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Tuesday September 7, 2010

Pres. Obama Comes Out Fighting On Economy

President Barack Obama speaking on the economy at the Milwaukee Laborfest on Monday. (AP)

President Barack Obama speaking on the economy at the Milwaukee Laborfest on Monday. (AP)

Sounding like the campaigner he was during his run for the White House, President Obama on Monday labeled Republicans as “the party of no” and accused the GOP of talking about him “like a dog.” The president is on the road this week to gain support for two new economic measures: one would let businesses write off 100 percent of their new capital investments through 2011; the other is $50 billion for new infrastructure projects. With Republicans saying spending is out of control and many Democratic lawmakers reluctant to approve new spending so close to the midterm elections, the fate of the proposals is highly uncertain. Rick Klein, senior Washington editor for ABC World News, and host of the political webcast “Top Line.”

Rethinking The Dream of Home Ownership

(haglundc/Flickr)

As the White House debates policies to help the housing market, our guest James Kwak says home ownership was always a bad dream. Home ownership carries a lot of risk, Kwak says, and the returns are modest at best–over the last century, homes have only gained about one percent a year in value. Kwak is co-founder of the economy blog, “The Baseline Scenario,” and co-author, with economist Simon Johnson, of “13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover And The Next Financial Meltdown.

Back To School Time Is Tough on Fido


When kids go back to school it’s not just a big transition for them and their parents, but also for the four legged family members as well. It’s called “post-summer separation anxiety,” and our guest says it occurs because dogs are pack animals that typically enjoy lots of time with pack members such as kids and parents during summer, only to have that “pack time” suddenly disappear when school starts up. Our guest is Dr. William Craig, chief medical and underwriting director of Purina Care Pet Health Insurance. He says owners can take preventative measures to prevent the uncontrollable anxiety and often destructive behavior this transition can cause.

Are Libraries Necessary?

(aha42/Flickr)

(aha42/Flickr)

A Fox television news reporter in Chicago ignited a firestorm recently when she posed the question: “Are libraries necessary, or a waste of taxpayer money?” She noted that Chicago’s libraries are busy, but they cost the city $120 million per year — money that she said could, for instance, could go to struggling schools. We speak with two library consultants about the future of libraries; George Needham is a library strategist and Joan Frye Williams is a library futurist.

The Arts Could Bridge The Gap Between The U.S. And Cuba

The American Ballet Company will perform in Cuba for the first time in 50 years this fall and many Cuban musicians are touring the US. The BBC’s Maria Bakkalapulo went to Miami’s Little Havana, home to some of Fidel Castro’s staunchest critics, to sample musicians’ opinions about playing in Cuba.

Music From The Show

  • Dean and Britta, “Herringbone Tweed”
  • Ahmad Jamal, “Patterns”
  • The Funk Brothers, “Keep Me Hangin’ On”
  • Booka and the Flaming Geckos, “Barbed Wire Past”
  • The Wee Trio, “About a Girl”
  • Volcano Choir, “Sleepymouth”
  • Charles Mingus, “Pedal Point Blues”
  • Tito Puente, “Arroz con Pollo”
  • http://www.eatingworcester.com Mike

    Love the show. In regard to this conversation about building long term wealth by home ownership, there is often one component that is crucially overlooked by economists who argue against home ownership: You can live in your house.

    While the value of your house may only increase in value 1% greater than the rate of inflation, which is less than most stock packages or government bonds, you can’t live in your bonds or raise your family in your stock packages.

    Housing is a dual-use investment. Not only are you investing your money into something that has, historically, paid off modest gains over decades, but you are also utilizing that investment as an active service in your life during the maturation period. There are practically no other investments that gain value while simultaneously being used.

  • Tanya

    Great point Mike! Thanks for contributing.

    On another note, I am consoled by all these programs that help reinforce my belief that we are making the right choice for us by renting (in the face of such a huge pro-homeowning culture.) Thank you Here & Now!

  • Lorelei

    Good focus article on preparing for the seasonal change and how it affects dogs at home, but I’m wondering what motivates Robin to say that it might “sound crazy” that dogs have separation anxiety?

  • John

    Libraries shouldn’t be housing the homeless. I get my books and leave instead of spending time there.

  • Robin Young

    LORELEI YOU’RE RIGHT!!
    A dog lover, I’m being too defensive!!

    Best
    Robin

  • Marc

    I agree that libraries are necessary and are not a waste of taxpayer money for all the reasons mentioned. However, I wish there were a way for a library to function solely as a resource destination, and not a roof that doubles as a homeless shelter.

    I am fine with my taxpayer dollars going toward helping the homeless. I am fine with my taxpayer dollars going to provide libraries. I am not fine with a library becoming a default homeless shelter however.

  • Howard M Thompson

    Our policies designed to promote home ownership don’t seem to work. Our home ownership rate is similar to the rate in Canada. Canadian buy homes without them.

  • Frog

    I noticed in your first story you write “accused the GOP of talking about him “like a dog.” Is this accurate? I thought the quote referenced “powerful special interests” and not the GOP. In any event I don’t think it is helpful of the President to be using metaphors like that.

  • BHA

    Mr. Kwak is RIGHT ON.

    There should be no mortgage interest deduction. It just encourages people to buy bigger, more expensive, houses. Plus non homeowners are subsidizing the homeowners’ interest payments through higher income taxes to make up the difference. That makes it harder for them to save up money to buy a house if they so desire.

    In return, lower the income tax rate on middle and lower earning tax payers; net change to the average homeowner, zero. Maybe the rich pay more, but they have WAY more to live on after they pay Uncle Sam than the average person makes before taxes. Their ‘problem’ with higher taxes isn’t that they will starve (or create fewer jobs. HA! The rich don’t create jobs, businesses create jobs) but that it is their money and they want to keep it. Sorry, but if you are making $500K, $1M, more, you are grossly OVERPAID.

    Phase out the home mortgage interest deduction with a stepped percentage decrease. The biggest decrease on the most expensive loans. If you can afford a house with $30K annual interest, you don’t need any help from the rest of us.

  • Blackhound63

    I couldn’t agree more with BHA. Other factors, which Mr. Kwak entirely failed to take into consideration, are 1) the choice of a homeowner to redecorate in any manner that they choose, and 2) animals (no approval of the landlord required).

  • Fred Bates

    Dear Here and Now.

    You lose a fact based debate if your opponent has the facts. Some facts which have proven their truths include a study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) which documented that:
    - 67% of viewers of the Fox Broadcasting Company believed the “U.S. has found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al Qaeda terrorist organization” in contrast with 16% of NPR/PBS listener/viewers.
    - 33% of Fox viewers believed “The U.S. has found Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq” compared to 11% of NPR/PBS.
    - 35% of Fox viewers believed “the majority of people [in the world] favor the U.S. having gone to war” with Iraq compared with 5% for NPR/PBS.

    So I was not surprised it was a Fox television news reporter who made the statement in the form of the question,“Are libraries necessary, or a waste of taxpayer money?” For more information on how anti-intellectualism is destroying America, google Terrence McNally’s article entitled, “How Anti-Intellectualism Is Destroying America.“

    Think on.

    Fred Bates

    I would be proud if you use my response for what ever purpose you wish.

    Fred Bates
    125 Warner Hill Road
    Derry NH 03038

  • Charity Wells

    A CASE FOR NOT BURNING

    I love God. I am a free believer who left organized religion some time ago. I read the Bible….and many other books about people’s spiritual journeys.

    Jesus said in Luke 16:16….”The law and the prophets were until John.” Jesus is saying the time of the law and the prophets is over. Unfortunately, many folks in organized religion are still living by the old testament. To burn the Koran, is according to old testament patterns.

    Jesus said, “love your enemies.” The law of Jesus is love.

  • http://www.timestormcomm.com Ruth Ann Monti

    RE: the housing story: many of us also bought homes because we got tired of dealing with landlords!

    Too many of those people who rent out their investments are only interested in collecting rent and raising it without making even minimal improvements. Landlords are happy to neglect air condition maintenance until the AC breaks down (a real problem in Phoenix summers), or refuse to install properly functioning appliances such as refrigerators or clothes washers. I paid a huge electric bill until I bought my own home and installed energy-saving devices.

    I may have watched my home’s value fall but at least I know to maintain my AC throughout the year and if something breaks, it quickly gets fixed or replaced.

    Let’s not even get into landlords who take the rent and still fail to pay on mortgages, HOA fees, or taxes and leave their tenants homeless, often with little or no warning. That’s another story into itself.

  • Barbara

    Are libraries necessary? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Is this an effort by FOX News to keep the masses ignorant? In my community the library is moving to a larger renovated facility to accommodate the demand for their services. Yes, libraries are necessary, especially because we are being becoming more automated and at the mercy of cookies and partisan broadcasting to determine the content of what we read and hear. Long live libraries!

  • http://lindanapikoski.blogspot.com Linda

    Why did Robin Young say it “may sound crazy” that dogs would have anxiety which causes them to chew, destroy objects and themselves, etc? No offense intended, but Robin Young sounds a little crazy for saying that! I am greatly offended by many pet owners for this very reason, that they get a cat or dog and then coop it up in a house all day, and think they are making it happy. (Don’t even get me started on pets in cages.) How would you feel if you were kept in a house and you never, ever left it unless you were in a cage or tied to a rope? I was thrilled to hear that veterinarian speaking. I personally don’t advocate more medication for anxiety in dogs or humans, but I STRONGLY advocate taking your pet outside often and not leaving the dog alone for hours. Thanks for airing the doc’s good advice.

  • Charity Wells

    Continued: A CASE FOR NOT BURNING
    If these people that want to burn the Koran believe readers of the Koran are their enemies, they might try inviting someone who reads the Koran to their home and sharing a meal with them, and interacting with them in love.

  • DBP

    Re Cuba: for another perspective on cultural exchange with Cuba check out surfingwiththeenemy.com a new film about the emerging surf culture.

  • John Stenger

    A point not made by Mr. Kwak is that the mortgage interest deduction is not a dollar for dollar return of interest paid as most people think. A deduction reduces taxable income. So, roughly speaking, a $1000 interest payment for a person in the 28% tax bracket, saves only $280 in taxes. Not bad, but not what most people think they’re getting.

  • hitesh

    Hello, hitesh here, one of the producers. Happy to see all the comments here. Want to add a reply to Blackhound63 above (great handle, by the way). You might have missed it, but James Kwak said that he and his wife bought becasue they couldn’t find a rental that would allow them to keep their dog. And he also talked about freedom to re-decorate as a reason to buy.

  • Laurie Babb

    Regarding Public Libraries:

    I am a 38 year old graduate student, business owner, and mother of a toddler. Though I have a nice home with an office and high speed internet access, I use public libraries approximately 15 hours a week as a place to study and sometimes conduct business via my laptop, as well as a place to entertain and educate my son.

    They provide multiple, centralized locations throughout my region where I can focus on solitary projects, commune with others, as well as socialize my young son. Over the last year of such use, I have seen just how busy and well used they are by all types of people. They are a tremendous and versatile resource.

    Laurie Babb

  • Adam Buchanan

    Re: Rethinking the Dream of Home Ownership

    Interviewing two economists only offers the listener a partial understanding of home ownership’s attraction and failures. Ask any urban historian about American housing policy and you will receive a very different explanation. When speaking about New Deal housing policies, economics offers only a partial explanation for today’s current housing problems. When James Kwak represented New Deal housing policies as a response to socialism and communism, he was only partially correct; race was the prime motivation for homeownership.

    From 1890 to 1924, the United States experienced a massive influx of immigrants, the majority of which came from Eastern Europe. Alarmed by this mass immigration by what they considered inferior races (Poles, Jews, gypsies, Slavs, Italians), political leaders responded by passing the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924. David Roediger (Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White) explains the home’s role in imparting whiteness on immigrants. This whiteness was reinforced by covenants and redlining that excluded African Americans from the housing market. New Deal policies are to blame, however, corporate leaders constructed those policies. Thomas Sugrue (Detroit), Lizabeth Cohen (Chicago), Robert Self (Oakland), Kevin Kruse (Atlanta), and Becky Nicolaides (Los Angeles) describe the negative social impact of corporate-led political influence in the housing market. We are now encountering the results of these policy failures.

  • Rob G.

    The argument for renting is incredibly sophist. Truly, anyone who buys a home as a get-rich-quick scheme or views their home as a cash cow is nuts. On the other hand, the ONLY way for the middle class to rise economically is through home ownership. The GRADUAL accretion in equity, is the saving grace in all of this. Economists suggest that if renters save the difference between rent and the costs of home ownership, they’ll be way ahead, but the fact is that renters NEVER do that. It has always been the enforced savings of the mortgage, combined with whatever small increase in property value that we’ve seen over time, that have fueled the engine of all middle class upward mobility. I for one am unwilling to countenance the neo-feudal society that Mr Kwak, Simon Johnson and, most frighteningly, Timothy Geithner envision for us.

  • Dan Marler

    What are you thinking!!!

    A home is far more than just an investment and should not be considered as such unless you’re in the investment business. Very few have the knowledge to use their homes as financial investments and should avoid looking at their homes in that matter.

    Financial institutions have pushed home owners into getting a second loan, home equity loan, etc., for years. Those are pit holes many home owners fall into if not used wisely and not available to renters.

    A owned home is a castle where as long as you’re not interfering with the rights of others you can do pretty much what you want.

    A rental home is a place that belongs to someone else and you are paying them to follow their rules which are fine as long as what they want and what you need match up.

    By the time a person retires, they will have hopefully paid off their home or if nothing else thier payments are far less than those that more recently puchased there homes or are still renting. Just try to make those higher payments on social security income.

    There is also reverse mortgages that will help you in your retirement to pay for a number of things including whatever care you may need in your later years. Those come from the home you own, not a home your renting.

    The list goes on and on. The fact is that unless your home is an actual money investment (which it can sometimes be) owning something has far greater value than renting any way you look at it.

    I will add that home ownership can keep a person tied down if they let it. However, remember that someone owns those homes that are being rented and normally anyone can rent a home they own. I have a good friend that was transferred to Australia and owns a home here. No problem, he rented his home out and has a company take care of all the details for him, he doesn’t make as much money off of it that way, but he gets to move and not have his home hold him back.

    I also have a good friend whose retired brother made a good living off of repairing rented homes after the renters had moved on. Very few will take care of something that is not theirs so if your renting your home, be sure to include the cost of repairs.

    Thanks -

    Dan Marler
    Boise, Idaho

  • Frog

    Listened again to the first segment…didn’t Rick Klein call the Islamic cultural center a “proposed mosque and cultural center”? Did my ears deceive me? I thought it was settled that it was not a “mosque” yet I hear it referred to that right here by a guest. Huh, and I thought it was only Fox News.

  • Bruce Silverman, VMD

    As a veterinarian (in Chicago), I always walk dog owners through the range of options for treating their dogs that suffer from stress. While I discuss the Prozac-like drugs for those dogs that may be good candidates (a select few), a GREAT first-rung treatment for an anxiety-ridden dog may be simply a lot of exercise and 2-3 days of day care each week. It’s amazing what some exercise and socializing can do. And it’s great for the dog owners, too!

    PS Just a side note on another story…I firmly believe that public libraries remain one of the most democratic of institutions left in the United States today. The multi-media wealth of information and entertainment is as central to our communities as our schools, with a target audience not limited to the children. Let’s figure out ways to harness these resources even MORE, and get away from the absolute nonsense of questioning whether libraries should even exist.

  • Uramura

    Let’s be frank – it’s so hard to focus on your books or whatever you are doing when the library is filled with B.O. smell and chairs are all discolored.

  • Meghan

    I have to say, I’m still skeptical of incentivizing renting over home ownership. What kind of quality of life are we endorsing, if the typical American must constantly move throughout their lives in order to have a job? Home ownership facilitates community buy-in. It incentivizes taking care of one’s neighborhood, something that is directly linked to preventing crime. My city, for example, currently has a huge property crime problem which is starting to spill over to violent crime. Our property crime problems stem from bad landlords not taking care of their properties, and that stems from very relaxed fining laws for landlords who do not take care of their properties. Is there room for mixed development between home owners and renters? Of course! But that doesn’t mean renting should replace home ownership. In many ways it would be just another step towards the dismantlement of community.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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