April 20, 2024

Economix: Podcast: Signs of Economic Weakness, Groupon’s Rise and Driverless Cars

Drawing an accurate picture of an entity as complex and changeable as the modern economy is no simple matter.

In the United States, it’s fairly clear that the growth rate of the economy slowed in the first quarter of the year. But what is the rate of growth now, and is the economy in danger of slipping further, perhaps even back into a recession, in the months ahead?

There are certainly some danger signs, and in the new Weekend Business podcast, I discuss some of them with David Leonhardt, a Times economics writer and a recent recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He says a great deal of evidence suggests that the economy is weakening, yet officials in Washington do not seem to have taken much notice.

Meanwhile, in a separate conversation with Phyllis Korkki, I point out that the bond market does not seem to mind that the United States is bumping up against its debt ceiling. The Treasury Department has taken emergency measures to buy some time, but it estimates that the United States will default on its debt if Congress doesn’t raise the statutory limit by Aug. 2.

Despite this and other problems, the rally in United States Treasuries continues. As I write in the Strategies column in Sunday Business, compared with the rest of the world, the United States appears to many bond investors to be a very stable place to put their money. Whether that will continue, of course, remains to be seen.

The ability of the United States and other societies to innovate rapidly may depend on a rethinking of our attitudes toward technology, according to Tyler Cowen, the George Mason University economist. In a separate conversation in the podcast, drawing on arguments he makes in the Economic View column in Sunday Business, Mr. Cowen cites driverless cars as an example of an innovation for which our legal system is not yet ready.

Countless laws and regulations impede the testing of these vehicles on public roads, making it difficult to assess whether they will be able to speed traffic, cut down on pollution and energy waste, and save lives. Removing barriers to technological development ought to be a public preoccupation, he said, yet there is still relatively little debate about it.

And in another podcast conversation, David Streitfeld tells Phyllis Korkki of the rapid rise of Groupon, the marketing company that distributes discount offers online. Groupon is now estimated to be worth billions of dollars, an assessment that reflects the fascination — some say mania — that many investors have for hot Web companies and social networks. Mr. Streitfeld explains how Groupon works, in an article on the cover of Sunday Business.

You can find specific segments of the podcast at these junctures:

David Leonhardt: 29:40

News: 21:04

David Streitfeld: 18:31

Tyler Cowen: 12:12

Jeff on bonds: 6:05

The Week Ahead: 1:56

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

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=7e0dcc834c61d67aa0ec66ff2655ce07

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