Archive for the 'Political' Category

13
May
10

Clips – May 2010

A collection of a few of my favorite post-graduate school stories.

Clips – May 2010

12
May
10

Emmy Nomination 2010

I’m so proud and honored to have received a nomination for the Regional Emmy in the category of best Political/Government coverage.  Thanks to my talented photographers: Sean Estes and Michael Brandenberger.

There’s some great competition in this group – good luck!  I’ll see you in June.

You can watch the collection of the three stories entered HERE.

20
Nov
09

Health Care Reform Series

Too Much Care? – Story 1 link HERE

Doctor Shortage Expected –Story 2 link HERE

Insurance Paperwork Pushing up Costs? Story 3 link HERE

20
Nov
09

The Game of Life

Tax hikes may force some higher income families to move out of Oregon and over the river to Washington.  See how we used the “Game of Life” to illustrate how much money families could save by crossing the river.

Video link HERE

(Artwork: Courtesy KATU)

20
Nov
09

Richard Nixon Avenue?

PORTLAND, Ore. – How would you feel if one of Portland’s trendiest streets was renamed Richard Nixon Avenue?

If the city votes to change 39th to Cesar Chavez Boulevard, which some folks think is pretty much a done deal, Wayne Stoll and some other clever east side business owners have a plan to rename Northwest 23rd after the infamous president.

Video and story One

Follow-up Story

(Photo: Courtesy KATU)

23
Mar
09

Clips on Blip.tv

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Please view television stories & anchor clips prior to June ’09 on my Blip.tv page.

(I was on sabbatical at Columbia University from Aug. 2008 – June 2009)

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23
Mar
09

Get Stimulating

“13 Ways You Can Spend $13 On Manhattan’s 13th Street”

Hold onto that pocketbook.  It’s finally your turn to get in on the Great American Stimulus of 2009.  Assuming you have a job these days, the “Making Work Pay” tax credit introduced last month will add a few extra dollars to your paycheck starting in June.  And by “extra” I mean $13.  Hoping for a bit more, maybe along the lines of the bazillions the banks seem to be getting in this bailout?  As insignificant as $13 a week seems it may turn out NOT to be the insult you immediately assume.

The hope is with that paycheck padded you’ll feel richer, at least enough to splurge on a little something you might have otherwise opted not to buy.  If every single employed American spends all $400 this year we would inject $188 million into our economy.  So to help you get stimulating here are 13 ways you can spend your $13 (or so) along 13th Street in Manhattan.

1. Integral Yoga and Natural Vitamins

The constant barrage of bad news about this new economy likely has you stressed out.  Integral Yoga and Natural Vitamins near the West Village has more than 13 ways to help you relax, everything from aromatherapy candles to massage oil.  Just being in this store, with its Zen-inspired music and soft-spoken staff, brings your blood pressure down a notch.  To take that feeling home: pick up the $9.99 “Rescue Remedy” calming spray.  “Everyone in New York should have it.  It manages to relax you within like two minutes of you using it,” says Holly Carr, who swears even Queen Elizabeth uses it.

On a nearby shelf you’ll find “Anxitease” or “Relax” apothecary herbal tonics, each just under $11 before tax.  Sarah Ernst says a drop-a-day during this season of stress helps balance your mood by going to work on the central nervous system: “Without sort of checking out of the situation, you still want to remain present and alert while all these financial situations are being made.  These are two safe ways to control your hormones, stay alert, stay awake wake without being drugged up and completely out of it.”

If you need some deep breathing and muscle-stretching sun salutations to go with your tonics, head across 13th Street.  Your $13 weekly tax credit will cover one lunch or evening class at the Integral Yoga Institute.

2. Union Square Wine and Spirits

For those who prefer their relaxation by the glassful stop by Union Square Wine and Spirits where Jesse Salazar is replacing his stock of high-end wines with frugal, yet full-flavored alternatives.  “Most people aren’t going to be thinking about spending $200 bucks on a bottle of wine,” and Salazar says they haven’t since before Christmas.  But he goes on to explain, “If you know what pockets have great vintages you can actually drink fairly well without spending a fortune.”  The 2007 vintage in the southern Rhone is especially good, and most producers who make $100 to $200 Chateauneufs also make Cotes du Rhone.  Union Square Wine and Spirits offers several right around $13.  “It’s like downgrading a little bit, but not in quality because everything they planted was great,” promises Salazar, who has been saving money by taking those bottles home to entertain “in” instead of going out.  While he appreciates the extra bottle his pending weekly bonus will buy, he doesn’t plan to go bizerk.  “I don’t know if anyone will notice that $13.  It’s not even your newspaper for the week, if you still buy it.”

Tax Credit Breakdown

The exact amount you’ll get from this refundable tax credit depends on how much you make, but here’s a simple break down: If you earn less than $75,000 you get $400 divided over a year.  For couples it’s $800, as long as you don’t bring home more than $150,000.  Above that your tax credit is phased out.  The White House says the credit will benefit 95-percent of working families and is aimed at those right in the middle.  Because the Internal Revenue Service needs time to readjust its withholding tables your cash doesn’t kick in until June.  That’s why it’s around $13 a week for 2009.

The plan is to convince 129 million taxpayers the cash is a “raise.”  If you’re fooled into thinking you make more money you’ll spend more, or so economists say.  “It probably will not make people consciously go out and look to spend $13 more per week,” says Northwestern finance professor Jonathan Parker, “but people may notice that they have a little more in the bank or in the wallet and spend some of it.”   The bigger the rebate the more likely you are to save it, and hoarding the money is not what politicians want you to do right now.  That may be one reason for the $13 installments, rather than the $400 lump sum check.

3. Apt. 141

“I’d rather have a lump sum because the $13 a week just seems very insignificant,” says Lisa Foti, owner of the 13th Street boutique, Apt. 141.  “It actually hurts my feelings.  To tell you the truth it’s insulting.”

In this tiny storefront near 4th Avenue women will find colorful ways to adorn themselves in $13 or less splurges: headbands for $5, berets and scarves in gloom-fighting candy colors are $12.  Foti says she’s surviving the slow-down because concerned customers make an effort to support small businesses.  She worries this weekly rebate won’t be large enough to count come summer.  “People are much more careful about their spending.  I could tell that the contemplation process is a little longer.  Do I need this dress?  Really deciphering between needs and wants.”

Weekly Payments Versus Lump Sum

It’s hard to look to the past to predict what this tax rebate will actually do for our present economy.  The record is too varied and economists can only argue over whether past lump sums boosted buying.  Take the rebate handed out in 2001: one study indicates less than half the money was spent, another claims two-thirds was gone within six months.  As for last year’s big $300 check, it’s hard to know because some studies show that money’s still sitting in the bank.

The underlying theory for why rebates are handed out at all can be traced back to British economist John Maynard Keynes (Think Keyensian Model).  He believed spending, no matter how you spend it, is the driving force in the economy.

Economist Milton Friedman didn’t quite agree.  He argued that we spend based on what we think our long-term income will be.   When workers lost their jobs, Friedman observed that they didn’t immediately cut back on spending.  Instead, they borrowed money or dipped into savings, counting on a new job to come quickly.  But he also noticed workers did not immediately spend windfalls, like bonuses.  They waited until it they got a promotion or pay raise.  In 1975, Friedman predicted the $100 to $200 checks handed out by the Treasury Department would have little effect on spending.  Studies by M.I.T. and Princeton economists proved he was right.  People saved the money or used it to pay down debt.

Some financial experts say the small, steady design of this rebate may be why it works.  Behavioral economist Richard Thaler’s thinking is we put windfalls in different “mental accounts.”  That framing then influence what we do with the money.  If it’s a reward, like a win at the casino or a bonus, we’ll blow it.  If the money is dubbed a refund or inheritance, we tend to tuck it away.  “Wealth” = savings.  “Income”= spending.  Thaler says it doesn’t matter if the money is long-term.  If there’s more in the bank or on that paycheck, spending goes up.

Look at what happened in 1992.  The first President Bush temporarily cut withholding payments.  To be clear: he did not cut taxes.  People still owed exactly the same amount at the end of the year.  What changed: take-home pay.  It looked bigger.  That should have had no real impact on spending, but it did.  One survey found almost half of all people planned to spend most of the money even when the tax cut didn’t really exist.

What about when the government hands out real money?  Part of the problem predicting what we might do – we’re not honest.  We like to tell surveyors, and ourselves, we will put the money right into the bank or toward credit cards, but we don’t.  In the 2001 study, “Consumer Response to Tax Rebates,” only 22-percent of consumers said they would spend their rebate.  But another paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at actual credit card data and found most consumers initially made payments, but not for long.  Contrary to Friedman’s model, spending went right back up.  Professor Parker’s study on the 2001 rebate concluded consumers spent one-third of the money within two months and another third three months later.  And Nick Souleles from the Wharton School found most people spent 30 to 40 percent of their checks even before they opened the mailbox to find them.  His two papers on this topic say the stimulus went on to impact spending, in a good way, for nine months.

We don’t all spend the money in the same way.  Those in the middle-income bracket tend to save almost 80 percent.  Those considered low-income spend almost all of it twice as fast, usually at “supercenters” like Target and Wal-mart, that’s one reason tax rebates and credits are often aimed at this particular demographic.

Despite past performance, all experts can agree today’s fiscal anxieties are on an entirely new level that may be too complex to calm with a rebate.  Staggering job loss, foreclosures and plunging retirement accounts will likely have consumers spending more cautiously.  Two-out-of-five adults confess to living paycheck to paycheck.  And again, because we don’t fess up, it’s likely more than that.  With no savings, they may be forced to spend the $13 a week.  On the other hand, with all the recent Depression comparisons, they may feel guilty enough to pay down debt.  Professor Parker anticipates only one-third to one half of the credits will get spent, but believes it will help no matter the delivery-method: “This is not a small recession that one hopes to head off or mitigate with a quick fiscal shot.  Instead, we have a protracted slowdown, and so the need to get the money out quickly is not as important.  We instead need stimulus for the whole year 2009.”

So, happy spending and on to the remaining 13 ways you can spend your $13 a week on 13th Street:

4. Café Loup

At this neighborhood favorite you can put down a “Hamburger Deluxe” complete with pomme frites for $13.50.  Sunday Jazz brunch includes menu items that start at $9.50, but for a $5 minimum you can enjoy the music from the bar.

5. Quad Cinema

The four movie selections may be a few months old, but the ticket prices are a bit less than the corporate cinema a few blocks down 13th Street.  At $11 a person, you’ll have $2 to put toward a soda to share.

6. Kate’s Paperie

If you’ve vowed to save money by packing your lunch, stop in and pick up the “Blue Q” Handy Reusable Tote.  For $12.50 you’ll save money on bags and the environment.  You’ll also find hand-crafted cards pretty enough to frame ranging in prices from $5 to $13.  Or to stick with a theme, “Waste Not Paper” offers a stationary set with eight cards and envelopes for $12.  With tax that’s $13.01.

7. Joe – Art of Coffee

After your 401k nightmares, you’ll need a morning jolt.  You can take your $13 and by one cup of coffee for every day of the week at this Union Square favorite, or pick-up a pound to brew at home.  The weekly-featured coffee is often $13 a pound.  Insider tip: don’t buy the shiny silver bag by the cash register.  It’s more expensive.  To get the good guy price, ask the baristas to scoop it fresh.

8. Jeniette Day Spa

Also near Union Square, you’ll still find a manicure affordable enough to add that luxury back into your budget.  Here you can get a manicure for $11, just don’t forget to tip those remaining $2.

9. The Flower Stall

This quaint mini-nursery near East 3rd Street has given New Yorkers green thumbs for 42 years.  Owner Cornell Edwards has a lovely selection of windowsill-sized houseplants.  Cacti succulents are $6.50.  African Violets are $8.50.   Just make sure not to disturb “Tonya.”  The Russian cat tends to nap wherever the sun shines.

10. Souen

Skip the fast-food value menu and use your weekly bonus at this organic, macrobiotic restaurant near Union Square.  $13.50 will help you get your daily serving of “good,” along with veggies, fresh grains, tofu and fish.

11. Mxyplyzyk

Before you argue that this shop is not technically on 13th Street, step inside and just try to decide how to spend your windfall.  This eclectic home and gift store sits on the corner of 13th, Greenwich and Horatio Streets in the Meatpacking District and offers an array of quirky trinkets: dog-shaped salt-n-pepper shakers for $12.95, mini modern vases for $12.95 and Duck or Frog-shaped soap-on-a-rope for $12.  If budget cuts had you firing the housekeeper, slip on the microfiber cleaning slippers.  For $12, they promise to do the cleaning for you.

12. Momofuku – Milk Bar

Just in time for the recession, the trendy Momofuku restaurateurs are at it again with the “Milk Bar.”  Grab a friend and splurge on the creamiest milk shake to hit the East Side.  The combination of whole organic milk and soft serve in flavors like strawberry, chocolate, and cereal milk – which really tastes like the milk leftover after your lucky charms – may clog your arteries as you gulp it down, but is well worth a few days off your life and $6.  Good luck trying to resist the corn flake-marshmallow-chocolate chip cookies.

13. The Church of the Village

Once you tire of spending your new-found fortune on yourself, try stimulating someone else.  At the Church of the Village, you’ll find homeless men and women grateful for a $13 donation.  What better way to count your blessings?  After all, it could be worse.  And next year it will be.  When this tax credit is spread out over all of 2010, you’ll have to move downtown to see how you can spend your $8 a week on 8th Street.