Marilyn Geewax

Marilyn Geewax is a senior editor, assigning and editing business radio stories. She also serves as the national economics correspondent for the NPR web site, and regularly discusses economic issues on NPR's mid-day show Here & Now.

Her work contributed to NPR's 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award for hard news for "The Foreclosure Nightmare." Geewax also worked on the foreclosure-crisis coverage that was recognized with a 2009 Heywood Broun Award.

Before joining NPR in 2008, Geewax served as the national economics correspondent for Cox Newspapers' Washington Bureau. Before that, she worked at Cox's flagship paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, first as a business reporter and then as a columnist and editorial board member. She got her start as a business reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal.

Over the years, she has filed news stories from China, Japan, South Africa and Europe. Recently, she headed to Europe to participate in the RIAS German/American Journalist Exchange Program.

Geewax was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, where she studied economics and international relations. She earned a master's degree at Georgetown University, focusing on international economic affairs, and has a bachelor's degree from The Ohio State University.

She is a member of the National Press Club's Board of Governors and serves on the Global Economic Reporting Initiative Committee for the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Most political analysts say that Congress and President Obama will eventually agree to extend the payroll tax cut into 2012 – even if it takes another month of arguing.

But what if Congress really can't get it done?

Economists are fairly unanimous in saying growth would be slowed — at least in the short term — if Congress were to fail to pass legislation to extend the tax holiday and include two other proposals to: 1) continue federal help for the long-term unemployed and 2) block a 27 percent Medicare pay cut for doctors.

For Americans saving for retirement, 2011 was another lackluster year, filled with lots of risks but few rewards.

Savers who tried to avoid risks by putting money into federally insured savings accounts earned almost no interest. The money just sat there, even as inflation ate away at its value, with consumer prices rising nearly 3.5 percent this year.

And for those who invested in a broad array of U.S. stocks, the results were — at best — mixed.

The country has been trying to recover from the Great Recession for three years. But the U.S. job market remains weak, leaving roughly 5 million workers unemployed for a year or more.

The Kaiser Family Foundation teamed with NPR to conduct a survey, seeking to describe the experiences of those long-term unemployed workers. Here are some highlights of the survey findings.

The long-term unemployed tended to be low-wage workers.

The economist known as "Dr. Doom" for his 2008 recession prediction says the world may be headed for another financial crisis.

New York University professor Nouriel Roubini said Wednesday that Europe's debt troubles are so profound that the continent is falling into a "recession that will get worse and worse."

And a deep recession likely will lead to another financial panic that could spread around the world — an outcome that will be " very painful," he said.

The 2008 financial crisis made it clear: Americans save too little, spend too much and borrow excessively, says Princeton professor Sheldon Garon. In Western Europe and East Asia, governments aggressively encourage people to save through special savings institutions and savings campaigns.

Garon has just released a new book, Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves. He discussed his findings with NPR:

This week, European leaders will huddle in intense meetings, trying to work out a comprehensive plan to solve crushing debt problems.

Higher stakes are hard to imagine.

If all goes well at a summit in Brussels, the political leaders will make an announcement Friday, spelling out their long-term commitment to a plan to loosen a choking tangle of debt troubles. If they can't agree on a plan, the EU debt crisis could lead to the kind of financial chaos that economists say surely would hurt the United States.

Shoppers stormed retail stores this past weekend, and now on Cyber Monday, many are clicking their way to more purchases.

"I am definitely a price-based shopper," said Sarah Kelly, a 28-year-old Washington, D.C., resident who bought a KitchenAid mixer Monday morning as a holiday gift. She also bought shoes, clothes and other presents after waking early to search for online coupons and shipping offers. "I only purchase if the shipping is free," she said.

As the congressional "supercommittee" runs out of time to reach a deficit-cutting deal, the word "sequestration" is being spoken more and more in Washington.

Depending upon the speaker's political views, the word can be spit out as a curse word, or intoned as a blessing. But love it or hate it, "sequestration" may turn out to be a word that dramatically changes the world's most powerful military, and reshapes domestic programs for public health, education, the environment and much more.

The congressional supercommittee — charged with developing a plan for cutting the nation's deficits by $1.2 trillion over 10 years — is days away from its Thanksgiving deadline.

But at this point, no deal is on the table, and pessimism is growing. Economists are worried: Failure to reach a deal would add yet another cloud of uncertainty to an already-dark outlook.

The supercommittee grew out of a heated fight in August in Congress over whether to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

As the debt crisis in Europe deepens, Americans may be feeling sorry for Germany.

They see that Germans, who generally work hard and spend carefully, are now being pushed to bail out their debt-ridden partners in the eurozone.

But there's another side to the story.

Turns out, sharing a common currency with a group of fiscal losers has its benefits. The German economy gained strength over the past two years in large part because the European debt crisis weakened the euro. That made German exports more attractive to customers around the world.

At this time five years ago, the white-hot U.S. housing market was starting to cool. Before long, it would slip into a deep freeze.

The thaw still hasn't come. The latest statistics show residential real estate prices are continuing to drop — a trend that could have a long-lasting impact on the net wealth of younger homeowners who bought property during the housing bubble.

Conservative activists in the Tea Party want Congress to cut government budget deficits. At the same time, liberal protesters in the Occupy Wall Street movement want lawmakers to reduce wealth inequality.

Both goals could be achieved by doing one thing: reducing Social Security payments to retirees, the wealthiest demographic group in the country.

The latest jobs report shows the U.S. economy is continuing to grow. But the pace is slow enough to suggest the holidays may not be very bright, especially for people seeking seasonal work.

Employers added a total of 80,000 jobs last month — about half the number needed to keep pace with population growth and begin pulling nearly 14 million job seekers back into the workplace.

When Columbus sailed west in the late 15th century, he launched a long and lucrative relationship between Europe and the Americas. Family ties, economic bonds and shared military goals continue to knit us together.

But as the European debt crisis has deepened, it has highlighted this early 21st century shift: The United States is becoming more of a Pacific Rim country and less of a North Atlantic partner.

This weekend, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet in Brussels with other European Union leaders. Their goal: to settle on a plan to pay the debts of struggling member nations.

Their meeting might go better if Alexander Hamilton's ghost could get a seat at the table.

Hamilton, one of the United States' Founding Fathers, was the fiscal genius who insisted that paying off debts of this union's member states would lead to economic greatness.

Speculators in the agricultural commodities markets are forcing grocery prices to rise too quickly and erratically, according to some top economists marking World Food Day on Sunday.

"Excessive financial speculation is contributing to increasing volatility and record food prices, exacerbating global hunger and poverty," wrote 461 economists, from more than 40 countries, in an open letter.

A few weeks ago, dismal economic reports seemed to be pointing to one conclusion: The economy was slipping into another recession. Investors fled the stock market, pundits predicted doom and political leaders pointed fingers, trying to fix blame for a faltering economy.

Despite concerns about Congress and the European debt crisis, most U.S business owners remain optimistic and expect growth to continue this year, the heads of both General Electric and FedEx said Thursday.

"There's still a lot of growth," GE CEO Jeff Immelt told about 600 executives attending a conference on middle-sized businesses. "It's a long, slow recovery...but it is getting better."

FedEx CEO Fred Smith agreed, saying that shipments of goods continue to reflect a growing economy. "We don't see a contraction," Smith said. "Just slow growth; steady as she goes."

Welcome to Fiscal Year 2012...such as it is.

On each Sept. 30, the nation wraps up its old budget, and on Oct. 1, it starts a fresh spending cycle. Or at least, that's what is supposed to happen.

But once again, Oct. 1 has come and gone, and the country still has no formal budget in place. Instead, Congress last week approved a stopgap funding bill to keep the government operating temporarily, just as it has done time and again since the 1970s.

This year, the annual budget fight has become especially muddled. That's because Congress and the White House are actually engaged in three different, but related, budget debates that are going on simultaneously.

Ultimately, the three battles involve just one question: How much money should government take in and spend? But the separate tracks involve different time horizons, and each problem has to be resolved in a different way.

Here is a fresh look at the three ongoing budget battles:

1. The Fiscal 2012 Budget

Background:

Three years ago this month, chaos ruled in financial markets.

Huge financial companies, such as Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG were stumbling, and government officials were scrambling to prevent a global financial meltdown. They threw together bailouts and pushed weak companies to merge with stronger ones.

The central bankers, Treasury officials and lawmakers eventually did manage to reassure investors enough to restore order in the financial system. However, the aftershocks of the crisis are still being felt today.

If enacted, President Obama's deficit-reduction plan would increase tax revenues by about $1.5 trillion over the coming decade. The wealthiest taxpayers could see significantly higher taxes, but the vast majority of Americans would pay less, at least through 2012.

These are some of the groups that could see higher tax bills starting in 2013:

The world's major central banks are so worried about Europe's debt crisis that they are moving to shore up eurozone banks. The troubled banks hold billions in sovereign debt of Greece, Spain, Portugal and other struggling countries.

Left unchecked, this crisis could spill over into the U.S. economy. Here's how Europe's troubles could migrate to the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Economists have been looking over the $447 billion job-creation package President Obama proposed to Congress Thursday night. Predictably, the reaction was mixed, with most economists giving it a thumbs up, and many conservatives turning thumbs down.

Here are a few of the economists' opinions that were blogged, tweeted, reported or emailed around.

In the 2012 election cycle, "Job No. 1" for any political candidate will be to lay out persuasive plans for generating more middle-income jobs.

In the more than two years since the Great Recession ended, job growth has been exceptionally slow. Today, 14 million U.S. workers cannot find jobs and the unemployment rate hovers at 9.1 percent. That's nearly twice the level that would reflect a healthy labor market.

For nearly two years, the Greek debt crisis has been causing financial and political turmoil in Europe.

Now, the widening European troubles are undermining U.S. stock prices and increasing the odds of a global recession.

The crushing debt loads incurred by Greece, as well as Italy, Ireland and others, have "badly rattled global financial markets," Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm, said Wednesday.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to release its latest update on the food stamp program. It's an important indicator of the nation's economic health — and the prognosis is not good.

Food stamp use is up 70 percent over the past four years and that trend is expected to continue.

It may seem hard to believe after such a tumultuous week on Wall Street, but economists do see a few bright spots.

For one, Americans with good credit scores can get some of the best housing bargains in decades. Freddie Mac's latest survey shows the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages has dropped to 4.32 percent. That's down to the half-century lows set during the fourth quarter of last year.

Pages