July 22, 2024

Economix: Podcast: I.B.M., Diamonds and Paying for Medicare

Like countries, companies rise and fall, and some of them rise again.

I.B.M., which dominated the business of mainframe computers, is perhaps the best contemporary example of such a phoenix-like giant. It celebrated its 100th birthday last week, although as Steve Lohr says in the new Weekend Business podcast, it hasn’t always been clear that I.B.M. would make it to this milestone.

After running into serious trouble in the 1990s, when its mainframe business was threatened by the rise of personal computers, I.B.M. has flourished by moving beyond the mainframe and building a business increasingly based on software and services. On the cover of Sunday Business, he writes about some lessons from I.B.M. that may apply to giant tech companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple.

The Graff diamond business is the focus of another cover article on Sunday, this one by Geraldine Fabrikant, which she discusses on the podcast with David Gillen. Laurence Graff, the business’s founder, specializes in the buying and selling of seriously big diamonds. It is a global enterprise, and like so many other businesses these days, it has been expanding rapidly in China.

In another podcast conversation, N. Gregory Mankiw, the Harvard economist, says that while political campaigns tend to polarize opinions on public issues, Democrats and Republicans actually have a fair amount in common when it comes to health care.

Here’s one example: While Republicans generally oppose taxing the rich to close the budget gap driven largely by soaring health care costs, some prominent members of the G.O.P. favor “means testing” Medicare. In the Economic View column in Sunday Business, Professor Mankiw says this means that wealthier people might be required to pay higher premiums. When you pay an extra $10 in premiums, he asks, is that really different from paying $10 extra in taxes?

In the Strategies column in Sunday Business, I point out that recent financial news has a very familiar ring to it. Headlines from May and June 2010 could just as easily appear today, with absolutely no changes required. (“Concerns Over Europe Flare Again, Pushing U.S. Shares Lower” is but one example.) As Mark Twain is often reputed to have said — although there’s no convincing evidence that he ever actually said it — “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.”

The Greek debt crisis, concerns over Federal Reserve policy, and fears that the economy is weakening have all rocked the markets lately. But as I point out in the podcast, the markets absorbed very similar news last year and managed to rise anyway.

You can find specific segments of the podcast at these junctures: I.B.M. (29:55); news roundup, and financial history that rhymes (20:41); diamonds (16:22); health policy (9:33); the week ahead (2:20).

As articles discussed in the podcast are published during the weekend, links will be added to this post.

You can download the program by subscribing from The New York Times’s podcast page or directly from iTunes.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=5555ddcec624c28473d20621e4564756

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