#40 America's Angry Political Divide. Mark Gerzon: How Do We Fix It?

More than any time in recent decades, American politics are deeply divided. Compromise is a dirty word.

"The way that we're running the country is that we're not running the country," says our guest Mark Gerzon, author of the new book, "The Reunited States of America."

As President of Mediators Foundation, the group he founded 25 years ago, Mark has brought people together in conflict zones around the world  Concerned about increasing polarization in the U.S., Mark is working on the ideological frontier between left and right.  

"We can work together to solve the problems we all face in a country we all love," Gerzon tells us on this episode of "How Do We Fix It?" But what we have now is a permanent campaign by both parties. "And after election day they start the next campaign." 

"We can't solve any of the problems we face if we're tearing each other down the whole time."

Mark's fixes include urging individual citizens to engage in discussions with people we don't agree with, asking questions about what they think, rather than stating fixed opinions. 

"Do you want to get drunk on being right and enjoy that feeling of being with the people you agree with and bad mouth the people you don't?," asks Mark.  

News media coverage, he says, is biased in favor of controversy, contests and clashes. 

"There's a whole America out there that's not getting any news coverage. And that's the America where Americans work together."

Resources for compromise and open-minded dialog include: livingroomconversations.orgbridgealliance.useveryday-democracy.orgdemocracyfund.org

#39 Why Women Are Missed in History: Joan Wages: How Do We Fix It?

From the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers - through wars, economic change and the struggle for civil rights, American history is overwhelmingly dominated by the achievements and errors of men. 

Women - because they were largely excluded from public and professional life for most of our history - play a relatively small role in the established narrative of our past. 

"Role models have a huge impact on the way young girls and women in general think about themselves," says Joan Wages, President and CEO of The National Women's History Museum.

"We need more women role models out in the public sphere so we know about them."

In this episode, Joan tells about the campaign for building a National Women's History Museum in Washington D.C. The Museum's website states: "It will be centrally located near the world's most prestigious museums and monuments in our Nation's Capital." 

Fewer than 20% of the Members of Congress are women.  In corporate boardrooms the numbers are even lower.  Fewer than 5% of CEO's at Fortune 500 companies are women.

"Each time a young girl hears this, it sends a message to them that they're not equal. That's what needs to change." 

This episode has examples of women forgotten by history and looks at other fixes as well as obstacles as the campaign attempts to correct an imbalance in how women are portrayed.

#38 Why Obamacare Might Collapse: Megan McArdle: How Do We Fix It?

For its opponents, Obamacare is a disaster - a classic example of over-reach by an Administration that wants to expand the size and scope of the Federal government.

Supporters say The Affordable Care Act is a triumph, benefiting countless millions of Americans, while reducing the threat of personal bankruptcies in medical emergencies crippling healthcare costs.

"We have decreased the rate of the uninsured by about a third," says our guest Megan McArdle, a columnist at Bloomberg View. But Obamacare poses a potentially fatal threat.

"What people are doing is they're gaming the system." Some with health emergencies, who have inadequate medical insurance are "signing up for a few months, using a ton of services and then dropping it again."

Several large insurance companies say they are losing money on the government-run exchanges. UnitedHealth, the nation's largest health insurance firm, warned it would have to pull out if market conditions didn't improve. Exchange enrollments are lower than the government had forecast. 

Is Obamacare the victim of "an adverse death spiral"?  Are costs rising faster than expected?  Do Americans have unrealistic expectations that would doom any attempt to provide better coverage?

We debate the arguments from different points of view and suggest a fix that could involve consumers more directly in cost decisions, while putting a ceiling on heath care costs for each household.

Megan McArdle is the author of "The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well Is The Key To Success."

#37 Breast Cancer: Lessons from a life-threatening journey. Debbie Galant.

With love, humor and compassion,  Debbie Galant talks about what it's like to live with breast cancer.  What she learned along the way amount to solutions for what can be a desperate, lonely experience.

From the first shock of her first diagnosis to sometimes wrenching, sometimes funny conversations with her doctors and family, Debbie gives us valuable lessons about how to survive and recover, physically and emotionally.

"You are pitched into this world of fear... this incredible world of fear," she tells us. "You're making a lot of decisions in that period, but you're really in a primal place."

Her journey includes how to "de-code" her oncologist, and learn from a nurse-navigator to dealing with her own emotional roller-coaster ride.  She also talks about a vital ingredient: humor.

"Going into a doctor's appointment with a sense of humor, as opposed to a sense of dread, really helped."

Debbie, her husband Warren Levinson, and son Noah tell their story in the podcast, "Chemo Files" - is a deeply personal account of her months of dealing with cancer. She is Associate Director of New Media Initiatives and runs NJ News Commons at Montclair State University, New Jersey.

If you would like more information about understanding breast cancer and learning more about communities that can help, these websites may be helpful: 

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#36 The Risks of Safety: Greg Ip: How Do We Fix It?

Anti-lock brakes make many motorists drive faster.  Introducing helmets and face masks in football raised the risk of concussions.  Financial regulators and central bankers played a role in creating conditions that led to the 2008 mortgage meltdown.

The illusion of safety can lead to reckless behavior. These fascinating insights are part of "Foolproof- Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe", the recently published book by Greg Ip, chief economics commentator at The Wall Street Journal.

"Life is about risk," Greg tells us in this episode of "How Do We Fix It?" When we believe the world is safe, it affects our behavior.  "Many positive things happen from taking risks and we should not let the pendulum swing all the way to the other side - trying to eliminate all risks from our lives."

Our collective aim to make life safer comes into conflict with the equally strong desire to make things bigger and more complicated.  It is in our nature to safeguard our world - and yet sometimes, more often than we realize, protections end up being the things that threaten our safety and well-being.

Accidents will always happen, says Greg.  Among the solutions he calls for are safe spaces: allowing banks to fail without taking down the entire financial system and creating flood plains that all rivers and coastal waters to rise without creating havoc in nearby communities.

Greg argues for a balance between independence, risk and safety.  Regulate too much and we reduce the opportunities for innovation and create a sense of potential
 complacency. "Black swan" events are inevitable.  Our systems of governance and rule-making should recognize that we cannot plan for every eventuality.

#35 Our Flawed Fight Against ISIS: Maajid Nawaz: How Do We Fix It?

Before The U.S. and other nations can be successful against Islamic State (ISIS) and other global jihadists, we must understand the difference between Islam and Islamism. That's the argument from our guest on this week's episode, Maajid Nawaz.

"It happens to be that today we are dealing with an insurgency that's rising and growing within my own Muslim community," he says. It doesn't help to deny it."

A Sunni Muslim and a former Islamist fundamentalist, who is founding chairman of the London-based counter-terrorism foundation, Quilliam, Maajid makes a powerful argument for freedom, tolerance and respect. 

He says that President Obama and many other liberal-minded politicians and journalists have been reluctant to call Islamist ideology by its proper name. "Here's where people become paralyzed by political correctness," he argues.  "We are unable to say 'Islamist extremism' as distinct from Islam the religion."

"I call this the Voldemort affect," citing the villain in the Harry Potter books and movies. Maajid compares the refusal to speak out against Islamists to those in the novels who were so petrified by Lord Voldemort's evil that they simply called him "he who must not be named."

"We're not talking about Islam the faith we're talking about politicalization of the faith."

Maajid Nawaz is author of the book “Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism.”

#34 The backlash against science. Alice Dreger: How Do We Fix It?

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We'd like to think that science should exist outside of politics and researchers follow the truth wherever it goes. 

But the ideal of rational non-ideological science is under attack at many colleges and universities, says our guest, Alice Dreger. An historian who studies human sexuality and the ethics of medical research, Alice is the author of the provocative new book, "Galileo's Middle Finger." 

"I'm really looking at how activists go after scientists who have ideas that the activists don't like - usually about human identity," she tells us. 

Alice speaks of her concerns about attacks from conservatives from the outside universities and the "ideological bubble" inside, "where you have this sort of ...knee-jerk liberalism that causes people to shut each other down on the basis of 'you're making me uncomfortable.'  That is tremendously dangerous," she says.

Alice's argument is that facts are sacred.

Colleges, she says, should adopt principles from The University of Chicago. "Our job is to disagree with each other. Our job is to raise uncomfortable questions. That is what we do for democracy."

#33 Fighting Over Land in The West: Nancy Langston - How Do We Fix It?

The armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the dry prairies of Southeast Oregon by members a small militia group is the most recent chapter in the very long-running dispute over land in The West. 

Our guest is environmental historian Nancy Langston, author of Where Land and Water Meet. A Western Landscape Transformed.”  

In some western states the Federal Government owns more than half the land.  This set the stage for impassioned arguments between ranchers, conservationists, corporate interests, local communities and native American tribes.  All have a role to play.

As for the seizure of government property, "there is very, very little local support for the militia's tactics for this kind of violent anarchy," Nancy Langton told us on this episode.

"They have nothing to do with this region and I don"t think there are many local ranchers or anybody else in the community who approve of their methods."

But there is considerable support for changing the way federal lands are managed and giving local interests a greater role.  Some believe that land should be turned over to state and local control.  Langston says collaboration and respect for different interests are the only ways to solve the disputes.  We examine the arguments in this "Fix It" episode and suggest solutions.

The Malheur example is more important than the case of the Hammonds, the two Harney County ranchers who were sent back to prison.  The argument is part of a national debate over increasing federal government power, especially during the past 40 years,  since new environmental regulations were established by  the Nixon Administration.

The occupiers claimed that government discriminated against local ranchers, who use federal land for cattle grazing.  Is there merit to their argument, or do ranchers get over-generous subsidies from taxpayers to raise livestock on the public's land? 

#32 New Year's Resolutions for 2015

It's easy to make resolutions to improve our lives, but how do we boost our chances of following through?

The first two guests on this New Year's Resolutions special are Dave McRaney of the podcast, "You Are Not So Smart" and Dr. Peter Whybrow, Director of the Semel Institute at U.C.L.A., author of The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience And The Life Well Lived."

Dave dives in to confirmation bias, when we seek out information that confirms our world view, rather than challenging ourselves with the truth. Peter says we often make short-term choices that conflict with our best long-term interests.

Instant gratification is often the enemy of a balanced budget.  Beverly Harzog lived through her own personal crisis of bad debt and now helps people repair their credit.  She explains how she got into credit card debt and how you can get out of it. She has more helpful information at her website, BeverlyHarzog.com.

Farnoosh Torabi, host of the popular podcast, "So Money", gave us creative ideas on how to make more money and preserve your wealth by being your own best financial advocate.

Many people make major mistakes when purchasing home, life, auto or health insurance. While some don't have enough coverage, others buy duplicate insurance.  Laura Adams, host of the "Money Girl" podcast and insurance quotes.com says the cost of term life insurance may be much cheaper than you think.

If you plan to buy or rent a home in 2016, Nela Richardson, Senior Economist with the real estate website, Redfin, has some useful tips.  Jeff Koyen, Editor-in-Chief of VanWinkles.com talks about the importance of getting enough sleep. He gives us some creative ideas on improving our sleeping lives.
Read more at http://howdowefixit.libsyn.com/#teaIQO1OJmltXhH2.99

#31: 2015 in Review: Some of Our Best Moments

If you want to get of sense of what we're about, this highlights show may be a good place to start.  We've put together a "best of" podcast that reflects our values and makes the argument for why we're worth listening to.
 

From Episode 4, released in June, reformer Philip K. Howard made the case for better government and simpler, shorter laws, instead of all the red tape and tangled mess that we have today. In his Ted Talk lecture and his latest book, “The Rule of Nobody,” Philip argues passionately for legal and government reform.
 

Not many parents can say their lives were changed by an uneventful subway ride. Lenore Skenazy, our guest in Episode 20, tells us about the uproar that followed her decision to let her 9-year-old son ride the subway on his own.  Her column about it led to the movement, "Free Range Kids."

Other guests on this highlights show include Hara Marano of Psychology Today, who says there's a mental health crisis on American college campuses and Greg Lukianoff spoke to us in September. His groundbreaking article in The Atlantic alerted us to why trigger warnings are part of a threat to free speech at colleges.

Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" and "Somebody's Gotta Do It" fame on CNN made the case for a change in emphasis in education, giving greater pride of place to training and knowledge about skilled trades occupations.  Our best of 2015 also includes an excerpt from Episode 13, a show every parent should listen to.  Elizabeth Green, author of "Building a Better Teacher," argues for teacher training reform and understanding the importance of the craft of teaching. 

University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds who runs the popular blog, Instapundit.com, was on Episode 10, talking about his proposal for a revolving door surtax. The aim is reduce influence peddling by current and former government officials in Washington D.C.  

All of our guests came armed with thoughtful, constructive and independent ideas with the aim of making the world a better place.

 

#30 How The Internet Is Messing With Our Brains. Abigail Baird: How Do We Fix It?

We love our smartphones, tablets, laptops and game consoles. But what is the explosion in mobile technology doing to our brains?

Our guest, Professor Abigail Baird, is a developmental psychologist, expert on the teenage brain and mother of two young children. She says technology has great benefits, but also could have a negative impact on our conversations, memory and social life. 

The brain's craving for novelty - for constant stimulation and instant gratification - makes our tech toys seem irresistible. So how do we put balance in our lives?

Abigail's fixes include time-out zones and no-screen places and events. Parents, she says, "should consider what is best for their families.  For instance, I love the idea of 'no phone in the car.'"

Another tip for parents is to beware of tethering - when college students sometimes call home at least several times a day.

"Hard as it is for parents, once kids head off to college, they really need to rely on their interpersonal networks at school, not calling home." 

Another fix: "As adults we have to set good examples to our children and not get too attached to our own screens."

#29 Are College Students Too Emotionally Fragile? Hara Marano: How Do We Fix It?

From angry scenes over Halloween costumes at Yale to protests against racism at the University of Missouri, student activism is back.  More than at any time since the late 1960's, America is in the middle of a wave of college unrest. 

To what extent do students today have genuine grievances? Are at least some of them rebels without a cause - angry because their feelings have been hurt? 

Step by step colleges are being transformed into something more akin to mental health wards rather than citadels of learning,” says our guest, Hara Marano, Editor at Large of Psychology Today and author of the book, "A Nation of Wimps".  

While calls for greater diversity among college professors are an important cause, Marano tells us of fundamental changes in the student population. 

"Rising numbers of students are breaking down with anxiety and depression, self-mutilation, burning, cutting, binge drinking to obliterate all of their anxiety," says Marano. "Even the slightest disappointment pitches them into crisis mode."

"The American College Mental Health Association has been documented rises in all of these conditions." Many students "get so distressed so readily."

Are many young people over-protected and even narcissistic, demanding protection from ideas and concepts they find too uncomfortable to listen to?  This episode digs into these questions, suggesting fixes for colleges and parents.

#28 Walls, Barriers and Bans: The Cost of Panic Over Immigration & Terror: How Do We Fix It?

From Paris to San Bernardino, terrorist attacks have sparked an outcry from many politicians in Europe and the U.S. - including calls for new controls on immigration, refugees and the free movement of labor across national borders.

The leading Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, called for a total and complete ban on Muslims entering the United States.  

Our guest in episode 29, Peter Coy, Economics Editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, makes a strong case for more - not less - immigration, as well as a greater exchange of ideas across the boundaries that divide us.   

"One of the treasures of democracy is freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom of movement," says Peter.  "In putting up walls we actually lose what we treasure the most."

The 28-state European Union has been a triumph for economic growth and a peaceful transition from the wreckage of World War 2. 

"You can drive from France into Switzerland without even pumping the brakes at the border," Peter told us. "This has been hugely beneficial to Europe, creating a single Europe with more trade, wealth and commerce than we would have."

Europe is the top destination for U.S. exports, but many economists see a big cost to the economy and to our culture from erecting new barriers in the name of safety. 

#27 America's Sleep Crisis: Jeff Koyen. How Do We Fix It?

If you have at least seven hours of interrupted sleep each night, consider yourself very lucky indeed.  Problems with sleep are remarkably widespread. 

Many millions of adults and children either don't spend enough time in bed or suffer from sleep disorders, resulting in illness, obesity, depression, mood swings and loss of creativity.

Our guest is Jeff Koyen, Editor-in-Chief of Van Winkle's, a new website "obsessed with sleeping, waking and everything in between.  He shares the stories of scientists, artists, travel writers, child-care experts and many others who have a great deal to tell us about how we do - and don't - sleep.

"Sleep is a very complicated issue that touches probably everyone you know. It's not just adults," says Jeff. "We're talking about teenagers have sleep issues, even children."

Smartphones, tablets and other devices have made the problem even worse. "Ten years ago, five years ago you were not taking your phone with you to bed."

We look at fixes and what science tells us about how to get a better night's sleep. 

#26 The Trouble With Today's Toys: Richard Gottlieb: How Do We Fix It?

The holiday shopping season is underway and finding the right toy or game for his or her kids is the goal of every parent. A vast range of new toys has been introduced in recent months.

Joining us in this episode to look at the recent changes is consultant and branding expert, Richard Gottlieb, of Global Toy Experts.

"The toy industry is a nineteenth century industry that's trying hard to break into the twenty first," says Richard. "It's had a lot of difficulty dealing with the digital aspect of play that's become so popular."

On this show we ask whether today's technologically sophisticated toys are scripting the way kids play.  Do they force children into a pre-written narrative when they should be allowing for open-ended play? 

Toy stores have many traditional toys, such as blocks, construction sets and craft kits, but kids also have fun with "video games, apps and even social networking," says Richard. These new trends have "confronted the industry with a sort of existential crisis: Who are we, what is a toy and how do we play?"

Richard has many positive, playful and out-of-the-box ideas on how to view toys and the nature of play in a digital society. 

"I think it's wonderful that children has all these choices," he tells us. "I wish we had all these choices."

 

#25 Climate Change: Turning CO2 Into Rock: Peter Kelemen: How Do We Fix It?

The demand for energy around the world continues to grow each year.  And so does the amount of carbon dioxide that's pumped into the earth's atmosphere. 

What happens if the world fails to bring down CO2 emissions in the coming decades?  What if all the treaties and negotiations over climate change don't succeed in reducing the threat of global warming?

Our guest is Peter Kelemen, Chair of Columbia University's Earth and Environmental Sciences Department and Arthur B. Storke Professor of Geochemistry. Last year, Peter was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. 

His research on carbon capture and storage may offer one exciting solution to a global crisis.  Our show looks at a tool that could fight climate change by taking carbon dioxide and literally locking it up in the earth's crust, right under our feet.  

Geology research could be used to find new ways to suck up carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere, harnessing a natural process and using some of the fracking techniques now common in oil and gas drilling.  We look at the costs as well as the potential offered by this form of breakthrough scientific research. 

#24 Why The Federal Reserve Is So Unpopular Roger Lowenstein: How Do We Fix It?

The Federal Reserve plays a fundamental role in our economy.  But many Americans loathe The Fed - furious that it bailed out banks and other huge financial firms during the 2008 financial crisis.

Our guest, Roger Lowenstein, is the author of "America's Bank - The Epic Struggle to Create The Federal Reserve." His book is a dramatic account of the chaotic years before The United States became the last major industrialized nation to form a central bank.

Our podcast features a lively discussion about American history as well as the present day, with Roger giving us insights that demystify the work of The Fed.

The job of the central bank is to ensure the smooth operation of the money supply, while keeping inflation and unemployment low.  But there are many who are suspicious of the Fed's independence and want to bring it under the tight control of Congress.  

According to opinion polls, only The IRS is a more unpopular government agency than the Federal Reserve. "You've got two candidates running for President - Rand Paul and Ted Cruz - who want to basically abolish The Fed," says Roger.

"Had the Fed failed to come in and be the lender of last resort and save the system (in 2008) I think the anger would be very understandable," Roger tells us. But in this case there was the equivalent of a big fire that nearly burned down the financial system, taking the economy with it.  

"The fireman comes. He puts out the fire and people want to do away with the fire department." 

Roger Lowenstein explains the need for The Federal Reserve and suggests how it could be less controversial in the future.

#23 The Dangers of Confirmation Bias with David McRaney: How Do We Fix It?

More than ever America is divided into political tribes.  One person's truth is somebody else's lie. This show is about confirmation bias and filter bubbles: How our brains play tricks on us as we try to make sense of the world.

David McRaney, host of the entertaining and popular podcast, "You Are Not So Smart", is our guest. His show is "a celebration of self-delusion."  David, who calls himself a psychology nerd, is passionate about the need for all of us to have some understanding of how our brains work. He is the author of two recent books:  "You Are Not So Smart" and "You Are Now Less Dumb."

Confirmation bias helps us separate into rival political and cultural camps.  "This is the thing almost from which everything else springs, because it is the natural default way that human beings tend to make sense of the world," says David.

With the growth of Google and social media site, such as Facebook and Twitter, it's easier for us to deny the truth of anything that challenges our preconceived view of the world. We can retreat into our own personal corner of the internet.

Behavioral economics, neuroscience and modern psychology challenge our sense that we make logical, sensible decisions.   Our show looks at what confirmation bias means to our democracy. 

#22 Gender Inequality at Work with Laura Vanderkam. How Do We Fix It?

Women in the workplace face huge challenges, including discrimination and low pay. The Pew Research Center says women's hourly wages are 84% those of men. The White House says the true number is lower. Many firms insist on rigid working hours, making it hard for many employees to balance work and family life.  

How Do We Fix It? Enter time management and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam, author of "I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time" and "What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. "

Laura shares practical ideas for women and men to make the most of their free time and boost work productivity.  She has innovative fixes for working mothers, companies and government policy.  Flextime, paid parental leave and family-friendly reforms to Social Security should all be considered," she says. 

Gender discrimination is "definitely a problem in the workplace," says Laura.  "But there is also a personal side to it as well."

#21 Climate Shock: Global Warming Threat with Gernot Wagner. How Do We Fix It?

If you had a 10% of facing a flood or getting into a fatal car accident, you'd make sure you bought first-rate insurance coverage.  That's what our guest Gernot Wagner says we should do about climate change. 

Science tells us that if we do nothing, there is the risk of a global catastrophe.  We hear the argument for climate insurance. Gernot is the co-author of "Climate Shock - The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet," and lead senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Even if climate skeptics are right and the risk of global warming is small,  that does not eliminate the need to plan for an extreme emergency.  Gernot Wagner makes the case for pricing carbon as a way of boosting the incentives for energy efficiency. "Unless we act, we will experience major disruptions. We already are experiencing them," says Gernot.  Our interview also looks the revolution in solar energy and ocean damage caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide.

For more information on what you can do to help: https://www.edf.org/action