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Planet Money

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

Tracks

Why is everyone talking about Musk's money?
We've lived amongst Elon Musk headlines for so long now that it's easy to forget just how much he sounds like a sci-fi character. He runs a space company and wants to colonize mars. He also runs a company that just implanted a computer chip into a human brain. And he believes there's a pretty high probability everything is a simulation and we are living inside of it.But the latest Elon Musk headline-grabbing drama is less something out of sci-fi, and more something pulled from HBO's "Succession."Elon Musk helped take Tesla from the brink of bankruptcy to one of the biggest companies in the world. And his compensation for that was an unprecedentedly large pay package that turned him into the richest person on Earth. But a judge made a decision about that pay package that set off a chain of events resulting in quite possibly the most expensive, highest stakes vote in publicly traded company history.The ensuing battle over Musk's compensation is not just another wild Elon tale. It's a lesson in how to motivate the people running the biggest companies that – like it or not – are shaping our world. It's a classic economics problem with a very 2024 twist.Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
28:24 6/19/24
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 little shrinkflation? From Cookie Monster to President Biden, everybody is complaining about shrinkflation these days. But when we asked the packaging and pricing experts, they told us that shrinkflation is just one move in a much larger, much weirder 4-D chess game. The name of that game is "price pack architecture." This is the idea that you shouldn't just sell your product in one or two sizes. You should sell your product in a whole range of different sizes, at a whole range of different price points. Over the past 15 years, price pack architecture has completely changed how products are marketed and sold in the United States. Today, we are going on a shopping cart ride-along with one of those price pack architects. She's going to pull back the curtain and show us why some products are getting larger while others are getting smaller, and tell us about the adorable little soda can that started it all.By the end of the episode, you'll never look at a grocery store the same way again. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
24:22 6/14/24
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 "pencils," and everyone would clap and cheer. But true fans of graphite would be shouting out "batteries!" Because graphite is a key ingredient in another important thing that we all use in our everyday lives: lithium ion batteries.Almost all of the battery-ready graphite in the world comes from one place: China. That's actually true of lots of the materials that go into batteries, like processed lithium and processed cobalt. Which is why it was such a big deal when, earlier this year, President Biden announced a tariff package that will make a bunch of Chinese imports more expensive. Included in this package are some tariffs on Chinese graphite. He wants to create a new battery future—one that doesn't rely so much on China. In this episode, we get down on the ground to look at this big supply chain story through the lens of one critical mineral. And we visit a small town that realizes that it might be the perfect place to create an American graphite industry. And we find that declaring a new battery future is one thing, but making it happen is another thing entirely. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
25:38 6/12/24
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 have not been able to nail down how much debt a country can safely take on. But they have tried.Back in 2010, two economists took a look at 20 countries over the course of decades, and sometimes centuries, and came back with a number. Their analysis suggested that economic growth slowed significantly once national debt passed 90% of annual GDP... and that is when the fight over debt and growth really took off.On today's episode: a deep dive on what we know, and what we don't know, about when exactly national debt becomes a problem. We will also try to figure out how worried we should be about the United States' current debt total of 26 trillion dollars.This episode was hosted by Keith Romer and Nick Fountain. It was produced by Willa Rubin and edited by Molly Messick. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez with help from Sofia Shchukina and engineered by Cena Loffredo. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
26:50 6/7/24
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 fat out of the cow, cook the fat, dip wicks into the fat. All that--for not very much light. Now, if we want to light a whole room, we just flip a switch.The history of light explains why the world today is the way it is. It explains why we aren't all subsistence farmers, and why we can afford to have artists and massage therapists and plumbers. (And, yes, people who make podcasts about the history of light.) The history of light is the history of economic growth--of things getting faster, cheaper, and more efficient.On today's show: How we got from dim little candles made out of cow fat, to as much light as we want at the flick of a switch.Today's show was hosted by Jacob Goldstein and David Kestenbaum. It was originally produced by Caitlin Kenney and Damiano Marchetti. Today's rerun was produced by James Sneed, and edited by Jenny Lawton. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Engineering by Valentina Rodríguez Sánchez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
21:23 6/5/24
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 Telegram. And law enforcement has been even more frustrated by encrypted phones, specifically designed to thwart authorities from snooping. But in 2018, in a story that seems like it's straight out of a spy novel, the FBI was approached with an offer: Would they like to get into the encrypted cell phone business? What if they could convince criminals to use their phones to plan and document their crimes — all while the FBI was secretly watching? It could be an unprecedented peek into the criminal underground. To pull off this massive sting operation, the FBI needed to design a cell phone that criminals wanted to use and adopt. Their mission: to make a tech platform for the criminal underworld. And in many ways, the FBI's journey was filled with all the hallmarks of many Silicon Valley start-ups. On this show, we talk with journalist Joseph Cox, who wrote a new book about the FBI's cell phone business, called Dark Wire. And we hear from the federal prosecutor who became an unlikely tech company founder. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
23:59 5/31/24
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 that money. Every year, we hear more and more stories of financial heartbreak. What you don't often hear about is what happens after the scam?On today's show, we follow one woman who was scammed out of over $800,000 on her quest to get her money back. That journey takes her from the halls of the FBI to the fraud departments of some of the country's biggest financial institutions. And it offers a window into how the systems that are theoretically designed to help the victims of financial cybercrime actually work in practice. This episode was hosted by Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi and Jeff Guo. It was produced by Willa Rubin and edited by Keith Romer. It was engineered by Neal Rauch and fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
27:03 5/29/24
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 of items: a life-time supply of toilet paper, gold rings, $20,000 in cash. Over the years, he's developed a keen eye for what has value and what might sell. He's become a kind of trash savant.As we ride with Jon, he shows us the whole ecosystem of how our reusable trash gets dealt with — from metals (ferrous and non-ferrous) to tires to cardboard. And we see how our junk can sometimes get a second chance at life. If you can understand the junk market like Jon, you can understand dozens of trends in our economy. This episode was hosted by Erika Beras and James Sneed, and produced by James Sneed with help from Emma Peaslee. It was edited by Jess Jiang. Engineering by Josh Newell. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney. Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
25:36 5/24/24
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 performance. We're just changing priorities, making a strategic shift." It's like the business version of: "It's not you, it's me." And just like a breakup, it feels terrible. This happened to a man we're calling V, who was working at the same company as his husband when he got laid off. And for V, the experience felt shocking. It left him and his husband with a lot of unresolved questions. On today's show, the story of that layoff. And we help that couple get some answers by taking their questions to an HR expert who gives the low-down on lay-offs. This story is adapted from a 3-part series on layoffs produced by Yowei Shaw for her show, Proxy. The layoff series was edited by John DeLore with research and reporting help from Kim Nederveen Pieterse. You can listen to the full layoff series from Proxy wherever you get your podcasts, and you can support the show and find out more by going to patreon.com/proxypodcast. And you can check out her original song "Gold Star" on Spotify and YouTube. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
27:42 5/22/24
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 airlines and even the military. What these computers had in common was that they all relied on open source software. A strange fact about modern life is that most of the computers responsible for it are running open source software. That is, software mostly written by unpaid, sometimes even anonymous volunteers. Some crucial open source programs are managed by just a single overworked programmer. And as the world learned last month, these programs can become attractive targets for hackers. In this case, the hackers had infiltrated a popular open source program called XZ. Slowly, over the course of two years, they transformed XZ into a secret backdoor. And if they hadn't been caught, they could have taken control of large swaths of the internet. On today's show, we get the story behind the XZ hack and what made it possible. How the hackers took advantage of the strange way we make modern software. And what that tells us about the economics of one of the most important industries in the world. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
25:12 5/17/24
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. And we wondered, why is that? Today on the show, we revisit a Planet Money classic episode: Why Gold? Jacob Goldstein and David Kestenbaum will peruse the periodic table of the elements with one goal in mind: to learn which element would really make the best money.This classic Planet Money episode was part of the Planet Money Buys Gold series, and was hosted by Jacob Goldstein and David Kestenbaum.This rerun was hosted by Sally Helm, produced by Willa Rubin, edited by Keith Romer, and fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is our executive producer.Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Always free at these links: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, the NPR app or anywhere you get podcasts.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
18:51 5/15/24
Zombie mortgages are coming back to life
Karen McDonough of Quincy, Mass., was enjoying her tea one morning in the dining room when she saw something odd outside her window: a group of people gathering on her lawn. A man with a clipboard told her that her home no longer belonged to her. It didn't matter that she'd been paying her mortgage for 17 years and was current on it. She was a nurse with a good job and had raised her kids there. But this was a foreclosure sale, and she was going to lose her house. McDonough had fallen victim to what's called a zombie second mortgage. Homeowners think these loans are long dead. But then the loans come back to life because they get bought up, sometimes for pennies on the dollar, by debt collectors that then move to collect and foreclose on people's homes. On today's episode: An NPR investigation reveals the practice to be widespread. Also, what are zombie mortgages? Is all this legal? And is there any way for homeowners to fight the zombies? You can read more about zombie second mortgages online at: npr.org/zombie Correction: An earlier version of this episode description misspelled Karen McDonough's last name as MacDonough.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
30:55 5/10/24
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 business of video games answered in todays episode. The Indicator just wrapped a weeklong series decoding the economics of the video game industry, we're excerpting some highlights. First, we meet some of the workers who are struggling with the heavy demands placed on them in their booming industry, and how they are fighting back. Then, we check in on how game developers are pulling in new audiences by creatively designing for people who couldn't always play. How has accessibility become an increasingly important priority for game developers? And, how can more players join in the fun?You can hear the rest of our weeklong series on the gaming industry at this link, or wherever you get your podcasts. This episode was hosted by Wailin Wong, Darian Woods, and Adrian Ma. Corey Bridges produced this episode with help from James Sneed. It was edited by Kate Concannon, fact-checked by Sierra Juarez, and engineered by Robert Rodriguez with help from Valentina Rodríguez Sánchez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
18:51 5/8/24
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 a debate in the U.S. about how much regulation is the right amount and how much is too much. This episode was made in collaboration with NPR's Throughline. For more about Ralph Nader and safety regulations, listen to their original episode, "Ralph Nader, Consumer Crusader."This Planet Money episode was produced by Emma Peaslee and edited by Jess Jiang. The Throughline episode was produced by Rund Abdelfatah, Ramtin Arablouei, Lawrence Wu, Julie Caine, Anya Steinberg, Casey Miner, Cristina Kim, Devin Katayama, Peter Balonon-Rosen, Irene Noguchi, and fact-checking by Kevin Volkl. The episode was mixed by Josh Newell.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
20:40 5/3/24
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 looking to change jobs can be locked out of their fields.On today's episode: how one man tried to end noncompete contracts in his home state of Hawaii. And we update that story with news of a recent ruling from the Federal Trade Commission that could ban most noncompete agreements nationwide.This episode was hosted by Erika Beras and Amanda Aronczyk. The original piece was produced by Dave Blanchard, edited by Ebony Reed, and engineered by Isaac Rodrigues. The update was reported and produced by Willa Rubin. It was edited by Keith Romer, fact-checked by Sierra Juarez, and engineered by Josephine Nyounai.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
22:57 5/1/24
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 says they had been in his family for more than five hundred years – since the 16th century. Yagya is a kind of Hindu priest for his clan. And he says, these Bhairav masks were very holy. People made offerings to them during Dashaun, a festival held in the fall. Yagya thought the masks were gone for good. He didn't realize... they were hiding in plain sight. On today's show: The story of a group of amateur art detectives who use modern tools, subterfuge, and the power of the law to return stolen artifacts to their rightful owners. And we dive into the world of high-end auctions and art museums to ask: Can the art world survive the legacy of cultural theft? Clarification: This episode has been updated to clarify that the reason the Rubin Museum is shuttering its building is not directly linked to repatriation. This episode was hosted by Erika Beras and Nick Fountain. It was produced by James Sneed, edited by Jess Jiang, fact-checked by Sierra Juarez, and engineered by Cena Loffredo. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
18:56 4/26/24
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 is due, in part, to the difficulties of one important phase in the life cycle of a union: setting up a union in the first place. One place where that has been particularly clear is at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.Back in 2008, Volkswagen announced that they would be setting up production in the United States after a 20-year absence. They planned to build a new auto manufacturing plant in Chattanooga. Volkswagen has plants all over the world, all of which have some kind of worker representation, and the company said that it wanted that for Chattanooga too. So, the United Auto Workers, the union that traditionally represents auto workers, thought they would be able to successfully unionize this plant. They were wrong.In this episode, we tell the story of the UAW's 10-year fight to unionize the Chattanooga plant. And, what other unions can learn from how badly that fight went for labor. This episode was hosted by Amanda Aronczyk and Nick Fountain. It was produced by Willa Rubin. It was engineered by Josephine Nyounai, fact-checked by Sierra Juarez, and edited by Keith Romer. Alex Goldmark is our executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
32:58 4/24/24
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 feeding frenzy over the remains of the company. On today's show, we do a deep dive into the anatomy of the FTX bankruptcy. We meet the vulture investors who make markets out of risky debt, and hear how customers fare in the secretive world of bankruptcy claims trading. This episode was hosted by Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi and Amanda Aronczyk. It was produced by James Sneed and Sam Yellowhorse Kesler. It was edited by Jess Jiang, and fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. It was engineered by Cena Loffredo. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
25:27 4/19/24
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 struggle is in fact real. It is not just in our heads. Sure, sure, some data is looking great. But not all of it. What's interesting, is exactly why the bad feels so much worse than the good feels good. Today on the show, we look into a few theories on why feelings are just not matching up with data. We'll break down some numbers and how to think about them. Then we look at grocery prices in particular, and an effort to combat unfair pricing using a mostly forgotten 1930's law. Will it actually help? Today's episode is adapted from episodes for Planet Money's daily show, The Indicator. Subscribe here. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
17:41 4/17/24
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, there are a lot of tips and tricks, many of them questionable, about saving on your taxes. On this show, we run some of the greatest hits of TikTok tax advice by some bonafide tax experts. We'll talk about whether you can use gambling losses to reduce your tax bill, whether your pets qualify you for tax deductions – and we'll fact check the claim that all rich people own expensive Mercedes G-Wagons... for tax purposes. Along the way, we'll drill down on the concepts like taxable income and the standard deduction. And we'll ask why so many videos on TikTok suggest that you (fraudulently) categorize personal expenses as business expenses. Sometimes with a literal wink and a nod. This episode was hosted by Nick Fountain. It was produced by Emma Peaslee with help from Willa Rubin, who also fact-checked this episode. It was edited by Molly Messick and engineered by Cena Loffredo. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's Executive Producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney. Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
20:19 4/12/24
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 was at a fair where lots of people were guessing the weight of an ox, so he decided to take the average of all their guesses and compare it to the correct answer.What he found shocked him. The average of their guesses was almost exactly accurate. The crowd was off by just one pound.This eerie phenomenon—this idea that the crowd is right—drives everything from the stock market to the price of orange juice.So, we decided to test it for ourselves. We asked Planet Money listeners to guess the weight of a cow.Spoiler: You can see the results here.This episode was hosted by David Kestenbaum and Jacob Goldstein. It was produced by Nadia Wilson and edited by Bryant Urstadt. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
17:37 4/10/24
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 ending. Back in the 1980s, Japan performed something of an economic miracle. It transformed itself into the number two economy in the world. From Walkmans to Toyotas, the U.S. was awash in Japanese imports. And Japanese companies went on a spending spree. Sony bought up Columbia Pictures. Mitsubishi became the new majority owners of Rockefeller Center. But in the early 1990s, it all came to a sudden halt. Japan went from being one of the fastest growing countries in the world to one of the slowest. And this economic stagnation went on and on and on. For decades. On this episode, the unnerving story of Japan's Lost Decades: How did one of the most advanced economies in the world just fall down one day — and not be able to get up? Japan's predicament changed our understanding of what can go wrong in a modern economy. And gave us some new tools to try and deal with it. This episode was hosted by Jeff Guo. It was produced by Emma Peaslee and engineered by Cena Loffredo. It was edited by Molly Messick. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
22:50 4/5/24
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 unusual choice - he's a personal injury lawyer, and this was going to be an antitrust case. But Brandon knew Mike was great in front of a jury. And that he'd won huge settlements for his clients in the past. So the lawyer friend drops by Mike's office, and pitches him the case. Rhonda and Scott Burnett had just sold their home for $250,000, and out of that amount, they had paid $15,000 in commission (plus a small fee), which was split between two real estate agents - even though they had hired only one. And the commission was high - 6%. Mike's friend said the whole thing seemed... suspicious. Maybe even illegal. Mike agreed to take the case, a case that would soon become bigger than one about just what had happened to the Burnetts. It would become a fight about the way homes are bought and sold in the U.S. and challenge the way real estate agents have done business for more than 100 years. This episode was hosted by Amanda Aronczyk and Keith Romer. It was produced by Willa Rubin, edited by Keith Romer, engineered by Valentina Rodríguez Sánchez, and fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
28:41 4/3/24
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 Ukraine any money to fight off Russia's invasion. And some taxpayers have concerns about how they might be funding weapons that have been used to kill civilians in Gaza. And there are questions about how much individual taxpayers contribute to war efforts, generally. So in this episode, we attempt to do the math: The average taxpayers' contribution to Israel and Ukraine. It's not so simple. But in attempting to do this math, we get this window into the role of our tax dollars on foreign assistance, and how the U.S. sells weapons to other countries. For links to some of the reports we looked at to report this episode, check out the episode page on NPR.org.This episode was hosted by Sarah Gonzalez and Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi. It was produced by Sam Yellowhorse Kesler and edited by Jess Jiang. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez and engineered by Robert Rodriguez. Alex Goldmark is our executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
23:31 3/29/24
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 to come back.If you're a restaurateur, your gut tells you "more seats, more money," but, in this episode, restaurant design expert Stephani Robson upends all that and more. She helps Roni Mazumdar, owner of the casual Indian spot Adda in New York's Long Island City, rethink how a customer behaves at a table, and how small changes can lead to a lot more money.It's a data-driven restaurant makeover.This episode was originally produced by Darian Woods and Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi. James Sneed and Sam Yellowhorse Kesler produced this update. Engineering by Isaac Rodrigues and Maggie Luthar. Alex Goldmark originally edited the show and is now Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
24:38 3/27/24
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 Facebook, Snapchat, and beyond. According to the market intelligence firm Sensor Tower, Temu is one of the most downloaded iPhone apps in the country, with around 50 million monthly active users.On today's show, we go deep on Temu: How does it work, how did it manage such a quick rise in the U.S., and what hints might it offer us about the future of retail? Plus, we'll talk to the bicycle-loving U.S. Representative who is working to shut down a loophole that has proved very helpful to Temu's swift ascent. This episode was hosted by Nick Fountain and Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi with reporting from Emily Feng. It was produced by Sam Yellowhorse Kesler and Emma Peaslee. It was edited by Keith Romer, fact-checked by Sierra Juarez, and engineered by Cena Loffredo. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
25:20 3/22/24
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, skyscrapers... all needed steel.But in the second half of the 20th century, the industry's power started to decline. Foreign steel companies gained more market power and the established steel industry in the U.S. was hesitant to change and invest in newer technologies. But then, a smaller company took a chance and changed the industry. On today's episode: What can the fall of a once-great industry teach us about innovation and technology? And why you should never underestimate an underdog.This episode was hosted by Erika Beras and Mary Childs. It was produced by Willa Rubin and edited by Jess Jiang. It was engineered by Cena Loffredo. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Our executive producer is Alex Goldmark.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
22:19 3/20/24
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 decades ago to help fund these two U.S. territories. In 2021 alone, these rum tax payments added up to more than $700 million.Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands split the money according to how much rum each territory produces. And the territories produce a lot of it — especially Puerto Rico, which single handedly supplies the majority of the rum that Americans drink.But in 2008, the U.S. Virgin Islands pulled off a coup. It convinced one of the largest rum brands in the world, Captain Morgan, to abandon Puerto Rico and to shift its operations to the tiny island of St. Croix.This was the beginning of the Rum Wars.On today's show, the story of how a scheme designed to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands turned them into bitter rivals. And how it ended up putting hundreds of millions of dollars a year — U.S. taxpayer dollars — into the pockets of big liquor companies instead.This episode was hosted by Jeff Guo and Sarah Gonzalez. It was produced by James Sneed with help from Sam Yellowhorse Kesler. It was edited by Molly Messick, engineered by Cena Loffredo, and fact checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
23:25 3/15/24
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 first-ever auction of leases for offshore wind this summer. It was another sign of the Biden administration's desire to get more renewable energy online as fast as possible. Expectations were high, but results did not deliver. Two of the three patches of sea didn't get any bids at all. Hidden in the flop for this auction are some keys to what it takes to spark a whole new market, quickly. Then, the booming side of wind power: the job that's projected to be the fastest-growing in the U.S. is wind turbine service technician. Is it a "good" job? Reporter Darian Woods suits up to see a green-collar job above the clouds for himself.Today's episode is adapted from episodes for Planet Money's daily show, The Indicator. Subscribe here. The original Indicator episodes were produced by Cooper Katz McKim and Julia Ritchey with engineering by Valentina Rodriguez Sanchez and James Willetts. They were fact-checked by Sierra Juarez and edited by Dave Blanchard and Kate Concannon. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
16:33 3/13/24
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 year. A small army of Oscars campaign strategists help studios and streamers deploy tens of millions of dollars to sway Academy voters. And the signs of these campaigns are everywhere — from the endless celebrity appearances on late night TV to the billboards along your daily commute. On today's show, we hit the Oscars campaign trail to learn how these campaigns got so big in the first place. And we look into why Hollywood is still spending so much chasing gold statues, when the old playbook for how to make money on them is being rewritten. This episode was hosted by Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi. It was produced by Emma Peaslee and edited by Jess Jiang. It was engineered by Cena Loffredo and fact checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
25:54 3/8/24

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