Category Archives: CNC: Ask Your Lawmaker

A tool that allows citizens to provide the questions that journalists ask lawmakers.

Parting thoughts

Signs of the times

Signs of the times

Over the past 10 months, has featured some of the most poignant, informative and visual stories about communities coping in the ongoing crisis.

These stories are what make public media stand out – the voices featured from around the country and the innovative ideas that have inspired news stories.

It’s been so exciting to learn how the economy has changed over the past year – at times the stories have been hopeful and uplifting, often they’ve been upsetting and grim, but never boring.

Here’s a quick review of a few stories that continue to be relevant:

Book Club (4/12/2010) and Book Keeping (3/11/2010) Funny names of old financial texts, and a Paul Solman list of the best books on the financial crisis.

One Sixth of What? (9/22/2009) Back in September, before the health care reform legislation was passed, we examined what makes up the health care costs.

Trading Up (2/24/2010) looked at bartering’s comeback – from help with school projects to borrowing a rake from your next door neighbor.

Shifting Gears (4/2010): Tens of thousands of people work building vehicles in the U.S. And while Ford and GM are reporting that their books look better, many people are still riding the waves of the the hard transition in this industrial sector. That’s why Shifting Gears, a public radio special, will have relevance for some time to come. The latest EconomyBeat podcast features highlights from the program.

Pictures of Transition: One of the most popular aspects of the blog this past year was the weekly collection of user-generated images about the state of the economy. These powerful, witty and painful pictures illustrate the compelling drama of the recession that communities and individuals continue to navigate.

I can’t write about EconomyStory without including stories that came directly from readers, listeners and viewers in the form of comments, six-word memoirs and responses on Facebook and Twitter.

A comment from reader Carlos Tobin about bank size, one of many active discussions on Facebook:

Limiting the size of banks could hurt a innovative start up bank that wants to form and take out the banks that caused the problem. Legislation will just entrench the existing players, and stifle innovation.

And the Six-Word Memoir Project with SMITH Magazine, which collected creative tales of economic hardship. The most recent ones, posted on the SMITH site include:

Whitney Cole: Goodbye, economy. Hello, credit card debt.
Charles: Exchanged credit cards for library card
Kali: Buying a camper, not a house!

EconomyStory will continue to serve as a jumping off point for exploring all that public media has to offer. Projects like Patchwork Nation and Youth Radio aren’t going away, so the links on this site will still take you to the best coverage of the economy. However, as the EconomyStory collaboration comes to an end, this blog will no longer be updated. You can still follow the great work that the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) does at and you can follow my work on Twitter @laurahertzfeld. Thank you for all your support and input! And a big thank you to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for making this possible.


The House passed health care reform late last night. What will the new legislation mean to you? What are the biggest myths surrounding the bill and what do you need to know to take advantage of the upcoming laws? Last September we looked at how much of the economy is really spent on health care. Now that a bill has passed, how will those funds shift and how will health care reform change your costs?

PBS NewsHour breaks down the basics:

The legislation will require nearly every American to carry health insurance starting in 2014 and will impose a penalty fee on those who don’t. It will set up a series of state-based insurance exchange marketplaces where people who do not have access to employer-based insurance will be able to shop for plans, and will also offer new tax subsidies to make that insurance more affordable for millions of Americans who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

It will also impose new regulations on the insurance industry, including barring insurance companies from denying coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions, and barring companies from using technicalities to drop customers who become ill.

Many of the bill’s provisions, such as the insurance exchange marketplaces and new subsidies, won’t go into effect until 2014. But some of the new insurance regulations will begin this year, such as a provision that allows young adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plans.

Want to discuss the bill with your friends and colleagues but don’t know where to begin? PolitiFact lists the top ten facts about health care reform and dispels some pervasive myths.

The government will not take over hospitals or other privately run health care businesses. Doctors will not become government employees, like in Britain. And the U.S. government intends to help people buy insurance from private insurance companies, not pay all the bills like the single-payer system in Canada.

So what will happen? Kaiser Health News provides a consumers’ guide to health reform, detailing when various provisions will take effect and answering pressing questions about how health insurance affordability will change and what types of insurance will be available.

WNYC’s The Takeaway spoke with health care professionals and small business owners about how the changes in health care reform will affect them.

“I’m hoping that by adding 32 million people to the insurance pool that premiums will eventually come down by bending the cost curve,” John Brown, VP of Brown Furniture Company, told The Takeaway.

For more on how health care reform could change your coverage, check out this New York Times “choose your own adventure”-style interactive and follow your health care options through the bill.

You can also add a question about health care for Capitol News Connection’s reporters to ask on the Hill.

If you have a health care story or thoughts on how reform could help or hurt your current situation that you’d like to share with EconomyStory, please add it in the comments below. We’ll be featuring stories from readers during the coming weeks.

Who are you calling Shorty?

It’s Oscar weekend, but in the world of social media, a set of honors for a more prolific crowd went out this week – the Shorty Awards, which praise the best Twitterers on the planet. Some of the most impressive are from the world of finance, who’ve had some success in explaining the economic crisis in 140 characters or less.

The top six finance Twitterers include personal finance guru Suze Orman (@SuzeOrmanShow), debt help radio program The Dave Ramsey Show (@RamseyShow), finance blog site (@mint), UK markets strategist Ashraf Laidi (@alaidi), LendingClub founder Rob Garcia (@robgarciasj), and finance site Bulls on Wall Street (@BullsOnWallSt).

How much of a difference can you make in 140 characters? The David Ramsey Show, which claimed second place in the awards reports on how listeners can learn to be debt-free and shares their stories on Twitter:

Blake: Total debt paid off by just those who got thru on the phones today on #TDRS = $876,000. Year to Date = $9,149,900

The popular personal finance blog Mint shares links to content on their main site over Twitter, like the pros and cons of offshore banking and the urban legends surrounding credit scores. But Mint also provides real-time news and advice solely on Twitter, like today’s project where they are retweeting savings tips from readers:

RT @ekmurphy: automatic savings plan helps build savings every time I get paid, not just at the end of the month when I look at what’s left

Outside of finance, but still in the realm of news in the public interest, The Diane Rehm Show @DRShow and Matt Laslo @MattLaslo of Capitol News Connection were both finalists in the news category. Washington, D.C. radio legend Diane Rehm shares inside views of her guests, like health care expert and NIH director Francis Collins, and asks listeners to answer questions on relevant news topics.

Matt Laslo at Capitol News Connection gives real-time updates from his reporting escapades on Capitol Hill. A recent adventure found him hearing about Texas Independence Day:

Did you know it’s Texas Independence Day? Me neither, until Cornyn (R-TX) started talking about it on the Senate floor.

Who are your favorite economics and news experts on Twitter? My favorites are listed here, on the @economystory bloggers list.

Health care reform around the country

It was hard to miss: The White House confab this week with the warring sides in Congress meeting over the heated issue of health care reform. National shows and local stations each weighed creative approaches to coverage:

KQED in San Francisco (home city of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has been a leading advocate of health care reform), put together a page for comments and a live blog of the event. The Sunlight Foundation provided a tool to track donations to members of congress Congressional representatives as they spoke during the summit.

Tennesee had three representatives in their delegation: – two republicans and one democrat, some open to compromise on the health care bill, and one, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who made the case as other Republicans did to “start from scratch,” as WPLN in Nashville, with Capitol News Connection reported .

Nashville is a hub for the health care industry, which doesn’t seem to be hurting as the health care reform debate continues. WPLN reported that four major health are providers in Nashville, including HealthStream, posted positive year-end financial results.

But the urgency of health care reform certainly hasn’t gone away with a few hours of debate at the White House. As WAMC in Albany, NY found, thousands of people in New York alone are at risk without some serious changes:

The failure to enact health care reform this year will lead in the next decade to approximately 13,900 premature deaths of people between 25 and 64 years old in New York according to a report released today by the consumer health group Families USA.

Similar stories are cropping up around the country. For a full video roundup of health care coverage, PBS has a collection of clips from Frontline, NewsHour and more.

Recalling the recall

Lawmakers in Washington are hearing from Toyota executives and auto industry experts this week to determine why some models have uncontrollable acceleration problems and whether Toyota tried to cover up flaws on the many thousands of vehicles that have now been recalled.

Capitol News Connection’s Matt Laslo was at today’s congressional hearings and has been tweeting updates. A snippet of what he’s seen today:

Some conservative members of Congress were more hesitant to slam Toyota outright. Capitol News Connection’s Sara Schiammaco noted in a roundup of opening remarks:

Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., scolded her colleagues on the panel who she said came in during the eleventh hour of the congressional examination to politicize the issue. “This should not be a trial, but rather a hearing to get to the bottom of safety issues,” Blackburn said. “This is a serious issue that has resulted in the loss jobs.”

Michigan Public Radio followed the state’s delegation at the hearings in Washington:

U.P. Congressman Bart Stupak is chairing today’s hearing. He suggests Toyota executives may be trying to hide problems with their vehicles.

“A staff analysis of the documents Toyota provided to the committee, shows that roughly 70 percent of the sudden, unintended acceleration events, recorded in Toyota’s own customer call data base, involve vehicles that are not covered by the floor mat or sticky pedal recalls,” says Stupak.

But the problems for Toyota run even deeper than Congress’s questions. PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill spoke with a reporter in Detroit and analysed the criminal charges Toyota could face if a federal grand jury finds its executives at fault.

Toyota’s complete list of operations and plants in the U.S. can be found here. Take a look and see how your state is being represented at the hearings. If there’s a plant in your area, how has the recall had an impact locally?