Monthly Archives: June 2021

EP 460 Is Capitalism Good for Our Health?

There is a growing concern that capitalism, as presently practiced in the United States, is not working in the best interest of the majority of our citizens.  The growing income inequality gap is just one measure of how the ideal of The American Dream is becoming an illusion to a growing sector of our population.  In his book, ‘At What Cost’, Nicholas Freudenberg, public health expert and City University of New York distinguished professor, demonstrates how the impacts of a virulent form of capitalism is affecting everything from the food we eat to education we receive to the medical care we can obtain.  While the benefits of the capitalist model were best demonstrated in the mid twentieth century, corporate interests have dominated our national politics for the last forty years and the results are concerning.  Americans consider themselves less happy, healthy, or freer than in the past.. And our confidence in the future is waning.  How do we right this ship?  We look at the data to back these conclusions and offer solutions going forward.                                  

EP 459 The Future of the Post Office

‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from their swift completion of their appointed rounds’ has been the mantra of the United States Postal Service since its roots in 1775 before our country was formed.  It is one of the few government agencies explicitly referred to in the U.S. Constitution.  While the USPS remains a vital service its finances are in jeopardy because of a requirement that it forward find its pension obligations, competition from private deliverers like UPS and Fed Ex as well as the internet’s impact on the quantity of first class mail.  With no operating funding from the federal government, it has looked into ways to stay afloat as politicians wrangle about its continuing role in our society, particularly in the wake of the 2020 elections.  Dave Lewis, president of Snailworks, discusses a range of issues affecting its ongoing importance and its future.

EP 458 Will This Housing Boom Go Bust?

 Red hot is a good way to characterize the recent housing boom in America.  Fortunately the fundamentals seem better aligned to avoid the crash which we experienced a little over a decade ago.  Mortgages are stricter, down payments are higher and the tight supply of housing is supporting prices.  Ken H. Johnson is a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University.  On this podcast we explore the reasons behind the rush on properties with ‘for sale’ signs in the front yard to better understand the market and what it means for you as either a prospective seller or buyer.  The conversation is punctuated by Professor Johnson’s insights as to how to look at real estate as an investment and judge what your strategies should be.  This podcast is perfect for an experienced homeowner or a first time buyer.

EP 457 An Autopsy of Crime Labs in America

 We have mythologized crime labs to such a degree in America that they have become a staple on television given a seal of authority that is not justified upon serious scrutiny. Duke Law Professor, Brandon Garrett, chapter by chapter in his book, ‘Autopsy of a Crime Lab’, debunks the rigor, quality controls and the science behind expert testimony in a range of cases.  Pick your favorite forensics-hair, fingerprints and DNA, to a lesser extent, and each has problems when it comes to the infallible reliability generally assumed by the public.  The whole field of forensics certainly demands greater critique and oversight given the stakes involved.  In some cases it’s a matter of life or death.

EP 456 Is the Movie Theater Dead?

Movie theaters were in trouble before the pandemic and have been for years.  While megascreen complexes were still being built, consumers were gearing up their equipment at home to receive an abundance of movie choices by way of cable and streaming services.  The idea of going out to a movie requires many conscious decisions, while staying at home and flipping around requires few.  And then, of course, with cell phones and obnoxious patrons, the choice was getting easier by the year.  Scott Higgins, Director of the College of Film and the Moving Image, at Wesleyan University, believes there still will be a place for the movie theater, albeit in a much more competitive environment.  Many movie studios are competing internally to accommodate both large screen extravanagas and a regular aray of films to populate their own streaming services.  While movies have outlasted other eras in which newcomers were said to spell their demise, the new landscape is still emerging and exciting to imagine as choice abounds.  We talk movies, too.  He weighs in on the best picture of all time.  It will surprise you.

EP 455 Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries

On many levels, the elaborate system of food banks feeding into food pantries in America works quite well. That’s until you consider the possibilities that these centers can become more client driven, more nutritionally based and can provide a range of wraparound services that they do not at this time.  Katie Martin, the Executive Director of the Foodshare Institute on Hunger Research and Solutions, in Connecticut, and the author of ‘Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries’ believes that the scarcity mentality surrounding our messaging about hunger limits the many possibilities for a new strength based approach empowering clients to use these programs as the basis for greater growth and development.  She argues persuasively for a new paradigm in our approach to feeding the millions of Americans in need.  Food insecurity, income inequality and  poverty are all intertwined.  We discuss what the future might look like if we develop new tools to end hunger on today’s podcast.

EP 454 Be Aware: Made in China Label May Mean Made in a Forced Labor Camp


That’s a nice shirt you’re wearing and where did you get that cute little display for Halloween?  In all likelihood, both of items came from China.  While we are aware that Chinese goods are cheaper than those made in the United States, do we now why?  We might think that the standard of living is lower and the benefits paid are less.  How often have we considered that the price and pace of production there is really the result of forced labor in camps with conditions that are inhumane?  And that ethnic minorities, political dissidents and others not in step with the autocratic regime in Beijing, not criminals, are forced to work 20 hour days to make our stuff.  Amelia Pang, author of ‘Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods’ makes us consider the amazing human toll that it takes to satisfy our desire to save a few bucks at high and low end retailers alike.  She also provides ways that we can work to end these abuses one consumer at a time.  

EP 453 Poverty in America is Poorly Understood

America loves to tell itself fables about many things.  For instance, the issue of poverty is often thought of as an issue of ‘them’ not ‘us’.  Yet over an adult lifetime, owing to divorce, job loss or health calamity, over half of us will experience poverty for a year or more.  We have so many other things wrong about poverty–its color, the reasons for it and whether as a society, we are helpless to fight it.  Going back to Lyndon Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty’ in the 1960’s we have told ourselves that it was a failure.  It wasn’t.  Without programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, for example, the poverty level of seniors in America, would skyrocket from present levels.  In their book ‘Poorly Understood: What America Gets Wrong About Poverty’, co-authors Mark Rank, Lawrence Eppard and Heather Bullock, correct our misconceptions one by one and in empircal and convincing fashion.  Mark Rank is our guest today and will provide insights that each of us should understand about poverty, the minimum wage debate and income in equality in 2021 America.

EP 452 Marijuana Laws Changing Across America

It may seem like marijuana laws across the country have been changing almost overnight, but according to our guest, Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, a group that has long sought these changes, it’s been about a fifty year process.  We are a long way from ‘Reefer Madness’ and Cheech and Chong, as we see red and blue states de-criminalize marijuana, provide dispensaries for medical marijuana and, in many cases, legalize its recreational use.  Much of this goes hand and hand with criminal justice reform as overly harsh punishments for use of marijuana are taken off the books.  Corresponding with that, many states are being to expunge the records of those who have been convicted in the past.  We talk to Paul about the impacts when states legalize pot as to driving safety, the black market and use by those who live there.  It’s high time we looked at this trend and its impact.