and state as well as local. Why can't the Gov't make a NO NEW TAXES until we can all recover from this economy. We personally woud spend more with more of our money in our OWN pockets.

Slow legislative process holds back new jobs

This time of year many small business owners are creating their budgets for next year and reviewing their five-year plan. Two major pieces of legislation make this process a shot in the dark - health care reform and financial institution regulatory reform. That's only at the federal level. States and local governments are scrambling to overcome huge deficits so they are considering a host of new fees and taxes just to stay alive.
How can a small business risk creating new positions with so many unknown factors? Do our legislators understand that each redundant speech costs delay in hiring?

Higher Education

My question has to do with unemployment. I'm currently an undergraduate student with about a year and a half left. I have heard conflicting ideas about what is best for recent grads in the job market. Many say that we need to continue our education in graduate school, etc. Others say a masters degree will only deter employers who see the applicant as over-qualified. I've also heard that we're encouraged to stay in school because the baby boomers are living longer and healthier, so will not retire for a number of years.
So my question is this: Is the future bleak for Joe College? What can we do to stay afloat?
My personal goal is to go to business school and to work in the nonprofit sector. What do you see in the near-future for nonprofits? Thanks very much!

War and the Economy

Are we paying our way for the wars we are fighting? If not, from whom are we borrowing the money to protect ourselves? What chance is there that our creditors will call in their loans we use to finance deployment of armed forces, uniformed and otherwise? Do we need a war tax to see our way through?

Historical Perspective

Most people think deregulation of commercial banking, easy money lending policies and speculation in housing caused the economic bubble to burst. People borrowed against inflated home values assuming prices could only go up. Banks didn't care about risk because they sold the mortgages. People selling mortgage backed securities didn't care so long as they earned commissions. Is there historical precedent for any government stimulating a recovery under these conditions? Or is this just a normal cycle that takes time to recover like a person catching a cold?

Effect and Cause

"The recent gains on Wall Street juxtaposed with 10% unemployment in the labor market may make you feel like you’re getting conflicting signals."

Only when you state the effect before the cause (as above).

Consumer Spending

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving is portrayed as an indicator of economic health in the U.S.A. The implication is that more shopping and consumer spending is good for our economy.

I don't understand how masses of people buying mostly foreign produced goods from a few retailers can be good for our economy.
There are a few low-wage jobs as sales clerks, but most of the profits must go to the store owners and foreign manufacturers.

Please explain how an economy can
be based on consumer spending, especially when a lot of that spending is with credit cards.

Maufacturing (and labor wages) in the U.S.

If Labor in China is only 1/10th of the cost of labor in the U.S. why is there any manufacturing left in the U.S.?
Reframing this question,
If manufacturing is relegated to third world countries due to the disparity in labor wages between 1st and 3rd world countries, then the U.S. laborer will continue to lose ground until he/she is earning the same wages as their third world counterparts. Is it your view that this inevitability is unavoidable? If so, then what is your estimate of how much further labor rates must fall before U.S. manufacturing becomes viable?
With the dollar in freefall, I would consider inflation viz-a-vi monetizing the debt, equivalent to a loss in labor wages (loss in global buying power). Consequently, please use the Economist’s Big Mac index for comparative purposes.

Debt burdens

What is the big picture on debts? We hear a lot about all of these debt problems, but it is hard to understand their relative sizes, how the debts are scheduled to be resolved or refinanced over time, and specifically whether debt revision and refinancing needs of different sectors will occasionally coincide. What are the current total debts in the USA (or any other countries where the information is available) in the following areas, and when relevant, over what time course do they come due, reset, recast, etc?
1. Home mortgages
a. ARM
b. Option ARM
c. Alt-A
d. Conventional
2. Commercial real estate
3. Other commercial borrowing (Bonds, Paper, etc.)
4. Consumer credit
5. Student loans
6. Treasury securities
a. Held in USA
b. Held abroad
7. Derivative-related obligations, e.g. CDS
a. About what fraction of derivatives not hedged within portfolios? (for instance, if a fund sold a CDS without owning a partially offsetting CDS, then it is not hedged at all)
8. Margin loans by brokers
9. Any other financial innovations that might matter.

Even if not all of the information is available, it could be helpful to understand whether we should expect large demands for refinancing to coincide with surges in mortgage or credit card defaults. Any historical context would be a nice addition.

credit card rates and fees

Jeff,
At what point does a finance rate become usury, which I thought was outlawed in this country? Also, with more people using cash and debit cards, aren't credit card companies damaging themselves with these new rate increases?

At What point...

I'd like the answer to this as well. I've been asking this question for about 5 years and the only answer I get is that the with government deregulation, the banks/credit card companies are allowed to charge whatever they chose.

Should I build a new home?

In 2005 my husband and I Puchased a house lot in a gated community. It was to be used as an Investment with the thought of making money when we sold it in 3 to 5 years. The market for vacant land is almost non-existent and the value of the lot is down almost 50 percent from when we bought it. Should we sell at a loss now or build a new home on the lot We could market it as a Spec Home in hopes the housing market will have inproved by the time it is built.

Economy

Indian Economy is growing at an alarming rate..... in fact the Indian stock market has outperform the world markets....

tax

In this horrible economy we are cutting back. Now I hear that the State will need to RAISE taxes on our bracket and the Federal Govt will be taxing us for a healthcare plan that our family does not need. Tax increases are in the plan in the Govt and state as well as local. Why can't the Gov't make a NO NEW TAXES until we can all recover from this economy. We personally woud spend more with more of our money in our OWN pockets.

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