Business & Economy

Container ships sit moored at the Port of Oakland on February 11, 2015 in Oakland, California.

If you want to understand the complex reality of capitalism, there’s no better microcosm than the system that moves containers around the world. That’s according to Fusion’s Alexis Madrigal, whose new radio documentary “Containers” examines the role Bay Area container shipping played in the development of our current economic order. The eight part series brings listeners through the world of ships and sailors, technology and tugboats, warehouses and cranes, and traces the roots of our global economic system to the Port of Oakland, right at the foot of the Bay Bridge. Madrigal joins Forum to discuss “Containers” and how the Bay Area shipping industry helped shape global capitalism.

‘The Containers’ Series (Soundcloud.com)

Listen to the First Episode:

Sebastian Mallaby poses for a portrait.

With Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and President Trump’s vow to renegotiate trade deals, the world economy has entered a new period of transformation and uncertainty. Sebastian Mallaby, journalist and senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, says “Europe is in deep trouble.” Mallaby joins us to talk about the future of Europe, globalization and his new book about Alan Greenspan.


Despite a significant reduction in the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty in recent decades, billions still lack access to food, shelter, clean water and other basic necessities. And because of this, says investor and UC regent Richard Blum, people of means need to do more to relieve those struggling in developing countries. Blum joins us to discuss his new book, “An Accident of Geography: Compassion, Innovation and the Fight Against Poverty,” which tells the stories of dozens of successful approaches used to advance global development and alleviate extreme poverty.

Accident of Geography Blog

Twitter logo

Judging by its popularity with presidential candidates, pop stars and journalists, Twitter seems to be alive and well. But according to a recent Bloomberg report, the San Francisco-based company is preparing to layoff several hundred employees as soon as this week after failing to find a buyer. In this hour of Forum, we’ll discuss the future of the company, which is set to release its earnings on Thursday morning.

Iris Bohnet

Behavioral economist Iris Bohnet says the key to overcoming gender bias is to focus on organizations and not individuals. She suggests companies adopt strategies like blind auditions and data-driven analysis to prevent unconscious bias from seeping into decision making. Bohnet joins us to talk about her book “What Works: Gender Equality by Design.”

Robert Reich

In his new book “Saving Capitalism” former Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich lays out the many ways he thinks the free market has failed America, including creating a “working poor” and a “non-working rich.” The solution, Reich suggests, is to reframe economic policy so that it looks more after the interests of the individual than those of the corporation.

An American Express card

A New York Times investigation claims that corporations like American Express are effectively banning customers from filing class action lawsuits, thanks to arbitration clauses buried deep in their contracts. Companies often prefer arbitration because it is typically cheaper than litigation. However, consumer advocates say class action lawsuits are a key tool in holding corporations accountable. We look at the Times’ investigation and discuss the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s recent announcement that it may try eliminating lawsuit waivers in consumer contracts.

An Uber smartphone app in use.

In a decision that could threaten Uber’s business model, the California Labor Commission has ruled that one of the company’s drivers qualifies as an employee. Uber drivers are usually treated as third-party contractors, who use their own cars to provide rides to passengers found through the company’s mobile phone app. The commission’s ruling means that Uber may have to provide benefits to its drivers and comply with other employer regulations. We’ll discuss the decision and its implications for the so-called sharing economy.

Honeybees in Florida

Seven million acres of bee habitat will be restored over the next five years in an effort by the federal government to reverse the decline of the United States’ honeybee population. The matter is urgent: beekeepers lost more than 40 percent of their colonies in 2014 according to a federal report. The plan also calls for investing more money in research. But some environmentalists say bolder action is needed, including restrictions on pesticides that studies have linked to honeybee colony collapse disorder. We’ll discuss President Obama’s plan as well as the impact the drought is having on the state’s bees.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk has achieved success across multiple industries, with Tesla Motors, Solar City and SpaceX all under his leadership. A new biography by Bloomberg reporter Ashlee Vance digs into the stories behind Musk’s success, the CEO’s desire to colonize Mars and the respect and fear his employees reportedly have for him. Vance joins us to talk about his book, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.”

A U.S. Airways Airbus A320 takes off.

Confirming what many air travelers already know, more planes were late, more bags were lost and more passengers were bumped from flights in 2014 than the previous year. That’s according to the annual Airline Quality Rating report released this week, which also found that passenger complaints across all airlines were up by 22 percent. We discuss the report, survey recent trends in the industry and get tips on how to find the best fares and flights.

Websites Mentioned On Air by George Hobica

Google Flights

Google Explore Better if you have flexible travel dates

Kayak.com Must sign in with email address to get full access to website

Skyscanner.com Recommended for European travel

Momondo.com Recommended for European travel

The Airline Quality Rating Report

A job seeker waits to be interviewed during a job fair

Critics may need to revisit California’s reputation as the “job killer” state. New numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that California added more jobs between January 2014 and January 2015 than any other state. But California still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. We’ll look at what’s working — and what’s not — as far as job creation in the Golden State.

UPS is already using telematics to track employees.

New wearable devices have been allowing people to track their personal data at all times. Now, it’s also making it easier for employers to collect information on their workers’ productivity. This field of data collection, known as telematics, is projected to be an over $27 billion industry by 2018, and companies like UPS and Coca-Cola are already using it. We look at what the expanding industry means for workplace productivity and for workers’ privacy.

Employees work at the Facebook main campus

Every year the U.S. government issues up to 85,000 H-1B visas to businesses that want to hire highly skilled, temporary workers from foreign countries. Many of these workers end up in Silicon Valley’s tech industry. The positions are coveted, but visa holders often live in uncertainty; if their job is eliminated, deportation may quickly follow. As part of KQED’s Boomtown series, examining the Bay Area’s surging economy, we talk with a panel of foreign workers about living and working with an H-1B.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor

KQED Public Media for Northern CA