Planet Money

Imagine you could call up a friend and say, "Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy." Now imagine that's actually a fun evening. That's what we're going for at Planet Money.

We try really hard every episode to find creative, entertaining ways to make sense of the big, complicated forces that move our economy. That's why we made a t-shirt and traced the supply chain around the world from cotton field to factory; bought 100 barrels of crude oil and followed it from ground to gas tank; launched a satellite; and built an adorable algorithmic trading Twitter bot.

Planet Money launched in 2008 during the financial crisis and, since then, it has won many awards including a Peabody and an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2017 for our investigation into Wells Fargo's retaliation against whistle-blowers.

In 2017, we launched The Indicator, a shorter, more frequent podcast that takes a number or a term from the news and finds context and big ideas behind it.

You can also hear Planet Money stories on Morning Edition, All Things Considered.

Planet Money and The Indicator are co-hosted by: Ailsa ChangCardiff GarciaJacob GoldsteinNoel KingKenny MaloneRobert Smith, and Stacey Vanek Smith.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

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In the 1950s, Stefan Mandel won the Romanian lottery twice.

And then he took his winnings, packed his bags and settled in Australia, where he won the lottery 12 more times. Yeah, you read that correctly: 12.

So how did this math whiz beat the system?

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

Hongkongers are showing the world how to protest.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

A century ago, stuff was expensive. Back then, people relied on nature to make things: Toothbrushes were made of silver, combs were made of tortoiseshell, and clothes were made of cotton (well, they still use a lot of cotton, but you get the point.)

Then, in 1907, a chemist named Leo Baekeland found a way to take the useless gunk leftover from making kerosene and turn it into plastic. It opened up a whole world of affordable products. Suddenly, everyone could get one of everything.

This is the story of how plastic was first made and how maybe we went too far with it.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

This is the first part in our series on Marxism and capitalism in Chile. You can find the second episode here.

Chile is one of the wealthiest, most stable economies in South America. But to understand how Chile got here--how it became the envy of neighboring countries --you have to know the story of a group of Chilean students who came to study economics at the University of Chicago. A group that came to be known as the Chicago Boys.

Will Scootermania End With A Crash?

May 14, 2019

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

Is Buying A House Overrated?

Apr 30, 2019

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

The gender pay gap exists for a variety of reasons. Discrimination is one; educational experience and job choice are others. The fields that employ a lot of women tend to pay less.

Four new dollar stores will open in the U.S. every single day of 2019. That's a new dollar store every six hours. There are more dollar stores than there are Walmarts, McDonald's and CVS stores combined. And they are setting up in places no one else will go... tiny towns, urban areas, poor communities.

Today on the show, we go to a town that decided there were too many dollar stores. And talk to a woman on a mission to ban them.

The superhero universe may be a fantasy (sorry, superfans), but that doesn't mean superheroes are free from the laws of economics. Quite the reverse, in fact: superheroes are subject to the dismal science, just like the rest of us. That's how Brian O'Roark sees it, anyhow.

More than 60 million years ago, the Tyrannosaurus rex roamed North America. Today, they're fetching 7 figures from museums and private buyers all over the world. There is a thriving market for dinosaur fossils and T-Rex is at the top of the food chain... but some people say this market is bad for science.

Today on The Indicator: the economics of dinosaur fossils. How does one come to own a T-Rex? Who buys them? And... aren't fossils priceless?

If you've ever signed up for anything online, you've probably taken a CAPTCHA test. Maybe you deciphered some scrambled letters and numbers. Maybe you clicked on a bunch of pictures of stop signs. Or maybe you just clicked a box that said "I am not a robot."

These tests are one of the annoyances we put up with to do stuff on the Internet. But the story of CAPTCHA is shockingly interesting. It includes the rise of artificial intelligence, the quest to digitize millions of old books and newspapers, and a shady underworld of human beings paid to solve thousands of CAPTCHAs a day.

In the first few months of the year, the data we got about the economy was a little worrying. As a whole, it made some economists - and some of us - feel a little pessimistic about our economic future. The data pointed to fewer jobs being added to the economy, lackluster retail sales, and lower global growth projections from international agencies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

But lately, it seems like these indicators have been picking up, which seems to be a good sign for the economy. Today on The Indicator, is everything really awesome?

The U.S. economy is booming. We've seen sustained low unemployment rates, wages are climbing, and thousands of new jobs being added to the economy every month. The headline numbers focusing on the labor market seem great, and they are.

When does a minimum wage become too high?

Apr 23, 2019

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

As cities all over the world grow, they're struggling with crowded streets and polluted air. New York City has decided to try out one possible solution: congestion pricing. Drivers will soon be charged a toll to enter certain crowded neighborhoods. Officials hope it will cut down on traffic and bring in badly needed funds to help repair the city's public transportation system.

Today on the show, Stacey Vanek Smith and Darius Rafieyan venture out into Midtown Manhattan during rush hour to see if congestion pricing is the solution that New York needs.

Today on the show, two indicators from our sibling podcast, The Indicator from Planet Money.

First, The Indicator goes to Georgia, to talk with a peanut farmer dealing with two major economic disasters: A hurricane and a trade war with China.

Then The Indicator turns to the World Happiness Report, and finds that the United States of America, despite its prosperity, only ranks 19th in overall happiness, which is kind of sad.

When Benjamin Franklin said the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, he wasn't talking about income taxes. America didn't really even have an income tax until 1913. Up until then, the U.S. relied on tariffs to raise revenue.

On today's Indicator, we explore the history of the income tax in the U.S. to find out how and why the government came up with the idea of taxing people's pay.

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.

One of our self-described "introverted" listeners asked us: "Is my introverted-ness costing me money?"

We posed that question to Miriam Gensowski, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Copenhagen who studies the connection between personality traits and lifetime outcomes. She found that the answer is yes, introverts tend to earn less than extroverts over time — but there are some caveats.

Some of the research referenced in this story:

Q-W-E-R-T-Y, or "QWERTY," are the first six letters on most keyboards in English-speaking countries. That letter sequence seems random. And over time, some have tried to break our QWERTY spell with different letter sequences, but QWERTY has always prevailed — and the reasons contain some economic lessons.

To tell this story, we brought in economist Tim Harford, host of "Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy" for the BBC World Service.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

New York City is grappling with a measles outbreak. There have been 283 reports of measles in Brooklyn alone, compared to more than 500 nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency last week, requiring people living in parts of Brooklyn to get vaccinated.

Measles can cause serious long-term harm, to individuals and to the economy. On today's show, we examine how high the costs can go, and where they are incurred.

This is the second part in our series on Marxism and capitalism in Chile. You can find the first episode here.

In the early seventies, Chile, under Marxist President Salvador Allende, was plagued by inflation, shortages, and a crushing deficit. After a violent coup in 1973, the economy became the military's problem.

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