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Planet Money
Description

Wanna see a trick? Give us any topic and we can tie it back to the economy. At Planet Money, we explore the forces that shape our lives and bring you along for the ride. Don't just understand the economy – understand the world.

Wanna go deeper? Subscribe to Planet Money+ and get sponsor-free episodes of Planet Money, The Indicator, and Planet Money Summer School. Plus access to bonus content. It's a new way to support the show you love. Learn more at plus.npr.org/planetmoney

Episodes
  • 2024 / 6 / 14
    What's with all the tiny soda cans? And other grocery store mysteries, solved.

    There's a behind the scenes industry that helps big brands decide questions like: How big should a bag of chips be? What's the right size for a bottle of shampoo? And yes, also: When should a company do a...

  • 2024 / 6 / 12
    Bringing a tariff to a graphite fight

    Graphite is sort of the one-hit wonder of minerals. And that hit? Pencils. Everyone loves to talk about pencils when it comes to graphite. If graphite were to perform a concert, they'd close out the show with...

  • 2024 / 6 / 7
    How much national debt is too much?

    Most economic textbooks will tell you that there can be real dangers in running up a big national debt. A major concern is how the debt you add now could slow down economic growth in the future. Economists...

  • 2024 / 6 / 5
    The history of light (classic)

    For thousands of years, getting light was a huge hassle. You had to make candles from scratch. This is not as romantic as it sounds. You had to get a cow, raise the cow, feed the cow, kill the cow, get the...

  • 2024 / 5 / 31
    How the FBI's fake cell phone company put criminals into real jail cells

    There is a constant arms race between law enforcement and criminals, especially when it comes to technology. For years, law enforcement has been frustrated with encrypted messaging apps, like Signal and...

  • 2024 / 5 / 29
    So you've been scammed, now what?

    We are living in a kind of golden age for online fraudsters. As the number of apps and services for storing and sending money has exploded – so too have the schemes that bad actors have cooked up to steal...

  • 2024 / 5 / 24
    The junkyard economist

    On today's episode, we ride through the streets of San Francisco with a long-time junkman, Jon Rolston. Jon has spent the last two decades clearing out houses and offices of their junk. He's found all sorts...

  • 2024 / 5 / 22
    Anatomy of a layoff

    By one estimate, 40 percent of American workers get laid off at least once in their careers. And when that happens, companies will often say, "It's not personal. It has nothing to do with you or your...

  • 2024 / 5 / 17
    The hack that almost broke the internet

    Last month, the world narrowly avoided a cyberattack of stunning ambition. The targets were some of the most important computers on the planet. Computers that power the internet. Computers used by banks and...

  • 2024 / 5 / 15
    Why Gold? (Classic)

    In the past few months, the price of gold has gone way up – even hitting a new high last month at just over $2,400 per troy ounce. Gold has long had a shiny quality to it, literally and in the marketplace....

  • 2024 / 5 / 10
    Zombie mortgages are coming back to life

    Karen MacDonough of Quincy, Mass., was enjoying her tea one morning in the dining room when she sees something odd outside of her window: A group of people gathering on her lawn. A man with a clipboard tells...

  • 2024 / 5 / 8
    Inside video game economics (Two Indicators)

    Why do video game workers offer labor at a discount? How can you design a video game for blind and sighted players? Does that design have lessons for other industries?These and other questions about the...

  • 2024 / 5 / 3
    The birth of the modern consumer movement

    Today on the show, the story of the modern consumer movement in the U.S. and the person who inspired it: Ralph Nader. How Ralph Nader's battle in the 1960s set the stage for decades of regulation and sparked...

  • 2024 / 5 / 1
    Hire Power (Update)

    (Note: This episode originally ran in 2021.)Millions of American workers in all sorts of industries have signed some form of noncompete agreement. Their pervasiveness has led to situations where workers...

  • 2024 / 4 / 26
    The case of the stolen masks

    About thirty years ago, Yagya Kumar Pradhan woke up to the news that the temple he and his clan used had been broken into. The temple had been ransacked. And someone had stolen two holy Bhairav masks. Yagya...

  • 2024 / 4 / 24
    How unions are stopped before they start (Update)

    (Note: This episode originally ran in 2023.)Union membership in the U.S. has been declining for decades. But, in 2022, support for unions among Americans was the highest it's been in decades. This dissonance...

  • 2024 / 4 / 19
    FTX and the Serengeti of bankruptcy

    For the last year and a half, the story of FTX has focused largely on the crimes and punishment of Sam Bankman-Fried. But in the background, the actual customers he left behind have been caught in a financial...

  • 2024 / 4 / 17
    Grocery prices, credit card debit, and your 401K (Two Indicators)

    What's going on with consumers? This is one of the trickiest puzzles of this weird economic moment we're in. We've covered a version of this before under the term "vibecession," but it's safe to say, the...

  • 2024 / 4 / 17
    Grocery prices, credit card debt, and your 401K (Two Indicators)

    What's going on with consumers? This is one of the trickiest puzzles of this weird economic moment we're in. We've covered a version of this before under the term "vibecession," but it's safe to say, the...

  • 2024 / 4 / 12
    TikTok made me deduct it

    TikTok, and other apps like it, are filled with financial advice. Some of it is reliable, some... less so. There are videos about running a business, having a side hustle, generating passive income. And also,...

  • 2024 / 4 / 10
    How much does this cow weigh? (Classic)

    This episode originally ran in 2015.About one hundred years ago, a scientist and statistician named Francis Galston came upon an opportunity to test how well regular people were at answering a question. He...

  • 2024 / 4 / 5
    Japan's Lost Decade

    Last month, Japan's central bank raised interest rates for the first time in 17 years. That is a really big deal, because it means that one of the spookiest stories in modern economics might finally have an...

  • 2024 / 4 / 5
    Japan's Lost Decades

    Last month, Japan's central bank raised interest rates for the first time in 17 years. That is a really big deal, because it means that one of the spookiest stories in modern economics might finally have an...

  • 2024 / 4 / 3
    The real estate industry on trial

    In 2019, Mike Ketchmark got a call. Mike is a lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri, and his friend, Brandon Boulware, another lawyer, was calling about a case he wanted Mike to get involved with. Mike was an...

  • 2024 / 3 / 29
    How much of your tax dollars are going to Israel and Ukraine

    There's been a lot of disagreement in Congress and in the country about whether the U.S. should continue to financially support the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. Some taxpayers don't think the U.S. should give...

  • 2024 / 3 / 27
    The trouble with Table 101 (Update)

    (Note: This episode originally ran in 2020.)In the restaurant game, you need to make the most of every table every minute you are open. And you need to make sure your guests are happy, comfortable, and want...

  • 2024 / 3 / 22
    What is Temu?

    It is rare that a new e-commerce company has such a meteoric rise as Temu. The company, which launched in the fall of 2022, has been flooding the American advertising market, buying much of the inventory of...

  • 2024 / 3 / 20
    How Big Steel in the U.S. fell

    Steel manufacturing was at one point the most important industry in the United States. It was one of the biggest employers, a driver of economic growth, and it shaped our national security. Cars, weapons,...

  • 2024 / 3 / 15
    The billion dollar war behind U.S. rum

    When you buy a bottle of rum in the United States, by law nearly all the federal taxes on that rum must be sent to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's an unusual system that Congress designed...

  • 2024 / 3 / 13
    Wind boom, wind bust (Two Windicators)

    The wind power business is a bit contradictory right now. It's showing signs of boom and bust seemingly all at once. The story of wind energy markets in two acts today. First, the Gulf of Mexico saw its...

  • 2024 / 3 / 8
    On the Oscars campaign trail

    When you sit down to watch the Oscars, what you are really watching is the final battle in a months-long war of financial engineering and campaign strategy. Because in Hollywood, every year is an election...

  • 2024 / 3 / 6
    Is dynamic pricing coming to a supermarket near you?

    Dynamic pricing is an increasingly common phenomenon: You can see it when Uber prices surge during rainy weather, or when you're booking a flight at the last minute or buying tickets to your favorite...

  • 2024 / 3 / 1
    Shopping for parental benefits around the world

    It is so expensive to have a kid in the United States. The U.S. is one of just a handful of countries worldwide with no federal paid parental leave; it offers functionally no public childcare (and private...

  • 2024 / 2 / 29
    The secret world behind school fundraisers

    Fundraising is a staple of the school experience in the U.S. There's an assembly showing off all the prizes kids can win by selling enough wrapping paper or chocolate to their neighbors. But it's pretty...

  • 2024 / 2 / 23
    A controversial idea at the heart of Bidenomics

    Réka Juhász is a professor of economics at the University of British Columbia, and she studies what's known as industrial policy. That's the general term for whenever the government tries to promote specific...

  • 2024 / 2 / 21
    Two Indicators: Economics of the defense industry

    The Department of Defense's proposed budget for 2024 is $842 billion. That is about 3.5% of the U.S.'s GDP. The military buys everything from pens and paper clips to fighter jets and submarines. But the...

  • 2024 / 2 / 16
    How the Navy came to protect cargo ships

    The Genco Picardy is not an American ship. It doesn't pay U.S. taxes, none of its crew are U.S. nationals, and when it sailed through the Red Sea last month, it wasn't carrying cargo to or from an American...

  • 2024 / 2 / 15
    It's giving ... Valentines

    L, is for the way you Listen to Planet MoneyO, is for the Only podcast I hearV, is Very, very, fiduciaryE, is for... ECONOMICS! Every February, we dedicate a show to the things in our lives that have been...

  • 2024 / 2 / 9
    A lawsuit for your broken heart

    Keith King was upset when his marriage ended. His wife had cheated, and his family broke apart. And that's when he learned about a very old type of lawsuit, called a heart balm tort. A lawsuit that would let...

  • 2024 / 2 / 7
    Morally questionable, economically efficient

    There are tons of markets that don't exist because people just don't want to allow a market – for whatever reason, people feel icky about putting a price on something. For example: Surrogacy is a legal...

  • 2024 / 2 / 2
    Groundhog Day 2024: Trademark, bankruptcy, and the dollar that failed

    It's Groundhog Day, and the eyes of the nation have turned to a small town in western Pennsylvania. And, just like last year, all anyone can talk about is Punxsutawney Phil! It is impossible to find a news...

  • 2024 / 1 / 31
    The Chicken Tax (Classic)

    Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.German families in the 60s loved tasty, cheap American-raised chicken that was suddenly coming in after the war. And Americans were loving fun, cheap Volkswagen...

  • 2024 / 1 / 29
    Bonus: Janet Yellen on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

    Our friends at NPR's news quiz Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! recently had a very Planet Money guest on their show: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. They asked her about smoking pot, her extremely high scores in...

  • 2024 / 1 / 27
    Rescues at sea, and how to make a fortune

    At around 1 a.m. on the morning of November 15, 1994, Captain Prentice "Skip" Strong III woke to a distress call. Skip was the new captain of an oil tanker called the Cherry Valley. He and his crew had been...

  • 2024 / 1 / 24
    Hear us out: We ban left turns and other big ideas

    On today's episode, we have three big economic ideas for your consideration – ideas that could potentially improve the economy and make us more efficient. First, what if we ban left turns on roads? Then, what...

  • 2024 / 1 / 20
    Econ Battle Zone: Disinflation Confrontation

    After very high inflation, the United States is finally feeling some relief in the form of "disinflation." But, why exactly has inflation slowed down?Three Planet Money hosts try to answer that question while...

  • 2024 / 1 / 17
    Mid-East conflict escalation, two indicators

    On today's show, we look at two indicators of the economic disruptions of the war in Gaza and try to trace how far they will reach. We start in the Red Sea, a crucial link in the global supply chain...

  • 2024 / 1 / 13
    The Maine Potato War of 1976

    When you think of a potato, one state probably comes to mind: Idaho. But for much of American history, Maine was home to the nation's largest potato crop. That status had changed by the 1970s, with the West...

  • 2024 / 1 / 10
    The Universal Basic Income experiment in Kenya

    There's this fundamental question in economics that has proven really hard to answer: What's a good way to help people out of poverty? The old-school way was to fund programs that would support very...

  • 2024 / 1 / 5
    The case of the serial sinking Spanish ships

    Picture the Pacific Ocean of the 16th century. Spanish Galleons sail the wide open seas, carrying precious cargo like silver, porcelain, and textiles. The waters are dangerous; ship logs show concerns over...