Wealth & Poverty

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China and the U.S. played tit-for-tat with tariffs this week. President Trump opened by proposing $50 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese products. China responded with a proposal to slap tariffs worth $50 billion on U.S. goods.

A lot of American companies have expressed worry about what this will mean for their business. And of course, for jobs.

Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, looked into which parts of the workforce might be negatively affected by these tariffs.

The U.S. economy marked its 90th consecutive month of job growth in March, but the U.S. added fewer jobs than had been expected, with a net gain of only 103,000.

The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.1 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in Friday's monthly update on the nation's economic health.

Max Roser and Hannah Ritchie — part of the team behind Our World In Data — specialize in looking at how the world has changed over the very long run; as in centuries and millennia.

Over the course of their research they tend to come across some non-intuitive statistics that tell strange and sometimes wonderful stories about our world. So we called them up and asked them about a few of their favorite bits of data.

Note: This episode originally aired in 2016.

A lot of people dream of not paying their taxes. Larry Williams did just that. He scoured the fine print of IRS code, talked to lawyers, settled on a plan, and then...stopped paying taxes.

Today on the show, we tell his story. It starts on a camping trip, winds through a jail cell in Australia and a courtroom in California, and it ends up in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Musical collaborations between artists who normally do their own thing have been around for a long time. Back in the 80s collaborations were rare enough that when one did become a hit, it was a big deal.

The trend began gathering pace in the 1990s, and hasn't stopped. Today, about 35 percent of the Billboard Hot 100 songs are now collaborations, up from just 5 percent in 1990.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest might be the rising popularity of hip hop.

Back in 1907, America's financial system was pretty unsophisticated. There was no central bank, barely any kind of regulatory framework, and no backstop in case of a crash.

Meanwhile, the economy was growing fast, with people borrowing and investing at a dizzying rate. And when people lost confidence in a kind of unregulated lending institution called a trust, panic spread through the economy.

China is imposing tariffs on about 3 billion dollars worth of U.S. exports. That's roughly the value of the steel and aluminum exports from China that President Trump taxed last month.

On today's show, we look at the list of goods from the U.S. that China is going to start taxing and we talk to a hog farmer who estimates his pigs have already lost 10 percent of their value.

About a month ago, President Trump walked up to a podium, and followed through on a big campaign promise. He said the U.S. was going to impose a 25-percent tariff on foreign steel, and a 10-percent tariff on foreign aluminum.

His announcement was met with a lot of face-palming from economists. Why? Because we've been down this road before.

Today on the show, we learn how the Smoot-Hawley tariff act of 1930 helped tank the world economy. And why it means that today, 90 years later, President Trump has the power to start what many people say is a trade war.

Watch Planet Money Shorts

Mar 30, 2018

One of the most puzzling trends of the last few decades has been the unrelenting rise in the number of people who fell out of the labor force because they were disabled.

The number of these disabled Americans went up for so long that the trend seemed like it might be permanent.

Today on the show, the story of a quietly dramatic turnaround in the U.S. economy. And what we can learn from it.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the CFPB, was introduced in the wake of the financial crisis to protect consumers from banks and lenders. It has become a kind of Rorschach test for how you view the role of government and regulation. Democrats tend to love the CFPB. And Republicans... not so much.

One Republican Congressman, Mick Mulvaney, hated the agency so much, he sponsored a bill to get rid of it

completely. The bill failed, but when Donald Trump was elected president, he named Mulvaney as Director of the CFPB.

Dollars And Census

Mar 28, 2018

The Trump administration wants to include a citizenship question in the census. That could have big implications for certain municipalities.

The census determines how much federal funding districts get, and how many congressional representatives they get to elect.

If a citizenship question deters undocumented residents from participating in the census, the districts they live in could end up with fewer representatives.

And a lot less money.

The thing about prices is they tend to change. But for 70 years, between 1886 and the late 1950s, the price of a Coca-Cola was a shiny nickel.

Think about how crazy that is: Between 1886 and the late '50s, you had two world wars, Prohibition and the Great Depression. But through it all, one constant in life was the nickel Coke.

Healthcare spending represents a huge chunk of the American economy; more than in other places. And it's not because Americans are hypochondriacs.

Dr. Ashish Jha, physician and professor of global health at Harvard, discusses why we spend so much money on medical care and some ways we might be able to spend less.

Dollars for Data

Mar 26, 2018

When you get directions from Google Maps or post a photo of the sunset on Instagram, it may not cost you any money but you are paying with something else: your data. Tech companies get to know where you go, what you like, and who you're with.

You may think that's a pretty good trade off, but economist Glen Weyl thinks it's about time we started getting paid for that data. He envisions a world where your posts and likes could be converted into dollars and cents.

Note: This episode contains explicit language.

In that photo up there, the man on the right is handing an envelope of cash to the man on the left, in exchange for secret information. It is a photo of insider trading as it happens. Today on the show: the man on the left explains everything — what he did, how he did it, and why. Though he's still struggling with that last one.

Also, when someone trades on insider information, they probably are going to make a lot of money. But who loses that money? We try to solve that brain teaser.

The Baker Hughes Rig Count is a tally of all the rigs that are drilling for oil in the US.

It comes out every Friday, and it's often used as a gauge of the American oil business.

But technological advances in the industry could end up making the Baker Hughes index less relevant.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Independent bookstores got crushed by big box stores in the 90s, and hammered by Amazon in the aughts.

But since then, they've reinvented themselves.

Now independent bookstores are back, often as the mainstays of new retail developments.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

President Trump recently had a disagreement with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump says the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada, Trudeau says it's a trade surplus.

Today on the show we explain how it's possible for both men to be right and wrong at the same time. It turns out that sometimes statistics is more art than science.

Links:

In 1872, Congress passed The Mining Act, a law designed to make mining on U.S. land easy and cheap. The government wanted to encourage westward expansion. They wanted people to head out, find minerals, get rich, and settle down.

The Mining Act of 1872 is still in place, and getting the rights to dig up gold in the US today isn't all that different than it was during the Gold Rush.

Today on the show: How has this system stayed the same for almost 150 years? And why is this country giving away its gold on public land. And its silver, and platinum, and copper....

Updated at 2:59 p.m. ET

The Federal Reserve announced a quarter-point increase in interest rates as expected Wednesday, the first rate move under its new chairman, Jerome Powell. The key fed funds rate was moved up to a target range of 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent.

After the Revolutionary War, one of the first acts of the brand new Congress was to tax goods imported from foreign countries. Since then the debate over tariffs hasn't changed much, but the U.S. economy definitely has.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

The way most companies first sell their shares to the public is tried and true; hire an investment bank, do a roadshow, agree to a lockup period, etc etc.

But Spotify is doing none of those things. In fact it's not doing an initial public offering at all: it's doing a direct public offering instead.

It's an unusual move. but if it works, it could change the way a big part of Wall Street business is done.

Links:
How ans IPO gets done, step by step (CNBC)

Sugar costs more in the U.S. than in the rest of the world. If you're in the candy business and make millions of lollipops a day, that's a big deal.

On today's show, we visit a lollipop factory in Ohio, whose fifth-generation owners want U.S. sugar to be cheaper, and a sugar-beet field in Minnesota, where fourth-generation farmers want it to be expensive. The two are fighting over one of the largest and oldest and most notorious price control systems in the country.

Ten years ago, the investment bank Bear Stearns collapsed, and the government stepped in to broker a bailout.

William D. Cohan thinks that was a mistake. He wrote about Bear in his book, House of Cards.

He talked to us about what happened then and what's changed since.

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