The Great Recession threw huge economic challenges at nearly all Americans – rich and poor. In her book Down the Up Escalator, Barbara Garson writes about how those challenges played out in the lives of real people. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Garson about her book and about what happens to those at the bottom when a society’s organization favors those at the top.
Bitcoin, a form of cryptocurrency, is now being accepted by major online supplier Overstock.com. Sites like Amazon.com are also reported to also be considering accepting bitcoin as payment. There are even bitcoin ATMs starting to pop up in major cities. Locally, Cheese and Crackers, an artisanal deli in Champaign, has been accepting bitcoin for about 6 months. Owner Bart Basi says in his store bitcoin is more of a conversation starter than a currency at this point but that he does get a couple customers every month who pay with it.
This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Basi about being reimbursed in bitcoin. Jim Angel, Visiting Associate Professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania from the School of Business at Georgetown University, also joins the show. Venture capital firms like Anderseen-Horowitz, whose co-founder wrote recently about the potential for bitcoin, say bitcoin is a solution to a lot of technical problems with online payments. Angel isn’t so sure and joins Focus to talk about the merits and problems with bitcoin.
Rachel Warren is 21 and says that she “makes it work” supporting herself by working two jobs for minimum wage, one in Champaign and one in Urbana. If she had to support someone else, however, she says that just wouldn’t be feasible. Gov. Pat Quinn has been pushing for an increase to Illinois minimum wage, which is already a dollar higher than the federal standard. If the state mandated a wage increase for people like Warren, she says even a dollar more an hour would make a substantial difference in her monthly budget.
This hour on focus, we’ll hear from Warren and will talk about the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage and the arguments for and against doing so. Bob Bruno, Professor of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago and James Sherk, a Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics at the Heritage Foundation join us.
Do you or have you ever worked for minimum wage? Are you a small business owner who would be affected by a potential wage increase? Post in the comments section below!
Fewer and fewer people are regularly carrying cash. Carrying cards seems easier, and paying with plastic leaves a handy electronic record to track where your money goes. But with lots of questions circling about cyber-security, isn’t there a huge advantage to paying with cash money? This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about money, currency and what it would be like to live in a world without cash. David Wolman, author of “The End of Money: Counterfeiters, Preachers, Techies, Dreamers – and the Coming Cashless Society and Professor of Finance Charles Kahn join us. Kahn is a consultant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and has written about payments economics and identify theft.
Foreclosure rates in Illinois are beginning to fall, but many are still struggling to recover from the recession, especially those who were affected when the housing bubble burst. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about new foreclosure policies in Illinois meant to fast track the sale of vacant properties to help our local economies and families recover from the foreclosure crisis. As the state’s foreclosure rate remains stubbornly high, we’ll also examine how big of a problem foreclosures continue to be in East Central Illinois and talk with Reverend Eugene Barnes, the founder of Metanoia, a community group based in Champaign, who has taken it into his own hands to help struggling families keep their homes. Geoff Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Housing Services at DePaul University also joins us.
Next week on Focus, we'll talk with one of the pioneers in the reserach of happiness about how he got the pscyhological science community to take him seriously, how computers could soon change the way we talk about prescription side effects and how environmental groups came together to work with energy companies to write state regualtions for hyrdraulic fracturing.
According to a new report from the Milken Institute, Champaign-Urbana and Danville are both on the list of best performing small cities, but what does that really mean? The report shows Danville climbing in ranking while Chambana was slipping. During this hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Vicki Haugen, President and CEO of Vermilion Advantage and Mike Kirchoff, President and CEO of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.
We’ll talk about new development projects in the area, trends with unemployment rates and Danville’s retail resurgence. We’ll also talk about the health of the manufacturing industry in East Central Illinois, what’s ahead for the region and how we can keep local economies healthy in spite of state budget woes.
Monday, March 11 - My Name is Jody Williams
Have you been an activist? What causes matter to you?
Jody Williams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her campaign to eradicate landmines. But she wasn’t always an activist. Monday on Focus, we’ll talk with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams about her new memoir, “My Name is Jody Williams.” She’ll tell us about her life as an activist, why she’s spent her career advocating for freedom and human rights and what she really means when she uses the word “peace.”
This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with John Breen, Tax Director at McGladrey LLP and Marty Verdick, Tax Partner at McGladrey LLP about the so-called fiscal cliff package that was passed in January and how it affects your bottom line. He also asks about the new Medicare surtax for 2013, which tax software to use when preparing your taxes on your own and when it’s a good idea to hire a tax preparer. Also in this episode of Focus – how to choose the best tax preparer for your needs, what questions to ask and the gray areas in the tax code. We also talk about new forms this year for same-sex couples in civil unions.
Once considered tedious, the field of statistics is rapidly evolving into a discipline that even the chief economist at Google has called “sexy.” This hour on Focus, we’ll talk with Charles Wheelan, author of the new book “Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data,” about what we can learn from statistics and their growing role in our world today.