Mike: “I don’t want your money! Keep your money!” Ester. I can’t get that song out of my head—it’s stuck. It’s from 21 Chump Street, from the This American Life musical that just went up earlier this week.
Ester: That’s hilarious, MD. I haven’t listened to it yet but I’m highly susceptible to earworms so I’m sure that once I do I too will suffer from your malady.
Mike: So, it’s from their live show, and they have a video you can download if you want, and yes, I wanted it. The cost of it was $5, but they said that since the show was so expensive to make it’d be great if you could pay more. So I paid $20.
Ester: That’s great of you! Did you consider waiting to see how much you enjoyed the content before deciding how much to give them in exchange for it? I just signed up for Slate Plus, where you pay the site $50 a year or $5 a month to get upgraded content — podcasts without ads, for example — but that was after years and years of reading and listening to Slate content gratis. Their value had already been demonstrated.
Mike: I decided that $20 was a fair price to pay for something I listen to on a weekly basis and want to continue to support, so I paid it without waiting to see if I liked the video itself.
Ester: Right, that makes sense. You’re not paying for the video, after all; you’re rewarding them for their track record. I have done that too for TAL specifically. (I’m a radio dork.) But do you have other podcasts that you listen to and like and haven’t contributed to, even though they’ve asked? What’s your criteria for deciding which listening experiences to support?
Did you listen to last week's This American Life episode
about how acetaminophen kills about 150 Americans every year due to accidental overdoses? The story, among many other things, showed the long, difficult, and frustrating process of getting warning labels onto acetaminophen bottles. The story, which took two years to report, was done by an investigative unit at ProPublica. Today, The Atlantic
reports how much it cost to report the story: $750,000, which is an extraordinary amount of money dedicated to one story. That money went to pay: "reporters, news applications and web developers, editors, video production, social media and PR, travel, legal review, half of the public opinion poll etc." The cost of producing the This American Life episode was a separate matter. Was it worth it? Peter Osnos writes: "...what price do you suppose a parent with a young, feverish child might put on these disclosures?"
In Hale County, Alabama, 1 in 4 working-age adults is on disability. On the day government checks come in every month, banks stay open late, Main Street fills up with cars, and anybody looking to unload an old TV or armchair has a yard sale.
Sonny Ryan, a retired judge in town, didn’t hear disability cases in his courtroom. But the subject came up often. He described one exchange he had with a man who was on disability but looked healthy.
“Just out of curiosity, what is your disability?” the judge asked from the bench. “I have high blood pressure,” the man said. “So do I,” the judge said. “What else?” “I have diabetes.” “So do I.”
If you haven’t read Chana Joffe-Walt’s story about the number of Americans who are on disability in the U.S., it’s worth taking the time to read today (or listen to, if you’re a This American Life podcast subscriber). There are places in America where 1 in 4 working-age adults are in disability due to health issues like back pain and diabetes—25 percent of adults in Hale County, Alabama, for example, have been determined to be unable to work and are collecting disability checks from the government totaling up to about $13,000 a year, plus Medicare benefits. It’s not a lot of money. As Joffe-Walt points out: “Going on disability means, assuming you rely only on those disability payments, you will be poor for the rest of your life. That’s the deal. And it’s a deal 14 million Americans have signed up for.” And it’s also a deal we can’t afford: The Social Security Administration estimates that reserves in the disability insurance program are on track to run out in 2016. If you do listen to the story, take the time to read it as well—the charts by Planet Money’s Lam Thuy Vo are great.
I have a slight aversion to gambling for a number of personal reasons, but I will say that one of those reasons is that I was named after a certain family friend who lost everything he had because he had a gambling problem.