Economy & Business

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Tyler Cowen is an economist at George Mason University, but here at The Indicator we like to think of him as a speed-reading, hyper-prolific, polymath blogger — who does economics on the side.

We sometimes play a game with Tyler, a game he actually invented for his own podcast. It's called Overrated/Underrated. We ask him about a book, an idea, a movie, or really anything, and then he tells us whether he thinks it's overrated or underrated.

Today we discuss inflation as an economic threat, the influence of lobbyists, infrastructure, and Chinese food.

That's the word(s) of the day according to the Federal Reserve, which released the minutes from its last meeting this afternoon. Along with that momentum, the Fed said the initial bump the economy's gonna get from the tax cuts might be bigger than originally expected. The White House released its own economic report too, and we'll start off the show by explaining it all. Then, the latest on Twitter and Facebook's fight against bots. Plus: We're back in Erie for our series The Big Promise.

President Trump pledged sweeping political and economic changes during the campaign. We have no idea if Trump can deliver on those promises, but we can explore what it’s going to take for him to try. It’s all in our series The Big Promise.

When McDonald's recently announced the introduction of a vegan burger in Sweden and Finland, Twitter responded with a mix of earnest enthusiasm (@themodvegan: "So exciting- I hope we're next"), a little disgust (@JenaRoberta: "why would a vegan ever...support a company that sells millions of dead cow burgers a day?), and a touch of guilty hand-wringing from aging ideologues (@siniauer: "Feels like I'm cheating the 90's me").

Who's better off in Erie's changing economy?

Feb 21, 2018

President Trump pledged sweeping political and economic changes during the campaign. We have no idea if Trump can deliver on those promises, but we can explore what it’s going to take for him to try. It’s all in our series The Big Promise.

Critics tend to judge Olympics coverage by a few key metrics: How many mistakes did the commentators make, and how many people are actually watching the games in prime time?

When it comes to NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics, the first category has a couple of doozies, such as the network declaring a winner of the women's super-G Alpine skiing event before all the competitors had skied, including the actual winner.

Why low unemployment might not lead to higher inflation

Feb 21, 2018

Our ideas about the relationship between the unemployment rate and inflation may be all wrong. 

The latest jobs report revealed that the unemployment rate is at 4.1 percent for a fourth straight month — the lowest level since 2000. But that means that the economy may be heating up, which also means that the Federal Reserve may want to put the brakes on that by raising interest rates.

(Markets Edition) The group at the Federal Reserve that makes key decisions about interest rates is getting ready to release minutes from its latest meeting. We'll talk with Susan Schmidt — senior vice president at Westwood Holdings Group — about some of the factors that may influence them. Next, we'll look at how Texas funds its higher education system, and then discuss the harsh conditions that builders have to face in the winter.

Texas legislature taking on college costs

Feb 21, 2018

A panel of Texas lawmakers meets Wednesday to take a look at how the state funds higher education each year. Legislatures across the country — who all face rising costs of higher ed and are trying to contain tuition hikes — will be watching for portable solutions that might work in other states.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story. 

For people who work indoors, snow, ice, and subfreezing temperatures are often nothing more than an inconvenience. But for construction companies and their employees, harsh winter weather can be something more — a financial and physical hazard.

Cities across the country — from large urban areas like Chicago to smaller ones like Cleveland — are in the midst of a multiyear building boom, with developers racing to meet pent-up demand for housing and office space. And with billions of dollars in play and deadlines to meet, the work rarely stops even when the weather turns ice cold.

02/21/2018: Parkland, Florida students mobilize

Feb 21, 2018

(U.S. Edition) A group of survivors from the Parkland, Florida mass shooting last week are lobbying for gun control laws, and they're getting a lot of financial support. We'll take a look at some of the steps they've taken to mobilize, along with some of the donors who are supporting the cause. Afterwards, we'll examine the criteria Texas uses to fund its colleges and universities, and then we'll talk to Marketplace regular Allan Sloan about why he thinks there was that big drop in markets earlier this month. 

(Global Edition) From the BBC World Service … The world’s biggest mining companies are seeing a boost to their bottom lines thanks to rising global commodity prices. We’ll tell you how the battery revolution is helping shape the overall market. Then, India is opening up its coal industry, allowing foreign companies to bid for coal mines in the country. But will more investment from some of the world’s biggest companies translate into better quality of life for residents there? Afterward, a conversation about whether growing use of artificial intelligence presents a looming danger. 

Good luck watching the Winter Games in 4K

Feb 21, 2018

Watching the Winter Olympics on your phone is great and all, but if you’ve spent a pretty penny on an ultra-high-definition TV, an iPhone probably won’t cut it. How, then, does one watch the winter games in glorious 4K? Well, it’s complicated. NBC is delivering 4K video of some events the day after they air, but that video is difficult to access even with the right TV and set top box.

Watching the Olympics on your phone is great and all, but if you’ve spent a pretty penny on an ultra-high-definition TV, an iPhone probably won’t cut it. How, then, does one watch the winter games in glorious 4K? Well, it’s complicated. NBC is delivering 4K video of some events the day after they air, but that video is difficult to access even with the right TV and set-top box. Sam Machkovech wrote about this problem for Ars Technica. He spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about the Olympic 4K rigmarole.  

If the Trump administration starts a trade war, Kentucky bourbon may get caught in the crossfire.

The administration is weighing strict new limits on imported steel and aluminum in hopes of shoring up homegrown metal industries. But European allies are warning of possible retaliation, including tariffs aimed at politically sensitive products such as bourbon and orange juice.

"That's what a lot of countries will look to do," said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council. "Something that will get the Trump administration's attention."

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