Alex Blumberg http://weku.fm en The Fiscal Cliff: A Love Story http://weku.fm/post/fiscal-cliff-love-story America, if you're scared by all the talk you've been hearing about the fiscal cliff, take heart: There are reasons for people across the political spectrum to love the cliff.<p>There's a lot for liberals to like in the fiscal cliff, says <a href="http://www.slate.com/authors.matthew_yglesias.html" target="_blank">Matthew Yglesias</a>, who writes wonky articles about economics for Slate.<p>Take the spending cuts. Mon, 31 Dec 2012 08:32:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 37747 at http://weku.fm Why The Falling Birthrate Is Bad News For My 2-Year-Old Son http://weku.fm/post/why-falling-birth-rate-bad-news-my-2-year-old-son The U.S. birthrate just fell to its <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/11/29/166181293/the-birth-rate-just-hit-a-record-low-thats-bad-news-for-medicare" target="_blank">lowest point since we've been keeping track</a>. Here's why that may be a problem for my 2-year-old son.<p>Right now, I, my colleagues and everybody else with a job is paying to support our parents, our grandparents and all the other elderly people in the U.S. who currently receive Medicare and Social Security. Fri, 07 Dec 2012 07:54:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 36780 at http://weku.fm Why The Falling Birthrate Is Bad News For My 2-Year-Old Son Does Medicaid Make People Healthier? http://weku.fm/post/does-medicaid-make-people-healthier A while back, Robin Boros lost her job, and she and her husband couldn't afford health insurance.<p>One time, Boros passed out, and her husband called an ambulance.<p>"The hospital bill, it was atrocious," she says. "We couldn't pay it."<p>They never figured out why Boros passed out. But after that, she and her husband avoided going to the doctor. At times, she says, she even bought blood pressure medication on the street.<p>"That was awful," Boros says. "But you do what you got to do."<p>Boros lives in Oregon. Tue, 03 Jul 2012 21:59:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 29065 at http://weku.fm Does Medicaid Make People Healthier? Why Does The Mortgage-Interest Tax Deduction Still Exist? http://weku.fm/post/why-does-mortgage-interest-tax-deduction-still-exist <em>This is the latest story in our series on <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=149649575" target="_blank">money in politics</a>.</em><p>If you have a mortgage on your home, you can deduct the interest from your taxes. It's a popular, well-entrenched policy. But according to one policy adviser to a U.S. senator, "the mortgage-interest deduction, from a purely policy perspective ... Wed, 06 Jun 2012 06:56:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 27583 at http://weku.fm Why Does The Mortgage-Interest Tax Deduction Still Exist? When Lobbyists Pay To Meet With Congressmen http://weku.fm/post/when-lobbyists-pay-meet-congressmen <em>Yesterday, <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/04/19/150904641/why-lobbyists-dodge-calls-from-congressmen" target="_blank">we reported</a> on the fundraisers that lobbyists hold for Congressmen every day in Washington. Today, we hear what happens inside those events. The stories are part of our <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/archives/archive.php?thingId=149649575" target="_blank">series on money in politics</a>.</em><p>At a typical event, there's a member of Congress and a member of his or her staff who is in charge of collecting the checks. Fri, 20 Apr 2012 07:26:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 25184 at http://weku.fm When Lobbyists Pay To Meet With Congressmen Senator By Day, Telemarketer By Night http://weku.fm/post/senator-day-telemarketer-night <em>This is the first story in a Planet Money series on money in politics. We'll have more this afternoon on </em>All Things Considered<em>, and this weekend on </em>This American Life<em>.</em><p>We think of lawmakers having one job: making laws. But there's a second job most lawmakers have to do. And it's a big job.<p>"I think most Americans would be shocked — not surprised, but shocked — if they knew how much time a United States senator spends raising money," says Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. Fri, 30 Mar 2012 07:48:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 24121 at http://weku.fm Senator By Day, Telemarketer By Night Jack Abramoff Explains The 'Lobbyist Safecracker Method' http://weku.fm/post/jack-abramoff-explains-lobbyist-safecracker-method Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been making the rounds lately. He's out of prison. He has a new book. He's in a talkative mood. So I figured it was a good time to ask him about the business of lobbying — not about what he did that was illegal, but about the ordinary, legal stuff.<p>The firm he worked for was called Greenberg Traurig. I chose a year at random when Abramoff was working there, and picked a client I hoped would be fairly typical. Fri, 27 Jan 2012 05:01:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 20446 at http://weku.fm Jack Abramoff Explains The 'Lobbyist Safecracker Method' Forget Stocks Or Bonds, Invest In A Lobbyist http://weku.fm/post/forget-stocks-or-bonds-invest-lobbyist Corporations don't lobby Congress for fun. They lobby because it helps their bottom line. Getting a regulation gutted or a tax loophole created means extra cash for the corporation. But getting laws changed can be very expensive. How much money does a corporation get back from investing in a good lobbyist?<p>It's a messy, secretive system so it was always hard to study. Fri, 06 Jan 2012 05:01:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 19256 at http://weku.fm Forget Stocks Or Bonds, Invest In A Lobbyist The National Debt: What The Left And Right Agree On http://weku.fm/post/national-debt-what-left-and-right-agree The congressional supercommittee <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/21/usa-debt-failure-idUSWEN106520111121" target="_blank">announced</a> Monday that it failed to come to an agreement on reducing the deficit. After three months of negotiating, the Democrats and Republicans just couldn't agree on how much spending to cut or how high to raise taxes.<p>But this is not a story about how the left and right disagree with each other. Tue, 22 Nov 2011 21:17:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 16747 at http://weku.fm The National Debt: What The Left And Right Agree On How To Avoid The Oil Curse http://weku.fm/post/how-avoid-oil-curse One of the biggest problems any new government in Libya will face is something that doesn't seem like a problem: The massive amount of oil wealth the country possesses<p>Economists call it the natural-resource curse. Resource-rich countries often end up being ruled by dictators and autocrats. And the massive amount of money that floods into a country after oil discovery often has the perverse effect of putting existing industries out of business.<p>It's a curse that just a couple of countries have managed to avoid. Tue, 06 Sep 2011 20:10:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 11924 at http://weku.fm Preschool: The Best Job-Training Program http://weku.fm/post/preschool-best-job-training-program When economist <a href="http://jenni.uchicago.edu/" target="_blank">James Heckman</a> was studying the effects of job training programs on unskilled young workers, he found a mystery.<p>He was comparing a group of workers that had gone through a job training program with a group that hadn't. And he found that, at best, the training program did nothing to help the workers get better jobs. In some cases, the training program even made the workers worse off.<p><p>The problem was that the students in the training program couldn't learn what they were being taught. Fri, 12 Aug 2011 19:36:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 10477 at http://weku.fm Preschool: The Best Job-Training Program An Internet Rock Star Tells All http://weku.fm/post/internet-rock-star-tells-all Jonathan Coulton's songs almost never get played on the radio. He doesn't have a contract with a music label. Yet he's a one man counterargument to the idea that musicians can't make money making music.<p>In 2010, Coulton's music brought in about $500,000 in revenue. And since his overhead costs are very low, most of that money went straight to him.<p><p>Did he ever expect to make that kind of money as a musician?<p>"Of course not," he says. "This is absurd."<p>Jonathan Coulton's music is funny, melodic and pretty nerdy. Fri, 13 May 2011 17:59:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 3692 at http://weku.fm A Former Crack Kingpin On The Economics Of Illegal Drugs http://weku.fm/post/former-crack-kingpin-economics-illegal-drugs The academic argument against drug criminalization goes like this.<p>When you make a drug illegal, you make it harder and riskier to produce. That makes it more expensive.<p>But demand for many drugs is what economists call inelastic: No matter what drugs cost, people will still pay. So making drugs more expensive through criminalization just sends more money to drug dealers.<p>That's the theory, anyway.<p>To test the claims of the academic theory, I spoke with "Freeway" Rick Ross, one of L.A.'s biggest crack dealers in the '80s and '90s. Wed, 04 May 2011 19:53:00 +0000 Alex Blumberg 2885 at http://weku.fm A Former Crack Kingpin On The Economics Of Illegal Drugs