Wealth & Poverty

Ways to Connect

We're trying a new thing (for us): We ask guests to tell us about something they read that changed how they see the world.

Today, Diane Coyle — an economist who writes a blog about economics books — tells us about Micromotives and Macrobehavior by Thomas Schelling.

Coyle says it's helped her understand everything from why it's so hard to get the water temperature in the shower just right to why ABBA wore such ostentatious costumes on stage.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Racial disparities in home lending, a practice sometimes called redlining, is alive and well in the United States.

That's the big picture takeaway from new data analysis by the Associated Press and the Center for Investigative Reporting of two years of mortgage lending.

Journalists are a jealous bunch. We steal each other's stories, and sources. And when someone writes a story that we're envious of, we usually curse them under our breath, and move on. But once a year at Planet Money, we give a shout out to our favorite work.

This year, our Valentines go out to:

-Eric Konigsberg, for finding out what people do all day at WeWork 'coworking' spaces in his awesomely-titled article, "Sriracha Is for Closers."

Stimulus Response

Feb 14, 2018

Jared Bernstein has a dilemma. He's a liberal economist, and he's been saying for years that the U.S. needs stimulus — some combination of higher spending and lower taxes — to drive up wages for workers.

Congress and the President recently passed bills to raise spending and cut taxes.

These weren't sold as stimulus packages. They are not Jared Bernstein's dream come true. But they are going to mean lower taxes and higher spending.

Sanctions on Ice

Feb 13, 2018

North Korea has been getting sanctioned for decades. But in spite of the sanctions, North Korea has managed to keep buying fancy stuff for the elites — and fund a nuclear weapons program.

The country has done this by raising money through a clandestine outfit called Office 39. Among other things, Office 39 runs counterfeiting operations, engages in international bank fraud, and sells illegal drugs.

On today's show: sanctions, Office 39 and the North Korean Olympic team

Fear: The Index

Feb 12, 2018

There is this thing called the VIX. Some people call it the fear gauge. It was invented to measure people's expectations about how much the stock market is going to bounce around.

At some point, the VIX went from measuring expectations about the stock market. To being something people bet on.

Then, last week, when the market plunged, the role of the VIX may have gotten even larger: This thing that was invented to measure the stock market may have started driving the market itself.

On today's show, Tracy Alloway of Bloomberg News tells us the story of the VIX.

Episode 823: Planet Monet

Feb 9, 2018

The art market is going nuts. People are spending record amounts of money of paintings like Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi. But not everyone is rushing home to hang their new artwork up on their walls. A lot of buyers are storing their art in vast warehouses near airports. They're called, "freeports."

Freeports exist between countries, a sort of no man's land, which means you can store your artwork there as long as you want, without having to pay any taxes on it.

Sam Sanders, the host of a show called It's Been a Minute, came to us with a question.

Everybody says we shouldn't pay attention to the stock market if we want to know what's going on in the economy. So, Sam wanted to know, what should we pay attention to?

Jobs.

On today's show: What our three favorite jobs numbers tell us about the state of the economy.

Brian Krebs, a journalist and cybersecurity expert, recently published this list. It has hundreds of company names, in alphabetical order. And next to each name is a price.

This list comes from a site on the dark web where people buy and sell stolen usernames and passwords. It's a price list.

On today's show, we talk to Krebs about this list, and what it tells us about the market for your stolen passwords.

President Trump talks a big talk about protectionism and tariffs. So far, there hasn't been much action. But this week, a new tariff does kick in — one that makes it more expensive to import solar panels. President Trump also recently announced a new tariff on washing machines.

The story of these tariffs begins years ago — with policies that President Obama put in place. We dig into where they came from, and what effect they're likely to have on the economy.

As promised, here are the sources for this episode:

Note: Today's show originally ran in January 2012.

In 1978, a group of farmers in a Chinese village called Xiaogang wrote a secret contract and hid it in the roof of a mud hut.

They were afraid the document might get them executed. Instead, it wound up completely transforming the Chinese economy.

On today's show, we travel to Xiaogang, and hear the farmers' story.

Dow De Ching

Feb 6, 2018

On today's show: Michael Batnick of Ritholtz Wealth Management explains why the last few days in the stock market were normal market behavior. Also: Why the stock market drop is good for lots of people, and largely irrelevant for even more.

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

A few years ago, Wells Fargo got in trouble for opening millions of accounts for its customers without their permission. Hundreds of thousands of people lost money and saw their credit scores drop.

On Friday, the Federal Reserve dropped a bomb. It said Wells Fargo would not be allowed to grow until further notice.

On today's show: Matt Levine of Bloomberg View explains why this is a big deal — and why other banks are likely to notice.

red & black

This month on Nothing Funny About Money, Matt & Michael discuss various options for limiting student debt by paying for college while you are actually IN COLLEGE!

There is a huge economy surrounding the Super Bowl. And nowhere is this more visible than in one crazed market: ticket sales. Usually, the game is a bonanza for professional ticket salesmen.

But the 2015 Super Bowl was different.

Two weeks before the big game, the Super Bowl market collapsed, catastrophically. Brokers went belly up. Tickets vanished. And companies had to spend millions of dollars to reimburse a lot of angry fans. What happened? Today on the show, we try to figure it out.

The monthly jobs report is out. The headline numbers tend to bounce around a lot, so today on the show, we take the long view. We look at three groups that got hammered especially hard during the recession and ask: How are they doing now?

Those groups are:

People who are working part time but want to be working full time:

African-American workers:

High-school graduates who did not go to college:

The U.S. added 200,000 jobs in January, continuing the trend of steady job growth for another month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday.

That means the economy has now added jobs for 88 months in a row. And, significantly, wages are on the rise, too.

Average hourly earnings rose by 9 cents to $26.74, with a year-over-year growth of 2.9 percent — the highest rate of growth the BLS recorded since June 2009.

The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent.

Today's indicator is $2.2 trillion. That's about how much stuff — goods and services — the U.S. sells to the rest of the world every year.

That figure captures not only airplanes and cars, but also some visits to Disney World. Also, blood. Lots of blood.

Our guest is Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development.

When President Emmanuel Macron set out to overhaul France's notoriously rigid labor laws last fall, unions promised crippling strikes to stop him.

All of France, it seemed, was waiting for the showdown.

After all, the country's powerful unions have stopped French leaders from overhauling their cherished work code for decades. In 2016, a succession of strikes and 14 nationwide protests snuffed out President François Hollande's hopes for simplifying the 3,000-page employment code.

Each year, the World Economic Forum takes place in Davos, a small ski town in the Swiss Alps. The goal of the conference is to promote international cooperation and collaboration, and ultimately improve the state of the world. It's filled with diplomats, CEOs, billionaires, and idea gurus.

Janet Yellen chaired her final Federal Reserve policymaking meeting Wednesday. She and her Fed colleagues held interest rates steady and officially elected Jerome Powell to succeed her as chair. As Yellen steps down, she is getting high marks for her four years at the helm of the nation's central bank.

It's Janet Yellen's last week running the Federal Reserve.

On today's show, we focus on a single speech Yellen gave last year.

In the speech, Yellen lays out one of the most baffling mysteries in the American economy right now.

Also, the speech reveals a certain boldness that Yellen brought to the job. Superficially, it looks like one more speech about monetary policy. But look a little deeper and you see Yellen is asking some radical questions.

Updated at 2:09 p.m. ET

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen led her last policy meeting on Wednesday as the finale to a two-day meeting on interest rates, which began Tuesday.

Policymakers left rates unchanged, as analysts had expected. But the Fed said inflation is "expected to move up this year."

The Fed signaled that a gradual tightening of monetary policy is coming as the U.S. economy keeps expanding and job growth continues to be solid.

Weed GDP

Jan 30, 2018

When the Canadian government said it would legalize recreational marijuana in the summer of 2018, some people thought: I am going to have an amazing party. Others worried about what to tell their kids.

James Tebrake had a different thought: "We have one chance to collect as much information as possible about a very interesting and important issue."

That issue: What happens to a country's economy when a popular drug goes from being illegal to being legal?

The Black Car Fund

Jan 29, 2018

If you have a full-time job, and you get hurt at work, you are covered by workers' compensation insurance. You can get medical care, and get paid some of your salary while you recover from your injury.

But if you're a contractor — you're freelancer, working in the gig economy, and you get hurt on the job — you are out of luck.

A lot of the social safety net in this country works this way: it's built around full-time employees. But more and more people are working not as full-time employees, but as contractors.

Phosphorus is in pretty much everything: bombs, toothpaste, cheese. It's irreplaceable. Nothing can live without it and it's only economically recoverable in a few places. Like Morocco, and China.

Most of our phosphorus—or phosphate, which is its usable form—goes into fertilizer. The farmers pile it on, and then the bulk of it just washes right off into the rivers and then ocean. It's really hard to get phosphorus out of the ocean, which means, as far as we're concerned, that phosphorus is pretty much gone once it's in the water.

Glenn Kelman has been running the real-estate company Redfin since 2007. He saw it through the housing crash and the recovery. Last year, Redfin went public. It's now worth more than $1.7 billion.

Glenn was in town recently, and we asked him to come in and play overrated/underrated with us.

We bring up a bunch of trends and ideas — really, anything we want — and ask: is this overrated or underrated?

Among other things, we asked Glenn about home ownership, the cult of the CEO and the importance of the dungeon master.

There's a new study out about the origins of the mafia. It finds that the essential ingredient in the birth of the mafia as we know it isn't the threats or the murders or the other stuff that's great for Hollywood. The detail that matters is lemons.

Music: "Head of The Family".

In 1992, Douglas Bruce proposed a measure called the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, TABOR for short. TABOR was effectively a tax-limitation measure that said, whenever a government wanted more money — whenever it wanted to increase taxes — it had to put the question on the ballot. Increased taxes for roads? The voters would get to decide. Better schools? Put it on the ballot. But put the price there first.

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