#100 The Myth of Main Street, Louis Hyman

Our guest is Louis Hyman, author of the provocative New York Times editorial, "The Myth of Main Street." Louis is a Cornell University History Professor and the Director of the Institute for Workplace Studies. 

Nostalgia for the economy's "good old days" has great appeal for many Americans. For the right, past decades bring back memories of Ronald Reagan, traditional cultural values and U.S. dominance in global affairs. For the left, post-war America was a time of stronger unions and less income inequality.

But "Make America Great Again" and other appeals to nostalgia come at a high price.  Going back to a past with trade barriers, price controls and lower productivity would damage the living standards of many households they're designed to protect.

Louis tells us: "Main Street is a touchstone for how we like to imagine the real America. There's always this anxiety about what America is, and Main Street is how we imagine ourselves."  The challenge is to balance a need for higher wages, autonomy and local pride with efficiency.

Small-town and rural America have been left behind in the digital economy, which is centered in a few big cities. But it doesn't have to stay this way.

Solutions:

  • By gaining access to sales and freelance platforms, people in rural communities can sell products and find jobs anywhere in the world. 
  • Upwork, Thumbtack and other sites are online marketplaces that match freelance workers and small businesses with demand for their services. 
  • Local governments can help by expanding the crucial work done by libraries to educate and connect workers to the changing online marketplace.
  • The Digital Countryside Initiative at Cornell's Institute for Workplace Studies in Ithaca is working with corporations and labor groups to connect rural New Yorkers with the digital economy. Greater access to high-speed internet connections is one step. But the online "gig economy" is unfamiliar to many skilled workers.

#99 How Our Minds Heal Our Bodies: Jo Marchant

Have you ever felt a surge of adrenaline after a bike ride, working in the back yard or going to the gym?  Salivated at the sight of a sour lemon?  Felt turned on by your partner’s voice?  If so, says scientific journalist Jo Marchant, you’ve experienced how the workings of the mind can affect your body.

In this episode we look at the mind's potential to ease pain, reduce anxiety and even cut the risk of infection, heart disease and other serious medical ailments. Jo discusses how the latest findings in mind-body research: How hypnotherapy, mindfulness techniques, Virtual Reality and social connections can play important roles in healing and prevention.

More than one in three Americans have turned to alternative medicine.  But do homeopathy, acupuncture and other therapies actually work? What does science say about the use of placebos in medicine?

"I believe very strongly in an evidence- based approach that we have to investigate things in a scientific way," Jo tells us in this episode.  "On the other hand I also started to feel that science has a bit of blind spot when it comes to the role of the mind in health."

Jo Marchant discusses the findings of her New York Times best-selling book "Cure: A Journey Into The Science of Mind Over Body.

Check out the New York Times book review.

#98 You're More Powerful Than You Think: Eric Liu

If you're disillusioned, depressed or downright furious at the state of politics today, this episode is for you.

Eric Liu, founder and CEO of Citizen University, says that you're more powerful than you think. We discuss the stories, strategies and ideas raised in his timely new book, "You're More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen"

The key to fighting back successfully is to have a strategy and know how to read and write power,” but most people have no understanding of power and how to use it.  

Political illiteracy is one reason we feel so powerless. “I think the reality of American life, right now, is that so many people have neither the motivation nor the ability to read or write power,” Eric tells us. “They lapse into this “House of Cards” or dark conspiratorial vision that all politics are like "Scandal,” and out of that are born people like Donald Trump as President.” 

The truth is that ordinary people are able to accomplish extraordinary things.  We learn about Communities Creating Opportunity, a Kansas City-based campaign against predatory payday lending and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers - a surprisingly powerful movement for farmworker justice.  

For decades, poor and often illiterate migrant workers picked tomatoes in rural Florida, "laboring essentially under conditions of indentured servitude." Instead of an hourly wage, growers paid them pennies per bucket of what they picked, says Eric. The Immokalee farmworkers successfully demanded higher wages and better labor conditions. "In 2001, they organized the first-ever farmworker boycott of a fast-food company, against Taco Bell," writes Eric in his book.  Four years later, Taco Bell's parent company agreed to raise wages and reform its power chain.  

Eric's solutions:

  • Learn how power is organized. His book has nine strategies for changing the game. 
  • Vote. In his book, Eric Liu writes that voter turnout (in general) is rarely above 60 percent (at best).
  • Exercise your "we muscle.”Join a club or group and learn how to work with others on game-changing ways to improve the odds for a cause or a hobby that you care about.
  • Keep it local. Eric argues that too much attention is given to power politics in Washington D.C. Often the best way to bring about change is in the neighborhood or city where you live.
  • Schools and colleges should improve civics education, giving students a much clearer understanding of grassroots democracy. 

Learn more about citizenship and civic power from these online Citizen University videos.

Read a review of Eric Liu's new book, "You're More Powerful Than You Think," by New York Times journalist David Bornstein, co-founder of Solutions Journalism Network. David is one of our "Fix It" show guests, listen to Episode 47.
 

#9 Fix It Shorts Productivity: Charles Duhigg's Top 4 Tips

This episode highlights four key productivity fixes from New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Duhigg. His most recent book is "Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and In Business." Charles is also the author of "The Power of Habit."

Using cutting-edge science, reporting and real-life stories, Charles explains why being productive isn't just about daily habits, routines and lists.

"Keeping your eye on that thing that matters most to you is the secret to success," Charles tells us. "We need a mental model: a story we tell ourselves about how we expect our day to unfold."

Solutions:  Top 4 productivity tips:

  1. See emails as suggestions, not as obligations.  Be proactive rather than reactive with email.  You don't have to respond to all of them or get to a zero in-box. 
  2. To-do lists should be much more than random reminders.  Put your top priority or today or this week at the top of your list. 
  3. Use mental modeling to be productive. Turn a chore into a choice. Think about your goals and priorities a little more deeply than simply making a list.
  4. The most important thing is the most important thing. Don’t lose site of your higher goal while doing the daily stuff of life.

Charles’s website has short entertaining videos on the science of habit, find them at  http://charlesduhigg.com

A longer version of this show can be found here.

"FixIt Shorts" promises solutions journalism in 15 minutes or less.

#96 Robots Are Not Coming For Your Job, Part 2: Peter Cappelli

How can we save good jobs?

In part one (episode #95), we spoke with Peter Cappelli of the Wharton School, about the impact of robots and automation on our workforce.  Here in part 2 Peter talks solutions and explains why some of the alarm over the impact on employment is out-of-touch with reality.

Technology is changing how we work, and too many companies are investing much more on technology than in people. Peter says that retraining employees is one solution. 

AT&T agrees. For many years the company has been a major player in new technology,  but as automation changed its workplace many AT&T employees no longer had the skills to run the company’s infrastructure. The solution? Complain about the skills gap?  No. AT&T decided to retrain its 100,000 employees. For the first time AT&T made Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Peter says a good job is really more about “how people are managed, whether you give them control over what they're doing and whether you take care of them."

Credit: Typorama

Credit: Typorama

Some of the most important factors driving productivity are better management. In the 1980's General Motors, invested 7.7 billion dollars  to automate their production system. But the strategy proved to be a costly failure. Toyota, which used a lean management system, was far more successful, proving that sometimes the best investment is in training people.

Government can also help.  The current tax code and accounting principles stack the deck against investments in human capital. Retraining employees counts as a liability on a corporate balance sheet, while investing in equipment counts as an asset. The Federal Government has also spent billions of dollars to develop robots, and technology, that displace workers.

In a recent Washington Post article, Peter wrote: “Changing the tax code and accounting principles to un-stack the deck against investments in employees is far easier and more likely to succeed than any of the other policies under debate.”

#95 Robots Are Not Coming For Your Job, Part 1: Peter Cappelli

Here's one less thing to worry about: robots are not going to take your job.

Despite the dire predictions of analysts, workplace experts and the government, the impact of robotics and automation on employment may be hugely overstated.

Professor Peter Cappelli, the Director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School is our guest. He has written for The Atlantic, The New Yorker Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine. Peter was recently named one of the “Most Influential Thinkers of the Decade,” by HR Magazine. In this episode Peter explains why we should challenge conventional wisdom about the impact of automation. 

"The biggest change in technology has not been automation but the ability to do work at a distance via the Internet," Peter tells us. Even in manufacturing, "there has been just about the same productivity improvement as in the rest of the economy."

 

From driverless trucks to pilotless planes, "there are some things that are technologically possible that we just don't want to happen."

 

While disruptive, many innovations eventually lead to a larger demand for workers. One example: there are more bank tellers today than there were before ATMs were invented.

#94 A Vital Fix for the Media: David Bornstein

The news media is under fierce attack from President Trump; White House Strategist, Steve Bannon; and many other critics.While many claims against the press are overblown, now is a good time to look at arguments for constructive change. 
 

We decided to re-air our interview with New York Times journalist David Bornstein, co-founder of SolutionsJournalismNetwork.org

David says that solutions journalism focuses on what works now as potential solutions. Using the best available evidence, solutions journalism delves deep into the how-to’s of problem solving, often structuring stories as puzzles or mysteries that investigate problems. 

One recent example: Initiatives that show  success in reducing the dropout rate in public schools. Reporters looked at how these programs work. What are successful school systems doing differently that result in better outcomes?

#93 Emily Esfahani Smith: The Power of Meaning

Are you happy? If not, perhaps you’re asking yourself the wrong question.

Our culture is obsessed with happiness - a right that’s enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. But living a life of meaning, instead of the pursuit of happiness, may bring much deeper, longer-lasting satisfaction, says our guest, Emily Esfahani Smith, author of "The Power of Meaning Crafting a Life That Matters.

In 2013, comedian Louis C.K. struck a nerve when he spoke of the human condition on the Conan O’Brian show. “Underneath everything there’s that thing - that empty forever.”   The video clip from the “Conan” show went viral with more than 12 million views on You Tube.  

We look at solutions for that “empty forever life.”

“A meaningful life is connecting and contributing to something that is bigger than you," says Emily. Her book examines the wisdom of philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, neuroscientists and novelists and provides insight on how to lead a more meaningful life.

Emily argues that leading a meaningful life is more important than a happy life. "When we don't find meaning, we end up becoming more depressed, prone to suicide and more alienated."
 
Find out why cultivating connections with others, working towards a purpose, telling stories about our place in the world, and seeking out mystery can enrich our lives.

We also discuss belonging, alienation and politics. In a recent New York magazine article, Emily writes: "President Trump is like the neighbor, a man who unthinkingly builds new walls and fortifies old ones — walls to keep out immigrants and refugees, walls to divide the establishment from working-class Americans, walls to protect American manufacturers from American trade partners."

Additional reading: "The Road to Character" by David Brooks of the New York Times.
 

Fix It Shorts #8. Immigrants: Great for the Economy!

When did the arguments for free trade and the benefits of immigration go out of fashion?

Why is the case for scaling back the power of the financial industry under attack by the Trump administration?

Richard and Jim spoke to three experts for this episode of “Fix It Shorts.” 

Rana Foroohar, explains why the power of Wall Street distorts the economy. “The key lessons of the crisis of 2008 still remain unlearned,” she says. “Our financial system is just as vulnerable as ever.” Rana is the author of "Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business," She is also the Associated Editor and the Global Business Columnist for the Financial Times.

"One of the prizes, one of the treasures of democracy is freedom of thought, freedom of action, freedom of movement," says Peter Coy, Economics Editor of Bloomberg Businessweek. He argues that immigration, especially legal immigration of skilled workers, is a plus for the economy.

Economist Ruchir Sharma, author of the book “The Rise and Fall of Nations - Forces of Change in the Post-Crisis World,” tells us that expanding the workforce is a vital part of growth. Reducing immigration, he says, would slam the brakes on the economy.
 

#91 Geoffrey Colon: Pay-to-Play: A Menace to Society?

Do you know where your information is coming from? Shadowy forces are at work to influence what we think, how we behave, and where we spend our money.

They're part of the explosion in pay-to-play. From bots and branded content to political-influence peddlers’, advertisers and even sports programs in public schools, pay-to-play is a growing influence in our lives.  

Critics of pay-to-play say that instead of "We the people,” the online world is controlled by "We the wealthiest people.” 


Geoffrey Colon, an expert on marketing, tech and how to get people's attention, is our guest. A communications designer at Microsoft, Geoffrey is the author of "Disruptive Marketing - What Growth Hackers, Data Punks and Other Hybrid Thinkers Can Teach Us About Navigating the New Normal." He's the co-host with Cheryl Metzger of the popular podcast, "Disruptive FM." We learn more about the threat from fake news and hate sites alt-right bots to our democracy. Geoffrey guides through some of the recent dizzying changes in the online landscape.

Solutions:

  • Education is first. Improvements to the school curriculum are urgently needed. They should fully take into account dramatic online changes. A recent Stanford University study found that most American students couldn’t tell the difference between carefully sourced news and flat-out lies. The authors described the results as "dismaying" and a "threat to democracy."
  • Tech companies should give non-profits the ability to use their platform free of cost; in fact, Google already does this. Google gives non-profits AdWords for free or through a Google “Ad Grant.”
  • A new look at public service announcements - PSA's. Until the 1980's and Reagan-era broadcasters were required to run PSAs in exchange for using the airwaves, which are a public resource. Policy makers and major information providers should consider a new system for the 21st century.
  • A code of conduct by major online information platforms, this would distinguish between advertising, opinion and news.

#90 David Greenberg: President Trump and The History of Spin

Does Donald Trump lie more than previous presidents? In the history of political spin, how does the Trump administration stack up? 

Presidents have always used spin and propaganda to skirt the truth, but the Trump administration has made it especially hard for citizens to remain informed. The easiest example of this was when Kellyanne Conway, the Counselor to the President, used the term “alternative facts” to defend a false statement by the White House Press Secretary.

In this episode we look at how Presidential propaganda, messaging or spin has changed over the decades.

David Greenberg is our guest and the author of "Republic of Spin - An Inside History of the American Presidency.” David argues that Teddy Roosevelt was responsible for the birth of modern Presidential spin more than one hundred years ago. 

Trump is part of a tradition that began with Roosevelt: Mark Twain saw Roosevelt as “The Tom Sawyer of the political world.” Unlike his predecessors, Roosevelt appealed directly to the public, to give him more authority to roll out an ambitious agenda. Roosevelt hired press agents, held press stunts, and informal press conferences. When he left office, there was no turning back.

#89 Shearly Markowicz: Online Dating:Why It Works

Valentine’s Day is almost here, so we invited Dating Ring CEO Shearly Markowicz to talk about the company and give advice how to find love online. Dating Ring first came to fame when it was profiled by the Gimlet podcast, "StartUp” season 2.

Online dating has lost its stigma and gone mainstream. But do these sites really work? According to the Pew Research Center, six in ten people say online dating is a good way to meet people. But Consumer Reports’ gave online dating sites the lowest satisfaction scores the magazine has seen for any rated service in two decades - even lower than cable TV companies!


Her company is a hybrid - part data, part human matchmaker. Dating Ring uses the algorithms used by online dating sites, but then a matchmaker steps in to help refine the process. "We really try to bring the human element in because that's what I think is lacking in the other dating sites," says Shearly. "We meet with people and get to know their personalities"

Tips for online daters:

  • Be bold, be persistent and be open-minded. Make the first move. Don’t be discouraged if the person you like doesn’t respond immediately, they are probably busy and you haven’t become a priority—yet.
  • Put yourself out there. Dating is a numbers game to some extent. Going on more dates improves your odds of meeting somebody special.
  • Be realistic and open-minded. Don’t make your search too narrow.
  • Be kind. According to Shearly,“When I ask people what are the top qualities they are looking for, the first one that they say is ‘kind.” On that note, how do you gracefully tell someone you aren’t interested? Don’t ghost—avoid—them. Just say, “I’m sorry it wasn’t a fit for me, but it was really nice to meet you.”
  • Having the right photos are critical. Smile. Don’t post selfies and if you take a group photo don’t stand next to the most attractive person in the room. 

#88 The New Brooklyn: Bringing Cities Back: Kay Hymowitz

In his inaugural address, Donald Trump gave a grim description of American cities, speaking of "carnage" and "rusted out factories.” But the reality is far different in many urban centers.

Our guest is Kay Hymowitz of The Manhattan Institute, author of "The New Brooklyn: What It Takes To Bring a City Back."

Kay has lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn since 1981. She gives a first-hand account of Brooklyn's transformation from high crime and deindustrialization in the 60's, 70's and 80's to the borough's comeback in the last two decades.

Kay says, “Brooklyn, which was once a major factory town, peaked in 1950—in terms of manufacturing power. In recent decades we've seen a rise of "a different kind of economy." Before the hipsters and tech startups, there was an expansion in government, healthcare and legal jobs. From education, tech innovation and new forms of business to public transportation and rezoning, this show looks at how the new Brooklyn took shape and how this story can help other cities.

Solutions:

Encourage new business and creative workers. From makers, artisans and immigrant-run small businesses to tech entrepreneurs, Brooklyn's growth has been nurtured by new arrivals. Business leaders, educational institutions and New York's Mayor established the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a development corporation to coordinate business improvement districts.

Nurture tech and creative startups. Every industry needs people who are trained in technology, The Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic, launched in 2008, advise aspiring entrepreneurs on everything from intellectual property law to contract agreements. The City University of New York, The Pratt Institute and Brooklyn College have all started initiatives in the past decade.

Ease the confusing array of regulations that put up barriers for small neighborhood businesses and start-ups.

Bring business and schools together to encourage new forms of work training, especially for middle-skilled jobs.

Improve and reform public education to build opportunity for the next generation of workers and residents.

Invest in public transportation. Brooklyn's success has largely depended on buses and trains, which provide an affordable form of travel. 

In Brooklyn and other cities where rents have soared, consider rezoning. Done in a sensitive way, with respect for older buildings and neighborhoods that often add to the charm and character of a city, this can increase the amount of overall housing, leading to rent reduction. 

You can read a recent review of Kay's book in The New York Times 

#87 Taxes: How to Avoid an Audit, Get a Refund, and Don't Panic

Do you dread filing your taxes? We simplify the process and break it down into simple steps so you can avoid costly mistakes and even an audit. You might even get back hundreds of dollars in refunds.

Our guest on this podcast is certified tax accountant, Janice Hayman, who calls herself a "tax therapist" for many of her clients. We learn which tax credits and deductions millions of taxpayers miss when they file their returns. Why dealing with the Internal Revenue Service is often a lot easier and less intimidating than many people fear. And how to avoid falling for the most common tax scams.

This show is being released at the start of the 2016 tax-filing season. Now is the time to start collecting all those W2s, 1099s and other forms you will need to ensure that you are ready before the April 15th deadline.

Solutions

  • Paperwork is crucial. Download your documents and keep them on a flash drive.
  • Keep good records of (earned and unearned) income, mortgage payments, business expenses, and brokerage accounts. If you are paying for tuition you can file a 1099T, and if you work from home keep a record of how much time you spend working from home because you could get a deduction for using a home office.
  • Assume that you could be the victim of identity theft or a tax scam. The IRS will only communicate with you by certified or regular mail. Government tax authorities will not use phone calls or email unless you have previously communicated about a specific case.
  • The IRS website (www.irs.gov) is a surprisingly useful source of information about filing taxes. The site has free tax prep software for most taxpayers. However, consider using a certified accountant if you itemize your deductions, because the tax code is very complex. Popular software programs can be confusing and may not tell you about all of deductions that you may be entitled to claim. 
  • Low and moderate-income earners don't miss out on the earned income tax credit. You could qualify for a large refund on your 2016 taxes.
  • If you are looking for additional sources, the irs.gov site does provide a link to the Internal Revenue Code, maintained by Cornell University Law School. You can also read the  "Tax Code, Regulations and Official Guidance.” On the IRS website. This will take you to a page where you can research the internal revenue code.  

If you have any questions contact a professional or the IRS.

#86 Farai Chideya: Re-think Your Career. Find a New Job

 

Have you spent your life switching careers, changing jobs and titles? So has former NPR host, professor, and journalist Farai Chideya. It’s the new normal, and it’s called the episodic career.

 

 

  • Can you build a career with a non-traditional work history?

  • How do you find a rewarding career in the new world of work?

  • How can you thrive and prosper in a jobs market disrupted by technology and globalism?

These questions are answered in this podcast. Our guest is well-known journalist, professor, author and former NPR host, Farai Chideya, author of “The Episodic Career”.
 
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job in the U.S. lasts 4.6 years, a far cry from an era when a large percentage of the workforce could expect to stay with their current employer for decades.  
 
Farai tells us why resiliency, lifelong learning, plus understanding how your skills relate to the needs of the employment market are the three pillars of a successful career.  

Solutions

Know yourself and set your own goals. Some people are risk takers, while others are more cautious. Are you an innovator, team player, change agent? Do you want to have a high social impact in your work?  Is money the most important thing as you advance in your career?  Answering these questions is crucial in finding the right type of job for you.

Five to-do's before starting your career: 

  1. Examine your heart and wallet. How much time can you spend without a job or unhappily employed?
  2. Use online tools and networking to find a job.
  3. Find your allies including your "weak ties" - people outside your immediate social and work group.
  4. Check your market value. Know how much you are worth to an employer.
  5. Broadcast your search: tell people you are looking for a job.

Contact several people each day.

When searching for work, master your personal narrative. Explain why you want the job.  Be flexible about the job and salary.

At work, always say "yes, and..." Speak up and add something to the discussion. Make yourself useful.

Useful job-search and career-building websites

Books about careers and job search

#85 Why We Are Fooled by Con Artists: Maria Konnikova

Have you ever been the victim of a con artist? Very often we fall for cons ourselves without being aware of it.

We speak with journalist and psychologist Maria Konnikova, a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine and best-selling author of “The Confidence Game:" Through storytelling and science, she explains the mind of the con artist and what makes the rest of us so susceptible. 

Con artists are everywhere. Since 2008 the number of reported cases of consumer fraud have shot up 60%. Online cases have doubled. Billions of dollars are lost each year in scams. 

"People are very willing to pay for things that will make them feel better about themselves," says Maria, especially when they're feeling lonely, are going through a divorce or have lost a job. "It can also happen during positive life transitions: you're about to have a baby or move to another city."

Con artists, she says, can swoop in when you're vulnerable and give you a sense of emotional purpose or stability.

Skilled scam artists are very good listeners and learn as much about their victims as they can. The internet and social media make their research so much easier.

Solutions: How to make yourself less vulnerable to con artists

  • Never accept a friend request on Facebook from someone you don't personally know, because your Facebook page has too much information that a con artist can use against you. 
  • Don’t post too much personal information online: locations, habits, and schedules. For instance, don’t check-in to locations, like stores or restaurants. Avoid geotags - giving information about your whereabouts. 
  • Don’t sign up for free trial offers, the most common scams involve fake weight loss schemes, prize promotions and buyers clubs. 
  • Be cautious when you use online payment sites and monitor your bills, because another popular scam is unauthorized Internet billing.
  • Don't click on links in an e-mail unless you've requested a password reset. For instance, if Google sends you an email saying that you need to change your password, go through Google. Don't use the email link.
  • Mindfulness. Go for a walk for one hour without a mobile electronic device. Get out of the immediacy of your everyday life and give your brain time to process the information that you have been given.  Be aware that a broader perspective - even a sense of objectivity about yourself - can make you less of a target. 
  • Businesses and institutions:Send a very clear message about ethics and accountability to employees and associates. A corporate culture that stresses the importance of the bottom line over everything else can lead to fraud.
  • In relationships and while investing beware of "sunken cost bias" the cost that has been incurred in an activity and is not recoverable; some victims have trouble admitting to being scammed because they have already lost money, time or pride. It’s never too late to walk away.

#84 Smart Solutions for The New Year

Fresh thinking for the New Year: In 2016 we were exposed to a dazzling range of smart, practical ideas from our podcast guests - from climate change and money matters, healthcare reform, to making room for strangers in our lives.  

 

In this show we start with Rebecca Jarvis, Chief Business, Economics and Technology Correspondent for ABC News. One of her smart money resolutions for the New Year is to be skeptical. Watch out for the know-it-alls and outright charlatans of investing, who pretend to understand how to beat the market. Rebecca also urges borrowers to be aware of the full costs of personal debt.

 

The need to be wary of simplistic slogans and fixes is at the heart of global economist Ruchir Sharma's book, "The Rise and Fall of Nations.” His solution? Look beyond the headlines to long-term trends. Slower growths in the workforce and immigration rates have a big impact on prosperity and growth.  

In the excerpt from our show on nuclear power, Michael Shellenberger, author of An Ecomodernist Manifesto, challenges the views of many environmentalists. He says nuclear is a crucial source of energy that "produces zero air and water pollution." 

"At the end of the day everybody is biased," says John Gable, who joined us to explain the thinking behind AllSides.com.  This news website comes with a left/ center/ right column - showing readers how major events are interpreted by liberal, conservative and centrist media. John urges us to confront our own biases and filter bubbles as we separate truth from fake news.

One forecast for 2017: due to the squabbling in Washington DC, over the role of federal government more solutions will be local. We spoke with obstetrician-gynecologist Rose Gowen, a City Commissioner in Brownsville, Texas. She told us how she was able to reduce high obesity rates using grants, a farmers market and bike trails and other local initiatives. 

Pulitzer-prize winning author, and New York Times journalist, Charles Duhigg talks about how we can improve our bad habits and become smarter, faster, and better. In this clip, we discuss to-do lists, mental models and making the most of our time - in life and in business. 

#83 Best Moments of 2016

 

Alan Dershowitz on Trump; what an Islamic fundamentalist learned in an Egyptian jail; plus a tenured professor explained why she quit her job—trigger warning ahead.

 

 

No doubt about it - the nomination and election of Donald Trump was the biggest, most surprising news story of 2016. At the start of this show we get two fascinating takes on the Trump story from a marketing man and a Harvard Professor.

For decades Alan Dershowitz has been on the front lines in the fight for civil liberties. He also has a refreshing take on the Trump phenomenon. "He was unpredictable: somebody who gave some people hope that maybe things won't be the same," says Dershowitz.

British marketing expert Mark Earls, made a second visit to our podcast, told us that emotion and identity play far greater roles in our voting decisions than many of us realize." We imagine that people consider in something as important as politics the pros and cons and the policy, but we don’t.

We spoke to Karen Firestone, the author of Even the Odds, about the time she met the famous advice columnist, Anne Landers, on a plane. The advice Landers gave Firestone changed her life. Find out why.

Do you like talking to strangers on planes, or talking to strangers? If the answer is no, then listen to Kio Stark (TED author and speaker), she may change your mind. We can all benefit from talking to strangers; find out why and how. 

Joan Blades tells us how she brings progressives and Tea Party supporters together for Living Room Conversations.

As a young Muslim man in Britain, Maajid Nawaz joined a global Islamist group. Jailed in Egypt in 2001, Maajid began an extraordinary personal journey. In this episode he describes his transformation towards liberal, democratic values as a secular Muslim. Today, Maajid is an active counter-extremist and founding Chairman of Quilliam - a global organization focusing on integration, religious freedom, citizenship and identity.  He is also the author of, "Radical: My Journey Out of Islamic Extremism."

Historian Alice Dreger, author of "Galileo's Middle Finger", reveals her personal fight for academic freedom and why it cost her a tenured job at a prestigious university.

#82 Lessons from the World's Best Schools: Lucy Crehan

What we can learn from the best education systems in the world? A lot.

We learn about PISA - The Program for International Student Assessment - and why this international test on math, science and reading has disturbing results for U.S. schools.

 

We interviewed British teacher Lucy Crehan, author of the breakthrough book, "Cleverlands", went on a remarkable journey to Finland, Asia and Canada, to study the world’s best schools. We find out why a simple question from a student in her science class, “Miss, why do we sneeze?" sent Lucy on a two-year quest to learn how to improve schools. 

Playful, enthusiastic, and full of common sense, "Cleverlands" is a personal story, an adventure, and a how-to book on how everyone can improve children’s education.
 
Lucy paints a picture of school life, making sense of the theories and data through the stories of teachers and children.

Solutions:

  • Get children ready for formal learning. Early education is important but don’t focus on academic skills. The most effective programs build motivation, character, and cognitive skills through playful learning.
  • Play is very important; children develop skills through play, such as self-regulation, planning and language development. One of the top performing school systems don't begin formal academic instruction until age 7.
  • Let children take breaks. 4 out of the 5 school systems Lucy studied had 10–15 minute breaks between every lesson.
  • Encourage children to take on challenges rather than making concessions: Delay dividing students into different classes based on ability until age until 15.
  • Emphasize the importance of effort rather than intelligence. It’s easier for children to tackle a challenge if they believe they can change the outcome through hard work. 
  • Combine school accountability with school support. Instead of punishing "bad" schools, provide more help and examples from successful educators and schools.
  • State and local boards of education should design a curriculum with a set of principals rather than detailed instructions for every week of the school year. This gives teachers greater job satisfaction, more autonomy and freedom to motivate students to do their best.  

#81 Rana Foroohar: Wall Street's Giant Threat to the Economy

More than eight years after the financial meltdown, we still have a lot to learn, says our guest, CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar.  

"The rise of finance has actually kind of eaten the rest of the economy," Rana tells this in this "Fix It" episode. "Finance controls the rest of industry.  Finance has become the tail that wags the dog." At the same time, the financial industry remains at risk for another hugely destructive collapse.

In her book, "Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business", Rana says only 15% of all the money in financial markets ends up in the real economy in the form of loans to help grow business.  The rest is traded and shuffled around the financial system. 

"Finance is there to serve business. We need to simplify it," Rana says.  That means deciding "what kinds of activities in our economy we want to incentivize and then creating the rules around finance to help capital flow to those areas."

Solutions:

  • Reform the tax code that “treats one-year investment gains the same way it treats longer-term investments, and induces financial institutions to push overconsumption and speculation, rather than healthy lending to small businesses and job creators.” End the system's bias favoring debt over equity.
  • Reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate - and abolish complex loopholes. Encourage multinational corporate to return cash kept overseas, reinvesting it in U.S. enterprises. 
  • End offshore banking, which allows corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying tax.
  • Discourage stock buybacks. Boost incentives for large corporations to fund research and innovation.
  • Reform banking laws. Impose new safety limits on the amount of money banks must have in cash. 
  • Impose a financial transaction tax: forcing banks to pay a small fee for each trade in bonds, stocks, and derivatives.
  • Limit leverage: impose safety controls that require banks to hold a larger percentage of holdings in cash.
  • Simplify and overhaul the enormously complex Dodd-Frank law, which penalizes community and regional banks.  Pass a new form of Glass-Steagall Act - the 1933 law that separated commercial banking from investing and trading. 
  • Take a page from airline safety.  Set up a financial version of the independent National Transportation Safety Board to investigate bank failures and other threats to the financial system.
  • End "cognitive capture" or group think. When debating financial reform, listen to the views of all stakeholders: large and small banks, consumers, manufacturing businesses and academics that study the impact of finance on other sectors of the economy.