Planet Money

Planet Money

www.npr.org/planetmoney
The economy, explained, with stories and surprises. 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
#653: The Anti-Store
Aug 16 • 15 min
Costco made shopping harder, and customers loved it. Now a new company is taking the Costco experience to new extremes.
#788: Robert And Kenny Go To The Fair
Aug 11 • 23 min
When we go to the state fair, we don’t go for the rides, deep-fried tacos or the butter cow. We head straight for the vendor marketplace to meet the masters of the lost art of salesmanship.
#399: Can You Patent a Steak?
Aug 9 • 19 min
We visit the workshop of the meat inventor who came up with Steak-Umm and KFC’s popcorn chicken. And we try to figure out what meat inventors tell us about patents and innovation.
#787: Google Is Big. Is That Bad?
Aug 4 • 16 min
Google just got hit with a multibillion-dollar antitrust fine. Here’s what it tells us about competition, market power, and the biggest corporations on the planet.
#471: The Eddie Murphy Rule
Aug 2 • 26 min
We answer one of the most important questions in finance: What actually happens at the end of Trading Places?
#786: Rest of the Story 2017, Vol. 1
Jul 28 • 22 min
News moves fast. Some of our best stories from this year have new chapters. Here, we catch up on three: Dirty trademarks, trading bots, and the war against the bald eagle.
#629: Buy Low, Sell Prime
Jul 26 • 15 min
Sam Cohen buys stuff at big retail stores, then turns around and sells it on Amazon for a quick profit. It defies economic logic. But somehow, there’s a whole multimillion-dollar industry doing this.
#785: The Starbury
Jul 21 • 23 min
Most athlete endorsements make a product more expensive. But what happens when an NBA All-Star uses his name to make a sneaker much, much cheaper? On today’s show: How that worked out.
#594: Board Games
Jul 19 • 20 min
On today’s show: The story of two guys who tried to cut the pay of a CEO at a small pneumatic tool company.
#784: Meeting The Russians
Jul 14 • 20 min
That meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer was two decades in the making. It began in 1996, when an adventurous American went to Russia, trying to make a buck.
#783: New Jersey Bails Out
Jul 12 • 18 min
Bail is broken. In New Jersey, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges banded together to try a dramatic solution: Blow it up.
#782: Budget Time
Jul 7 • 15 min
We run through the entire federal budget — in 10 minutes. More than $6 billion per second. Go.
#586: How Stuff Gets Cheaper
Jul 5 • 14 min
We visit a company where people work on figuring out how to make stuff get cheaper.
#781: The Money Fixers
Jun 30 • 17 min
In Washington, D.C., there is a place where millions of dollars of ripped, burned, and water-soaked dollar bills are made new. On today’s show, we get inside that room.
#286: Libertarian Summer Camp
Jun 28 • 26 min
We visited a libertarian summer paradise. What we found: People paying in gold. Exotic bacon dishes. A nine-year-old selling alcohol.
#780: On Second Thought
Jun 23 • 23 min
Flip-floppers, this one’s for you. Changing your mind is hard, but it’s one of the smartest things you can do.
#779: Shrimp Fight Club
Jun 21 • 23 min
What happens when an unstoppable shrimp meets an unmovable senator? A researcher goes to Washington to defend herself, her shrimp, and science itself.
#778: What the Falcon’s Up With Qatar?
Jun 16 • 19 min
Qatar was on top of the world. Seemingly overnight, it became a pariah. On this episode, we drill into a rift years in the making: It’s a tale of falcons, kidnapping, and a glowing Saudi Arabian orb.
#610: The Prisoner’s Solution
Jun 14 • 18 min
Today on the show, a businessman goes to prison, and decides he is going to disrupt the biggest captive market in America.
#777: Free Love, Free Market
Jun 9 • 22 min
How a free-love commune embraced the free market and became a blockbuster brand.
#776: Here We Grow Again
Jun 7 • 19 min
The president’s budget promises 3% growth. Is that doable? Yes, but he won’t like what it would take.
#775: The Pigweed Killer
Jun 2 • 24 min
A battle with a weed divides neighbors and leads one farmer to shoot another dead. Today’s show: The hunt for a better pesticide gets way out of hand.
#599: The Invisible Wall
May 31 • 18 min
A man goes looking for the invisible wall that traps poor people in poverty. Finding it almost gets him killed.
#774: Unspeakable Trademark
May 26 • 20 min
You can name your business whatever you want. But the government won’t register it as a trademark if it thinks it’s offensive. It gets weird when you try to decide what is too offensive to trademark.
#773: Slot Flaws Scofflaws
May 24 • 22 min
As long as there have been casinos, people have tried to cheat them. The latest attempt was by a group of hackers who tried to take down slot machines using math, iPhones, and a whole lot of swiping.
#772: Small Change
May 19 • 20 min
How fast is the world really changing? The answer has implications for everything from how the next generation will live to whether robots really will take all our jobs.
#606: Spreadsheets!
May 17 • 20 min
The creation of the electronic spreadsheet transformed industries. But its effects ran deeper than that.
#771: When India’s Cash Disappeared, Part Two
May 12 • 20 min
What happened when India’s Prime Minister declared most of the paper money in India worthless? We travel to India to see what happened after the country’s demonetization.
#770: When India’s Cash Disappeared, Part One
May 10 • 23 min
Something incredible happened in India about six months ago. The government declared most of the paper money invalid. Demonetization they called it. Today, we meet the man who came up with the plan.
#769: Speed Dating For Economists
May 5 • 24 min
We visit a job market created by economists, for economists. It’s a hyper-efficient, optimized system, tested by game theorists, tweaked by a Nobel Prize winner, but it requires comfortable shoes.
#768: A Chat With Ben Bernanke
May 3 • 18 min
Ten years ago, two little-known funds at Bear Stearns blew up, and the financial crisis was on its way. Today, we ask the person at the center of it all, former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, why it happened.
#553: The Dollar At The Center Of The World
Apr 28 • 20 min
Today on the show, how a New Hampshire hotel filled with boozing economists saved the global economy.
#767: Georgetown, Louisiana, Part Two
Apr 26 • 30 min
In 1838, the Maryland Jesuits sold 272 people, slaves, to pay the debts of Georgetown University. We talk with the descendants about what - if anything - they’re owed.
#766: Georgetown, Louisiana, Part One
Apr 21 • 25 min
For the residents of a small Louisiana town, there’s always been a question about their past: How’d they get there? Solving the mystery only raised more questions.
#765: The Holiday Industrial Complex
Apr 18 • 18 min
Where do holidays like National Potato Chip Day and Argyle Day come from? We trace the roots of one made-up holiday until we find out who is running the global holiday machine.
#381: When Business Loves Regulation
Apr 14 • 14 min
One in three American jobs require a license. Today on the show, why those licensing rules hurt the U.S. economy.
#764: Pub In A Box
Apr 12 • 17 min
One man figured out how to reproduce the magic of an Irish pub, and ship it in a container to anywhere in the world.
#763: BOTUS
Apr 7 • 18 min
On today’s show, we get in on the future of investing. We build an automated stock-trading bot. It analyzes the twitter feed of President Donald Trump, then trades stocks with real money. Our money. You can follow our bot on twitter, @BOTUS.
#531: The Tough, The Sweet, The Nosy
Apr 5 • 22 min
The tricks and mind games tax collectors use to get people to pay up.
#762: The Fine Print
Mar 31 • 19 min
On today’s show: Snuggies, printer toner, and a banking road trip. Three stories about what happens when you actually read the fine print.
#650: The Business Genius Behind Get Out
Mar 29 • 25 min
Jason Blum makes a lot of movies and makes them cheap. So why are so many turning into blockbusters?
#761: The Bank War
Mar 24 • 20 min
A populist president versus the most powerful banker in America.
#760: Tax Hero
Mar 22 • 22 min
One professor had a way to make filing taxes easy and painless. It worked. People loved it. But then a big tax lobby heard about it…
#759: What’s It Worth To You?
Mar 17 • 18 min
Three short stories about putting a price on something hard to value precisely. We go from $4.66 under a pillow all the way up to $1 trillion across every inch of highway in America.
#522: The Invention Of ‘The Economy’
Mar 15 • 17 min
A hundred years ago, nobody talked about “the economy.” That’s because easy ways to measure and talk about it hadn’t been invented. On today’s show: how we started boiling nations down to a number.
#758: Can Trump Take The Money?
Mar 10 • 21 min
The Constitution contains a paragraph known as the Emoluments Clause. It’s 49 words meant to prevent foreign influence on US officials. How does it apply to a president with a global business empire?
#596: Hacking The iPhone For Fun, Profit, And Maybe Espionage
Mar 8 • 19 min
Wikileaks released documents listing the hacks the CIA uses to spy on people. So we revisit our story on hackers for hire: people hunting for flaws in your phone to sell to people, or even the CIA.
#757: Strong Feelings About Dodd-Frank
Mar 3 • 25 min
President Trump does not like Dodd-Frank, the 2010 law that transformed banking regulation. On today’s show, we ask: What are the key parts of the law? And how are they likely to change?
#513: Dear Economist, I Need A Date
Mar 1 • 23 min
Here at Planet Money, we often wonder: how useful is economics in our everyday lives? Could the principles of economics be applied to the most intimate of human experiences, like, say, love?
#756: The Bees Go To California
Feb 24 • 22 min
Early every year, 30 billion bees make their way across the country to California’s Central Valley. Here’s why.
#654: When The Boats Arrive
Feb 22 • 15 min
In the span of a few months in 1980, more than 100,000 Cuban immigrants arrived in Miami. So what happened to Florida’s economy with all these new people coming in? And what can we learn from it?
#755: The Phone At The End Of The World
Feb 17 • 19 min
A charismatic populist president wanted to boost manufacturing and create jobs. She told companies, ‘if you want to sell your stuff here, you have to build it here.’ This is what happened.
#754: I’m So Happy For You!
Feb 13 • 20 min
Here at Planet Money, our favorite stories are the ones we wish we’d done ourselves. On the show, we call out rivals and colleagues who did what we try to do better than we could have done it.
#753: Blockchain Gang
Feb 10 • 22 min
Charlie Shrem went to prison. While he was there, he thought up a better way to move money behind bars. Now he’s out and trying to sell his idea to international investors.
#436: If Economists Controlled The Borders
Feb 8 • 19 min
What would the perfect immigration system look like? We ask three economists and get three very different answers. (None of which include building a wall.)
#752: Eagles vs. Chickens
Feb 3 • 17 min
Picture an organic farm, with thousands of free-range chickens roaming wide-open land. Now picture it from above, from the vantage of a soaring bald eagle. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet.
#751: The Thing About That Border Tax
Feb 1 • 19 min
Over the next few months, we’re going to explain President Trump’s economic plans. Today: a totally new idea for corporate taxes. What’s the plan, what’s the theory behind it, and does it work?
#750: Retraining Day
Jan 27 • 19 min
When an American loses his/her job to trade, there is program to help. It’s been around for decades. It makes a lot of sense. It is a generous program. And almost nobody’s heard of it. But why?
#632: The Chicken Tax
Jan 25 • 16 min
President Trump talks about putting tariffs on foreign cars. But there are already tariffs on auto imports and one got there because of chickens in Germany. This is how trade barriers tend to spread.
#749: Professor Blackjack
Jan 20 • 19 min
Ed Thorp started his career teaching math at MIT. Then he slid sideways into blackjack, changed the game forever, and set his sights on Wall Street investing. He changed that forever too.
#748: Undoing Obama
Jan 18 • 23 min
Congress writes laws, but the president makes the rules that put the laws in action. President Obama’s staff has been scrambling to lock in rules before Trump takes the helm. But will they stick?
#747: The Man Who Sued Iran
Jan 13 • 25 min
When Steve Flatow’s daughter was killed in a terror attack, he wanted someone to pay. His target was the Iranian government. His quest would pit him against both Iran and the White House.
#577: The Kansas Experiment
Jan 11 • 21 min
A Republican governor lives the dream. He cuts taxes dramatically in his state and he promises good times ahead. But the good times do not come.
#746: Wall Street Goes To Vegas
Jan 6 • 20 min
Wall Street traders and Las Vegas gamblers have a lot in common. But when a Wall Street firm set up shop taking Vegas bets, both sides got a surprise.
#443: Don’t Believe The Hype
Jan 4 • 17 min
People are talking about how the Dow Jones Industrial Average is about to hit a new record: Twenty thousand. We have a pretty strong opinion about the Dow. We think you should ignore it.
#745: The Rest Of The Story, 2016 Edition
Dec 30, 2016 • 18 min
It’s time for an annual Planet Money tradition—we revisit some of our favorite stories from the past year, and see what’s changed since we turned off our mics.
#744: The Last Bank Bailout
Dec 27, 2016 • 16 min
The man who ran the last bank bailout has a plan to prevent the next one.
587: Jubilee! (?)
Dec 23, 2016 • 20 min
There’s an idea that dates back at least to biblical times. That there should be a moment when debts are forgiven. Its called a jubilee. One country tried it.
#743: 50 Ways to Leave Your Union
Dec 21, 2016 • 17 min
Today on the show, two unions separated by 200 years, an ocean and an exit clause. The United States has no exit clause. It led to civil war. Europe, on the other hand, has Article 50.
#742: Making Bank
Dec 16, 2016 • 13 min
On today’s show, how a band of medieval warrior monks sworn to poverty got into the banking business and changed the way we think about money forever.
#592: Bell Wars
Dec 14, 2016 • 19 min
A special holiday episode about the epic, decades-long feud between the two companies that make just about every handbell in the world.
#741: Amy and Steve vs. Facebook
Dec 9, 2016 • 18 min
The story of a court case. On one side, the best lawyers money can buy. On the other, a night school lawyer who had never argued a case before. The outcome could affect everyone on the internet.
#740: Burnout
Dec 7, 2016 • 19 min
All types of companies are struggling with burnout. Many try to fix it. Most of them fail. One exception: A 26-year-old call center manager, with stress balls and costumes in her arsenal.
#739: Finding The Fake-News King
Dec 2, 2016 • 18 min
We track down a fake-news creator in the suburbs, uncover his empire of fake-news sites, and get him to tell us his secrets.
#534: The History Of Light
Nov 30, 2016 • 20 min
In this episode: How we got from candles made out of cow fat to as much light as we want. The history of light is the history of economic growth — of things getting faster, cheaper, and more efficient.
#738: Russian Cowboys
Nov 25, 2016 • 18 min
Russia’s latest ambition: To build a steak empire. On today’s show, a fourth-generation American cowboy teaches Russian ranchers how to make American-style steaks. Some things get lost in translation.
#737: 17 Deals In 17 Minutes
Nov 23, 2016 • 17 min
We go on a madcap dash through discounts, bargains and tough tradeoffs. Like the headline says: We bring you stories of 17 deals in just 17 minutes (not counting the intro, the ad, or the credits).
#736: Messy Nobel
Nov 18, 2016 • 25 min
What happens when a creativity guru meets the winner of this year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in economics? You get life lessons in making art, and negotiating contracts.
#574: The Buffalo Talk-Off
Nov 16, 2016 • 18 min
The story of a guy who tried to make something of himself by getting into a rough business. And the story of a time when the world went wild for debt.
#735: President Trump
Nov 11, 2016 • 24 min
Candidates promise all kinds of things. But once they get into office, it’s not always possible to carry through on them. We ask, can Trump do the things he’s pledged to do?
#734: The Trump Indicators
Nov 9, 2016 • 13 min
Donald Trump is our president elect. We look at three economic indicators to see what they can tell us about a Trump presidency.
#733: A Trunk Full of Truffles
Nov 4, 2016 • 21 min
Truffles are a lumpy, smelly fungus. They’re also one of the most coveted foods in the world. Why are they so expensive? And why are people willing to pay so much for them?
#413: Our Fake Candidate Meets The People
Nov 2, 2016 • 22 min
On today’s show, Planet Money’s economist-approved fake candidate makes his first ads. Then we nervously watch to see what a focus group thinks of them.
#732: Bad Form, Wells Fargo
Oct 28, 2016 • 17 min
Banks like Wells Fargo have a weapon that can destroy an employee’s career: A form. A long, boring form most people don’t even know exists.
#387: The No-Brainer Economic Platform
Oct 26, 2016 • 24 min
Behold the Planet Money economic platform, crafted by brilliant economists of all stripes, and pure poison to any politician who embraces it.
#731: How Venezuela Imploded
Oct 21, 2016 • 19 min
Venezuela has just about every economic advantage a country could ask for: fertile land, good climate, educated population, and oil, lots and lots of oil. So how did it go so wrong?
#730: Self Checkout
Oct 19, 2016 • 20 min
A doctor treating psychiatric patients in an emergency room created the first self-checkout machine in his spare time. Now he can’t stand self checkout. So we take him shopping.
#729: When Subaru Came Out
Oct 14, 2016 • 19 min
Subaru’s sales had been slumping for years. So the car company took a big risk and targeted a group of consumers that just about everyone else was ignoring.
#627: The Miracle Apple
Oct 12, 2016 • 14 min
How we got from mealy, nasty apples to apples that taste delicious. The story starts with a breeder who discovered a miracle apple. But discovering that apple wasn’t enough.
#728: The Wells Fargo Hustle
Oct 7, 2016 • 18 min
We take you inside the headquarters of Wells Fargo bank. It’s a place where a bunch of young, stressed-out workers were rewarded for doing some very bad things.
#521: The Town That Loves Death
Oct 5, 2016 • 23 min
On today’s episode, we’ll take you to a place where dying has become acceptable dinner conversation. A place that also happens to have the lowest healthcare spending of any region in the country.
#727: You Asked For It, Again
Sep 30, 2016 • 23 min
New show! You asked us questions about the economy and oddities in your world. We answer.
#726: Terms of the Debate
Sep 27, 2016 • 20 min
We made an audio glossary for the confusing economic jargon that came up during the first presidential debate.
#725: Trade Show
Sep 23, 2016 • 37 min
On today’s show: The fight over free trade. Come for the man who dreamed of world peace through trade. Stay for Robert Smith in the mean streets of Seattle.
#555: Why Is The Milk In The Back Of The Store?
Sep 21, 2016 • 16 min
We test two competing theories, from a food writer and an economist. Are customers being forced to walk through the store or is it just practical to keep the milk at the back?
#573: Why Textbook Prices Keep Climbing
Sep 16, 2016 • 15 min
Prices of new textbooks have been going up like crazy — faster than food, cars, even healthcare. On today’s show: Why textbooks have gotten so expensive.
#724: Cat Scam
Sep 14, 2016 • 21 min
The internet was supposed to get rid of middlemen—but instead they are taking over the global economy.
#566: The Zoo Economy
Sep 9, 2016 • 17 min
If you’re a zoo or aquarium and you want a new animal, you don’t use money to get it. You have to find another way. In this episode, we investigate: How many mackerel is a flock of puffins worth?
#723: The Risk Farmers
Sep 7, 2016 • 20 min
There is a mystery in many poor countries. Why don’t farmers specialize and grow more food? Two economists with very different theories go head to head to find out.
#532: The Wild West of the Internet
Sep 2, 2016 • 18 min
For decades, most websites ended in either .com, .net, or .org. But a few years ago, everything changed.
#722: The New Telenovela
Aug 31, 2016 • 20 min
One telenovela actress-turned-executive decided to write a new kind of drama. Her show changed the landscape of Spanish language TV—and of all TV.
#721: Unbuilding A City
Aug 26, 2016 • 19 min
Why is it so hard to knock down 17 vacant houses in a shrinking city?
Oil #5: Imagine A World Without Oil
Aug 24, 2016 • 26 min
Last of five episodes. We follow the Planet Money oil to a gas station. And we ask: What would our world look like if there were no fossil fuels?
Oil #4: How Oil Got Into Everything
Aug 19, 2016 • 25 min
Fourth of five episodes. Oil is in our sneakers, our clothes, and the computer or phone you’re using right now. On today’s show: The story of the man who made it happen.
Oil #3: How Fracking Changed the World
Aug 17, 2016 • 27 min
Third of five episodes. The Planet Money oil faces a test, we sell it, and we meet the man who set off the fracking boom in America.
Oil #2: The Price Of Oil
Aug 12, 2016 • 22 min
Second of five episodes. Oil is priced down to the penny, and the price changes every day. Who sets that price?
Oil #1: We Buy Oil
Aug 10, 2016 • 18 min
First of five episodes. We’re getting into the oil business. We go to Kansas, and negotiate with a preacher to buy 100 barrels of crude.
#524: Mr Jones’ Act
Aug 5, 2016 • 17 min
There’s an obscure law that governs just about anything that travels by ship in the U.S. — bananas, hairdryers, gasoline, even people. Economists do not like it. But it just won’t go away.
#715: The Sewing Robot
Aug 3, 2016 • 17 min
Building a robot that can sew even simple clothes is surprisingly hard. A retired professor in Atlanta thinks he’s solved the problem. It could bring textile manufacturing back to America.
#548: Project Eavesdrop
Jul 29, 2016 • 16 min
The computer or phone that you use knows a lot about you. It knows your secrets — and it might be giving them away.
#714: Can a Game Show Lose?
Jul 27, 2016 • 21 min
Crafting a TV game show is a balancing act. Producers have to carefully calibrate the rules, the drama and the prizes just right. Sometimes they get it way wrong.
#576: When Women Stopped Coding
Jul 22, 2016 • 17 min
A lot of computing pioneers were women. For decades, the number of women in computer science was growing. But in 1984, something changed.
#713: Paying for the Crime
Jul 20, 2016 • 25 min
A tale of violence, payback, and how to make things right.
#712: I Want My Money Back
Jul 15, 2016 • 19 min
Three stories of people getting their money back — or trying to. From a hospital, a scammer, and the ever-exciting global bond market.
#711: Hooked on Heroin
Jul 13, 2016 • 17 min
Scoring a fix is cheap and today’s heroin is strong. But that’s just part of the reason why America got hooked. Today on the show, we trace the roots of America’s heroin epidemic with a dealer, a user, and a DEA agent.
#710: The Brexit Break-Up
Jul 8, 2016 • 19 min
Brexit is like a breakup. So today, a divorce story in two acts. We hear from both sides: The people who voted to leave, and the Europeans being left.
#575: The Fondue Conspiracy
Jul 6, 2016 • 15 min
When you think of cartels, maybe you think of drugs, maybe you think of oil. But what probably doesn’t come to mind? Swiss cheese.
#709: The Quiet Old Lady Who Whispers “Fair Use”
Jul 1, 2016 • 18 min
Where is the line between being inspired by somebody’s creative work and stealing it?
#708: Bitcoin Divided
Jun 29, 2016 • 18 min
Bitcoin was supposed to revolutionize the way money works. But the thing people love about it may be destroying it.
#707: Brexit
Jun 24, 2016 • 14 min
What just happened in the UK? And what’s coming next?
#538: Is A Stradivarius Just A Violin?
Jun 22, 2016 • 21 min
How much of a brand is real? How much is in our heads?
#706: Water’s Worth
Jun 17, 2016 • 12 min
If your country’s main export is water, what happens when your wells run dry?
#583: Cow Noir
Jun 15, 2016 • 19 min
There is a crime wave in the West right now. Cattle rustling — stealing cattle — is on the rise. The crime is as old as America, and it’s making a big comeback.
#705: The Muscle Patents
Jun 10, 2016 • 19 min
Two bodybuilders go at it over a Stanford University patent. And we dive in to make sense of it.
#563: The Future Of Work Looks Like A UPS Truck
Jun 8, 2016 • 13 min
Technology means that no matter what job you have — whether you’re alone in a truck on an empty road or sitting in a cubicle in front of a computer — your company can now track everything you do.
#704: Open Office
Jun 3, 2016 • 18 min
This episode is for everyone who’s ever had to ask their coworkers to quiet down or walk laps of the office to make a private phone call. Today on the show: We meet the man who stole your office door.
#463: How To Get A Country To Trust Its Banks
Jun 1, 2016 • 18 min
It’s something you can see on every day and on every block in most major cities. But in Myanmar, a country that was cut off from the rest of the world for decades, an ATM is a small miracle
#703: How To Hide A Million Dollars In Plain Sight
May 27, 2016 • 18 min
How do you secretly stash away a million dollars? One way is to hide the money in plain sight, right in the heart of New York City. Today’s show: the case of who owns Apartment 5B.
#217: The Art Of Living At The Poverty Line
May 25, 2016 • 22 min
Meet a single mother who makes $16,000 a year and managed to fund a vacation at a Caribbean resort with an interest-free loan from one of the world’s largest banks.
#702: Nigeria, You Win!
May 20, 2016 • 16 min
One night, Lariat Alhassan heard an ad on the radio. It said the Nigerian government was offering millions of dollars to people with business ideas, practically no strings attached. She gave it a go.
#366: How To Make It In The Food Truck Business
May 18, 2016 • 12 min
In New York City, more than 5,000 food trucks and carts compete for the business of hungry office workers. And finding the right spot to set up shop can mean the difference between fortune and ruin.
#701: A Bank Without Interest
May 13, 2016 • 17 min
To serve Muslim customers, a bank in Michigan tried to comply with both U.S. regulations and Islamic law. One problem: Islamic law prohibits charging interest.
#430: Black Market Pharmacies And The Spam Empire Behind Them
May 11, 2016 • 17 min
On today’s show, we open up some of those annoying pharmaceutical spam emails and find out who’s clicking to buy herbal viagra? Also, what happens when they do?
#700: Peanuts and Cracker Jack
May 6, 2016 • 21 min
Beer. Water. Pretzels. It takes effort, strategy, and some serious lungs to sell expensive junk food at a baseball game. Meet the hot dog vending legend of Fenway Park.
#699: Why Did The Job Cross The Road?
May 4, 2016 • 20 min
To get to the other side… where there are millions of dollars in tax breaks.
#698: The Long Way Home
Apr 29, 2016 • 16 min
Housing subsidies are often given out through a lottery. But why do we let random chance decide who gets help with the rent? We don’t do that for food stamps or health care, so why housing?
#417: Lance Armstrong and The Business of Doping
Apr 27, 2016 • 18 min
In this episode, we consider a world where everybody cheats, and where you can’t win unless you game the regulators: Professional cycling.
#697: Help Wanted
Apr 22, 2016 • 19 min
When you’re an employer looking at a giant stack of resumes, you have to find some way to quickly narrow the field. How do you do that fairly? And what happens when your good intentions backfire?
#468: Kid Rock Vs. The Scalpers
Apr 20, 2016 • 18 min
We talk to Kid Rock about how he tried to cut scalpers out of the business — and still sell cheap tickets to his shows.
#696: Class Action
Apr 15, 2016 • 20 min
The modern class action was created on a typewriter in the back of a car. (Sort of.) Now, thousands of these lawsuits are filed every year. How did we get here? Is this really a good way to do things?
#695: Put A Chip On It
Apr 13, 2016 • 18 min
Credit cards with chips in them have been around for four decades. So why is America only getting them now? And now that they are here, why are so few places using them?
#694: The Gun That Wouldn’t Shoot
Apr 8, 2016 • 19 min
Imagine a safer kind of gun. Imagine a company with a plan to build it. Imagine customers ready to buy it. Imagine what could go wrong. A whole lot.
#562: A Mall Divided
Apr 6, 2016 • 13 min
A California mall straddles the border between two cities — and the minimum wage is higher on one side.
#693: Unpayable
Apr 1, 2016 • 19 min
Puerto Rico is part of the United States, but not one of the United States. And this limbo status has brought a world of economic trouble.
#403: What Can We Do With Our Shell Companies?
Mar 30, 2016 • 21 min
And how can we meet our fake shareholder and fake director?
#692: The Secret Life Of Line 24
Mar 25, 2016 • 21 min
On today’s show, we tell the stories of a few mysterious lines on IRS form 1040 — the basic tax form. In its own, maddening way, the 1040 is a great American document.
#691: The Great Unbundling
Mar 23, 2016 • 29 min
There’s a revolution underway in the world of cable TV—more and more people are getting rid of it. And there are some unforeseen consequences when we cut the cord and go our separate ways.
#690: All In
Mar 18, 2016 • 17 min
We talk to a professional poker player who lost on the first day of poker’s most famous tournament—but went on to get a huge payout. Turns out there’s a game behind the game.
#390: We Set Up An Offshore Company In A Tax Haven
Mar 16, 2016 • 28 min
In this show, we dive deep into the world of hiding money. We look for the easiest place to shelter a bank account and set up our own shell company in an offshore tax haven. Good times.
#689: A Hedge Fund, A Country, And A Big Sailboat
Mar 11, 2016 • 16 min
Argentina decided that it could take on the world. They had a bunch of debt and said, ‘we’re not paying.’ Then a group of hedge funds took the entire country to court.
#418: The Government’s Fake Bank For Drug Money
Mar 9, 2016 • 16 min
One day in the early 1990s, a man walked into the U.S. embassy in Ecuador. He said he had information on how to go after some of most powerful drug traffickers in the world.
#688: Brilliant vs. Boring
Mar 4, 2016 • 21 min
A million-dollar bet pits a bunch of really smart money managers against the simplest investment idea in the world.
#687: Buy This Passport
Mar 2, 2016 • 20 min
Most of us don’t think of citizenship as a product. It’s something more: It’s part of who you are. On today’s show, we look at what happens when citizenship goes up for sale.
#686: If Elected President
Feb 26, 2016 • 20 min
Today, we bring you the future as dreamt up by presidential candidates. Also: sober economists poking holes in the candidates’ dreams.
#424: How Much Is A Firefighter Worth?
Feb 24, 2016 • 18 min
Firefighters don’t go to fires as much as much as they used to. Yet the fire department is still set up the same way. What should change?
#685: Larry vs. The IRS
Feb 19, 2016 • 20 min
A lot of people dream of not paying their taxes. Larry Williams scoured the fine print of IRS code, talked to lawyers, settled on a plan, then just stopped paying taxes.
#684: The Return Of The Colonel
Feb 17, 2016 • 15 min
There’s a secret war going on inside every franchise. At KFC, it all goes back to a guy with a white beard and a black string tie: Colonel Harland Sanders.
#683: Our Valentines
Feb 12, 2016 • 24 min
Regret. Self-loathing. Jealousy. Happy Valentine’s Day! We bring you little stories that we love so much, we wish we had thought of them ourselves.
#466: DIY Finance
Feb 10, 2016 • 14 min
He has thousands of dollars stashed around his house. She’s part of an informal savings club. And Miguelo Rada has a whole bank in his pocket.
#682: When CEO Pay Exploded
Feb 5, 2016 • 20 min
Politicians have argued for decades that CEOs should earn less money. But there was a moment in the 1990s when CEO pay suddenly shot up. What happened?
#681: The Oil Kingdom
Feb 3, 2016 • 15 min
For years, Saudi Arabia has been living off one resource and one resource only: Oil. But now, the price of a barrel has plummeted, and the country is scrambling to adapt.
#680: Anatomy Of A Scam
Jan 29, 2016 • 22 min
You’ve seen these ads: “You can work from home and get rich. It’s easy. Call this number!” So, what happens when you respond?
#679: You Asked For It
Jan 27, 2016 • 18 min
We ponder the origins of money, the economics of Santa, and the business of cemeteries. Why? Because you asked.
#678: Auction Fever
Jan 22, 2016 • 14 min
We uncover the secrets of the auction world. There is conniving. There are tricks. Also: Hydraulic hammers.
#283: Why Do We Tip?
Jan 20, 2016 • 17 min
According to one theory, we tip because we feel guilty, not because we want better service.
#677: The Experiment Experiment
Jan 15, 2016 • 20 min
How much of published scientific research is false? Scientists are trying to figure it out.
10 11 51 52 62 18
Jan 13, 2016 • 21 min
If those are the winning Powerball numbers, this will be our last show. Also: The story of Queen Elizabeth’s 1567 lottery, and we meet a man who has won multiple jackpots, no luck needed.
#675: The Cost Of Crossing
Jan 8, 2016 • 19 min
Sneaking people across the U.S.-Mexico border is a well established, booming business. Today on the show, we meet a businessman and a client in the evolving industry of human smuggling.
#15: Delicious Cake Futures
Jan 6, 2016 • 15 min
On today’s Planet Money, the complex economy of one elementary-school lunchroom.
#674: We Cooked A Peacock
Jan 1, 2016 • 20 min
In the 1600s, a good spice rub was the ultimate display of wealth. People would risk their lives for a sack of cloves. On today’s show, we cook a recipe from the spice trade days.
#673 The Rest of the Story, 2015 Edition
Dec 30, 2015 • 19 min
Not every story has an ending. Sometimes after we finish a podcast and send it to you, the facts change, a new chapter unfolds. Today on the show, we update some of our favorite episodes from 2015.
#672: Bagging The Birkin
Dec 25, 2015 • 17 min
There are people with Birkin bags and there are the rest of us. Today on the show: the elaborate, upside-down strategy that has kept a $60,000 purse the “it” bag for 30 years.
#671: An Insider Trader Tells All
Dec 23, 2015 • 18 min
Today on the show: A man who got caught insider trading explains everything — what he did, how he did it, and why. Though he’s still struggling with that last one.
#670: The Santa Suit
Dec 18, 2015 • 16 min
Today on the show: A lawsuit over a Santa suit. It’s a window into countless hidden fights that shape the stuff we buy.
#590: The Planet Money Workout
Dec 16, 2015 • 15 min
Today on the show: The mind games that gyms play with you. From design to pricing to free bagels, gyms want to be a product that everyone buys, but no one actually uses.
#669: A or B
Dec 11, 2015 • 15 min
These days A/B testing is everywhere. It’s shaped almost every website, some stores and even some school lessons. Today, the most meta episode ever. Planet Money A/B tests a show about A/B testing.
#668: Frank Sinatra’s Mug
Dec 9, 2015 • 17 min
When you die you can pass on your money, your house. But your image—what you look and sound like—that’s trickier. Today on the show: How Frank Sinatra made his image, and maybe yours, last forever.
#667: Auditing ISIS
Dec 4, 2015 • 21 min
What happens when ISIS takes over your city? Today on the show: We talk to a man who lived and worked in ISIS controlled territory. He tells us about how he paid taxes, where he kept his money and a $50 candy bar.
#216: How Four Drinking Buddies Saved Brazil
Dec 2, 2015 • 21 min
Two decades ago, shoppers in Brazil would run ahead of the worker who raised prices every day. Inflation was crazy. Today on the show: How four economists —who were also drinking buddies— fixed it.
#666: The Hoverboard Life
Nov 27, 2015 • 17 min
The hottest toy this holiday season has no identifiable logo, no main distributor, and no widely agreed upon name. Today, we seek out the origin of the hands-free, two wheeled, self-balancing scooter.
#665: The Pickle Problem
Nov 25, 2015 • 17 min
A national network of food banks couldn’t figure out how to get the right food to the right place at the right time. So they tried a bold experiment: the free market.
#664: The Great Inflation
Nov 20, 2015 • 24 min
For much of the 70s inflation was bad. Prices rose at over 10 percent a year. Nothing could stop it — until one powerful person did something very unpopular. Today’s show: How we beat inflation.
#416: Why The Price Of Coke Didn’t Change For 70 Years
Nov 18, 2015 • 19 min
Prices go up and down. But for 70 years, the price of a bottle of Coca-Cola stayed a nickel. On today’s show, we find out why. The answer includes a half a million vending machines and a 7.5 cent coin.
#663: Money Trees
Nov 13, 2015 • 17 min
Each time you travel, you burn fossil fuels. That hurts the environment. Some people say you can plant a bunch of trees to offset the damage. Is that for real? We investigate carbon offsets.
#505: A Locked Door, A Secret Meeting And The Birth Of The Fed
Nov 11, 2015 • 15 min
A 70-year-old man with a bad cold and many mistresses, a nation that’s ambivalent about a central bank, and a secret meeting on an island. Today on the show: The origin story of the Federal Reserve.
#662: OMG TPP
Nov 6, 2015 • 22 min
The text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership isn’t secret anymore. We dove in. From tariffs for waterproof overalls to copyright rules, we tell you what we found. Also, a way countries can get around it.
#661: The Less Deadly Catch
Nov 4, 2015 • 18 min
Today on the show, how an economic fix took the deadliest job in America and made it safer. And why a lot of people are mad about it.
#660: The T-Rex In My Backyard
Oct 31, 2015 • 19 min
There’s a boom going on for dinosaur bones, a veritable gold rush for fossils buried in the badlands of North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Today on the show: the T-Rex that started it all.
#518: Your Organs, Please
Oct 28, 2015 • 19 min
How do you get someone to sign up as an organ donor? Today on the show: The story of one woman who found a way by partnering with one of the more hated American institutions.
#659: How To Make $3 Trillion Disappear
Oct 23, 2015 • 15 min
After the financial crisis, the Fed created over $3 trillion. To undo this, they have a new trick. Today on the show, how the Federal Reserve plans to make that money disappear.
#550: When Salaries Aren’t Secret
Oct 21, 2015 • 18 min
What would it be like if everyone at your office knew what everyone else earned? On today’s show, we hear about a company where salaries aren’t secret.
#658: Strike One
Oct 16, 2015 • 15 min
On today’s show: The birth of unions as we know them. It’s a story that includes, among other things, bravery, cunning, and auto-part projectiles flung out of giant sling shots.
#657: The Tale Of The Onion King
Oct 14, 2015 • 15 min
Vince Kosuga farmed onions. Then he tried trading them on the market, too. He made millions. Today on the show: How trading got so out of hand that the Chicago River flowed with America’s onions.
#656: Bubblelicious
Oct 9, 2015 • 14 min
Things are booming in Silicon Valley. Maybe too booming. But economists say you can’t call it a bubble until it goes POP. Today on the show: We find three bubbly barometers that could signal a bust.
#564: The Signature
Oct 7, 2015 • 16 min
The signature. We put it on checks, contracts, credit cards. It’s supposed to say, “This is me.” But where did the idea come from? And why are we still using it? We consult a rabbi, a lawyer and a credit card executive.
#655: Pay Patients, Save Money
Oct 2, 2015 • 19 min
We shop around when we get a plane ticket or buy a couch. But we spend thousands of dollars on health care without shopping around. What happens if we pay patients when they choose the cheaper option?
#654: When The Boats Arrive
Sep 30, 2015 • 15 min
In 1980, thousands of Cuban refugees suddenly arrived in Miami and started looking for work. On today’s show: What happened next. And what it tells us about the migration crisis in Europe today.
#653: The Anti-Store
Sep 25, 2015 • 15 min
Today on the show: How Price Club and its imitators changed the way we shop. And how a new company is taking what Price Club started to new extremes.
#386: The Power of Free
Sep 23, 2015 • 19 min
Everybody likes free. But free can be dangerous. On today’s show, what happens when you take something that was free and give it a price. That’s a highly risky move and the damage can be enormous.
#652: The Hydrox Resurrection
Sep 18, 2015 • 18 min
Hidden in the trash heap of commerce there is buried treasure. Abandoned brands, even beloved, trusted brands, are waiting to be claimed and reborn. Today on the show: a cookie comeback.
#651: The Salmon Taboo
Sep 16, 2015 • 15 min
Today on the show: How hard could it be to get a nation of sushi lovers to try raw salmon?
#650: The Scariest Thing In Hollywood
Sep 11, 2015 • 22 min
One Hollywood director leaves the world of big budget blockbusters for something even more lucrative: low budget Hollywood.
#649: China, China, China
Sep 9, 2015 • 17 min
What’s going on in China? Is the second largest economy in the world about to come crashing down?
#648: The Benefits of Bankruptcy
Sep 5, 2015 • 20 min
When Roddey Player’s business started heading south, he did everything he could to avoid the big failure: bankruptcy. But what’s painful for Roddey might just be the secret weapon of the U.S. economy.
#200: The Moonshine Stimulus
Sep 2, 2015 • 17 min
We travel to Warm Springs to find out if the rumors are true: Did FDR really buy moonshine during Prohibition? Did he violate the Constitution he had sworn to protect?
#647: Hard Work Is Irrelevant
Aug 28, 2015 • 19 min
Patty McCord helped create a workplace at Netflix that runs more like a professional sports team than a family. If you’re not up to scratch, you’re off the team. Is this the future of work?
#502: The Afterlife Of A T-Shirt
Aug 26, 2015 • 20 min
When used clothes are donated to charity, they begin a second life of sorting, refitting, and lots of travel. We trace used T-shirts to a clothing market in Nairobi, Kenya. For more: http://npr.org/shirt.
#646: Why Can’t We Bet On Elections?
Aug 21, 2015 • 19 min
In Las Vegas you can bet on all kinds of stuff. One thing you can’t bet on: elections. But why? Not long ago, no election was too sacred to wager on, not even the pope’s.
#500: The Humble Innovation At The Heart Of The Global Economy
Aug 19, 2015 • 19 min
Our women’s Planet Money T-shirt got to you thanks to an overlooked innovation that’s essential to the modern global economy. The innovation: a big, metal box.
#645: How To Stop An Asteroid
Aug 14, 2015 • 12 min
Some smart people say we should be doing more to protect the Earth from asteroids. The technical issues are relatively easy. The economics — figuring out who’s going to pay — are much harder.
#497: The Sisters Who Made Our T-Shirt
Aug 12, 2015 • 21 min
Like lots of other clothes, the men’s Planet Money T-shirt was made in Bangladesh. On today’s show, we travel to Bangladesh and visit two sisters who made our shirt.
#644: How Much Does This Cow Weigh?
Aug 7, 2015 • 18 min
We wanted to understand an eerie phenomenon that drives everything from the stock market to the price of orange juice. So we asked you to guess the weight of a cow.
#496: Where The Planet Money T-Shirt Began
Aug 5, 2015 • 20 min
We made a T-shirt, and followed it every step of the way. First step: a high-tech cotton farm.
#643: The Taxi King
Jul 31, 2015 • 17 min
Gene Freidman built a taxi empire in New York City. Now his empire is starting to crumble.
#642: The Big Red Button
Jul 29, 2015 • 16 min
The big question surrounding automation isn’t just about economics or technology. It’s also about psychology. How do designers make us comfortable with something that can be really scary?
#641: Why We Work So Much
Jul 24, 2015 • 13 min
The world economy is more productive than ever before. A lot of people could work fewer hours and still meet their basic needs. But we don’t. Why?
#640: The Bottom Of The Well
Jul 22, 2015 • 21 min
On today’s show: the screwed-up economics of drought, and why the rational thing to do in California right now is use more water.
#639: Where To Hide €50,000, And Other Stories From Greece
Jul 18, 2015 • 19 min
On a visit to Greece, we talk to a guy who found an ingenious place to hoard his cash, a government-protected milk peddler, and a would-be olive oil tycoon.
#638: Tweak The World
Jul 15, 2015 • 15 min
Today on the show: We’re going small. We ask some of the smartest people we know what little thing they would change to improve the world.
#288: Manufacturing The Song Of The Summer
Jul 10, 2015 • 23 min
The story of the secret battle to create the song of the summer — the music industry’s holy grail.
#637: The Last Euro In Greece
Jul 8, 2015 • 13 min
Greece’s monetary system is in crisis right now, and the government is closing the financial pipes. The effects are widespread and weird.
#363: Why People Do Bad Things
Jul 3, 2015 • 23 min
We sit down with a psychologist and a mortgage broker who committed large-scale fraud to try to figure out why respectable people commit fraud.
#636: Yes Or No
Jul 1, 2015 • 15 min
What do you do when your country’s future is put in your hands? On today’s show: The referendum in Greece.
#635: Trade Deal Confidential
Jun 26, 2015 • 23 min
Big trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are often negotiated in secret. On today’s show, trade negotiators tell us what happened when they were locked in a hotel for days on end, and told to hash out a deal.
#478: The Raisin Outlaw
Jun 24, 2015 • 18 min
A farmer wanted to sell all his raisins, but the federal government said no. So he took it to the Supreme Court.
#634: Worst Case Scenario
Jun 19, 2015 • 16 min
We ask three economists: Is there some falling anvil that’s about to crush the economy?
#633: The Birth And Death Of The Price Tag
Jun 17, 2015 • 16 min
The price tag is a fairly recent invention. And it’s already on its way out.
#632: The Chicken Tax
Jun 12, 2015 • 15 min
How the American auto industry is built on a trade dispute over frozen chicken parts.
#631: The Long Run
Jun 10, 2015 • 16 min
Stories about a $50,000 loophole, what neighborhoods mean for kids, and what the Six Million Dollar Man would cost today.
#630: Free Parking
Jun 5, 2015 • 16 min
The story of a 24-year-old kid and the idea he thought would reduce congestion, cut greenhouse gasses and make urban life easier for everyone. Instead, it brought him nothing but trouble.
#629: Buy Low, Sell Prime
Jun 3, 2015 • 14 min
Sam Cohen has made a big business out of buying stuff at big retail stores, then turning around and selling it on Amazon. In an era when stores are profit-maximizing machines, how is that possible?
#628: This Ad’s For You
May 29, 2015 • 22 min
In the early 1960s, Tom Burrell became the first black man in Chicago advertising. Today on the show, the story of how he changed the way people think about ads and how advertising thinks about us.
#627: The Miracle Apple
May 27, 2015 • 13 min
Today on the show, how we got from mealy, nasty apples to apples that taste delicious. The story starts with a breeder who discovered a miracle apple. But discovering that apple wasn’t enough.
#626: This Is The End
May 22, 2015 • 12 min
Machines have been taking jobs forever. In the past, when jobs disappeared, new ones were created. But is this time different?
#625: The Last Job
May 20, 2015 • 16 min
What if robots did all the work? In today’s show, we imagine a world without jobs.
#624: I, Waiter
May 16, 2015 • 16 min
We go out for pizza and meet the latest group of workers getting replaced by machines: servers.
#623: The Machine Comes To Town
May 13, 2015 • 24 min
In Greenville, SC, the best job option isn’t to compete against the robots, but to make friends with them. Note: Today’s show originally aired in January 2012.
#622: Humans vs. Robots
May 8, 2015 • 23 min
If you aren’t already worried about being replaced by a robot, maybe you should be. Today on the show, three races pit humans against machines.
#621: When Luddites Attack
May 6, 2015 • 20 min
Today on the show, the true story of the Luddites.
#620: Why Batteries Suck
May 1, 2015 • 16 min
While most technology is getting smaller and cheaper, batteries still suck. Today on the show, we learn exactly why, and meet some of the people trying to make batteries better.
#372: How Do You Decide Who Gets Lungs?
Apr 29, 2015 • 17 min
You’re not allowed to buy and sell organs. So doctors created a different system. Today on the show: how do you decide who gets lungs?
#619: The Free Throw Experiment
Apr 24, 2015 • 17 min
Casinos are worried that young people aren’t interested in playing slots or other games of luck. They’re turning to games that require skill, like basketball.
#399: Can You Patent A Steak?
Apr 22, 2015 • 18 min
We visit the workshop of the meat inventor who came up with Steak-Umm and KFC’s popcorn chicken. And we try to figure out what meat inventors tell us about patents and innovation. (Today’s show originally ran in August 2012.)
#618: The Square Deal
Apr 17, 2015 • 14 min
In the early 1900s, the president of the largest shoe company in the world tried to create a Utopia for his workers. He called his big experiment in welfare capitalism: The Square Deal.
#617: How Do You Feel?
Apr 15, 2015 • 18 min
Today on the show: how a bunch of rational economists try to deal with our feelings. And the story of a man who came up with five simple questions that he hoped would predict the future.
#616: How Solar Got Cheap
Apr 10, 2015 • 15 min
Just a few years ago, solar power was an expensive luxury for the environmentally conscious. Now it’s a good deal for lots of people. How did solar power get so cheap, so fast?
#361: The Matzo Economy
Apr 8, 2015 • 20 min
How do you make money manufacturing a dry, bland cracker that a tiny percentage of the population eats just one week a year?
#615: A 12-Year-Old Girl Takes On The Video Game Industry
Apr 3, 2015 • 17 min
Maddie Messer is 12, and she loves a good video game. One of her favorites is called Temple Run. In fact, it’s one of the most successful games out there. Temple Run is free to play—if you play as the default character, Guy Dangerous. But playing as a…
#614: Two Radio Guys Walk In To A Bar
Apr 1, 2015 • 14 min
We got on stage at a comedy club to read a bunch of weird economics jokes. We bombed. Today on the show, we do what you’re never supposed to do: explain the joke.
#613: Trash!
Mar 27, 2015 • 13 min
One day it’s profitable to recycle a bottle. The next day, some number in the global economy changes and that bottle suddenly becomes trash. The line between trash and recycling is moving a lot these days. For a bunch of reasons, it’s a tough time to be a…
#443: Don’t Believe The Hype
Mar 25, 2015 • 18 min
Turn on the news on any given day, and you’re likely to hear about the Dow Jones industrial average. It’s one of the most frequently cited measures of U.S. economic health. But the Dow is a seriously flawed stock index, and it’s certainly not the best way…
#612: The Indicator Strikes Back
Mar 20, 2015 • 18 min
Look at the numbers today, and things seem promising for the economy. The unemployment rate is low, and home prices are up. But when you look under the hood, you see that in a lot of ways the financial crisis is still with us. Today on the show: the…
#611: Community
Mar 18, 2015 • 20 min
Free community college. When the President proposed making the first two years free for everyone, it seemed like a magic bullet for expanding opportunity. But only one in three students graduate—and money is not the problem. Today on the show: why is it…
#610: The Prisoner’s Solution
Mar 13, 2015 • 17 min
Frederick Hutson is an entrepreneur whose biggest early venture landed him in prison for nearly five years—distributing marijuana through UPS and FedEx. While in prison, he realized that a lot of the problems of everyday prison life could use a business…
#609: The Curse Of The Black Lotus
Mar 11, 2015 • 16 min
In a classic bubble—housing for example, or tech stocks or Beanie Babies—the fun ends in a crash. Things go belly up, and people can lose a lot of money. The creators of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering faced such a bubble. The cooler they…
#608: Shorters Gonna Short
Mar 6, 2015 • 16 min
Planet Money shorted the entire stock market a few weeks ago. We bet that instead of going up, the stock market would go down. So far, America is winning. And we are losing. It’s been lonely being a short seller, but we know we are not alone. Today on the…
#517: The Fastest Growing, Least Popular Airline In America
Mar 4, 2015 • 14 min
Note: Today’s show is a rerun. It originally ran in February 2014. It’s cheap to fly on Spirit Airlines, but you have to pay extra for perks. And by perks, we mean a bottle of water or space in the overhead bin. It’s totally rational: pay for what you…
#607: Captive Market
Feb 27, 2015 • 20 min
Someone is kidnapped every day in Nigeria. It’s big business, with potentially big rewards in ransom money. And like any business, kidnapping has a particular set of principles and best practices. Today on the show: how a consultant analyzed the…
#606: Spreadsheets!
Feb 25, 2015 • 20 min
Spreadsheets used to be actual sheets of paper. Sometimes, a bunch of sheets of paper taped together. Then, in the late ’70s, a bored student invented the electronic spreadsheet. It transformed industries. But its effects ran deeper than that. As one…
#605: ‘What Goes Up’
Feb 20, 2015 • 14 min
Today on the show, the story of Roger Babson, a guy who made a very, very bold prediction, and got it right. He correctly forecast, really, one of the biggest things you could imagine predicting. It’s the story of how he did that, and what happened to him.
#604: Hey Big Spender
Feb 18, 2015 • 17 min
Today on the show, we bring you three short stories. One about a guy at the center of a high stakes international negotiation. Another about poker players trying not to win money, but give it away. And finally, that thing everyone loves to hate, but maybe…
#603: A Rose On Any Other Day
Feb 13, 2015 • 17 min
Red roses are a unique product — a commodity worth double the price for a very short, 24-hour period: Valentine’s Day.To cash in on this demand, flower growers have to figure out how to make millions of roses bloom exactly the right amount, at exactly the…
#510: The Birth Of The Minimum Wage
Feb 11, 2015 • 16 min
Note: Today’s show is a rerun. It originally ran in January 2014. For most of U.S. history, there was no minimum wage. A few times, politicians passed laws tiptoeing toward a minimum. But the Supreme Court struck those laws down. On today’s show: how the…
#602: Big Weed
Feb 6, 2015 • 19 min
Pot is now legal in some states. But on the federal level, it’s illegal. The legal gray area means banks in the U.S. are wary to give pot businesses access to basic financial instruments – like checking accounts. Today on the show, we visit a country…
#601: The Chocolate Curse
Feb 4, 2015 • 18 min
The world is running out of chocolate. Cocoa is in short supply. Demand is way up, thanks to China and India developing a taste for the sweet stuff. And producing more cocoa isn’t so easy. Cocoa is a fussy plant. It doesn’t grow in very many places and it…
#600: The People Inside Your Machine
Jan 30, 2015 • 22 min
They are hundreds of thousands of people out there doing stuff to your internet that you probably think is automatic. They aren’t computer programmers, they’re just regular people working from their offices, homes and bedrooms. They are the people of…
#599: The Invisible Wall
Jan 28, 2015 • 18 min
Hernando de Soto wanted to figure out what was trapping people in poverty. “There’s gotta be an invisible wall someplace,” he thought. “Let’s find the wall.” Today on the show: How de Soto found the invisible wall that was trapping people in poverty. How…
#598: The Very First Short
Jan 23, 2015 • 19 min
There have been short sellers throughout history. Today, the story of a man who was the very first short seller. The first person to bet that a stock will go down. It doesn’t go well for him.
#597: We’re Short America
Jan 21, 2015 • 20 min
If you own a house, stock, bonds, or a retirement account, you’re betting that things are going to get better — that the lines on the chart will keep going up. Historically, this is a reasonable bet. But you can place a bet in the opposite direction. You…
#253: Gold Standard, R.I.P.
Jan 16, 2015
Note: Today’s show is a rerun. It originally ran in February 2011. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ignores the advice of America’s big-name economists — and listens instead to a guy who helped take care of the trees on his estate. Montagu Norman, head of the…
#252: The Gold Standard
Jan 14, 2015 • 16 min
We visit the respected finance writer (and charming curmudgeon) James Grant. He makes the case for going back on the gold standard. For more:n.pr/1IxK0L2
#596: Johnny Mnemonic’s Secret Door
Jan 9, 2015 • 18 min
Note: This episode contains explicit language. Every time there is a big new release of some software, an operating system or a new browser, hackers get to work. Each new release is the start of a race because there are all these giant players who…
#222: The Price Of Lettuce In Brooklyn
Jan 7, 2015
Note: Today’s show is a rerun. It originally ran in October 2010. On today’s Planet Money, we go shopping with George Minichiello. George is one of hundreds of federal employees who goes to stores all over the country and record the prices of thousands of…
595: The Rest Of The Story, 2014 Edition
Dec 31, 2014
Sometimes all you can say at the end of a story is “time will tell.” Today on the show, time has told. We follow up on our favorite stories of 2014 to find out what happened after we turned off our recorders. We follow up on one of the boldest plans of…
#594: Board Games
Dec 30, 2014
CEO pay comes up a lot in the news. The stories often include someone complaining that it’s too high. Then there’s someone on the other side, defending CEO pay. But that’s usually that’s where the stories stop. On today’s show: an actual story about CEO…
#593: Who Had The First Job?
Dec 24, 2014
People have always worked. But the thing we think of today as a job — the thing you apply for instead of being born into, the thing you go to in the morning and leave at night — is actually a recent invention. The modern job can act as a buffer to protect…
#592: Bell Wars
Dec 22, 2014
On today’s show, a story on a Christmasy theme: Handbells! But also, a not-so-Christmasy theme: A decades-long feud between two big bell companies, located right down the road from each other. But then, a Christmasy ending: Peace! For more:…
#591: War? What War?
Dec 20, 2014 • 19 min
Last month, a bunch of Ukrainian business owners flew to New York to try to convince a bunch of New York portfolio managers and private equity funds to invest in Ukraine. There are lots of reasons that it is crazy to hold an “Invest in Ukraine” conference…
#590: The Planet Money Workout
Dec 17, 2014 • 15 min
Most businesses would close if their customers never showed up. An empty restaurant is a disaster. An empty store means bankruptcy. At a gym, emptiness equals success. Today on the show, the mind games that gyms play with you. From design to pricing to…
#589: Hello, I’m Calling From La Mafia
Dec 12, 2014 • 19 min
Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. Jobs that seem dull and safe in most countries have become incredibly dangerous professions in Honduras. For example: Driving a bus. On today’s show: what it’s like to live and work in the most dangerous…
#588: The Technology Tango
Dec 10, 2014 • 20 min
How customers use a piece of technology can change what the product is. And what the product is can change the business model for the company. It’s a constant dance between the customers and the sellers. Today on the show, three short stories about this…
#587: Jubilee! (?)
Dec 5, 2014
There’s an idea that dates back at least to biblical times. There should be a moment when debts are forgiven. Its called a jubilee. The jubilee has not gotten a lot of traction in the modern world. You may remember after the financial crisis, some of the…
#271: A City On The Moon
Dec 3, 2014
It’s called “Iceland” for a reason. Polar bears sometimes wind up there floating by on chunks of ice. In the winter, there are only a few hours of daylight each day. Reykjavik feels like you took a European city — coffee shops, fancy cars, orderly streets…
#586: How Stuff Gets Cheaper
Nov 28, 2014
We tend to get obsessed with things that get more expensive over time — college tuition, say, or health care. But lots of things have actually gotten cheaper in real terms. Things made by machines. Things like consumer electronics. Some new gadget comes…
#585: Chasing The Dread Pirate Roberts
Nov 26, 2014 • 20 min
Today on the show, the story of the Dread Pirate Roberts of the internet age. A man who dreamed of setting up a utopian marketplace, a place where you could buy and sell almost anything in secret. The pirate created a market with no contracts, no…
#474: The North Korea Files
Nov 21, 2014 • 24 min
Note: Today’s show is a rerun. It originally ran in July 2013. U.S. citizens who want to buy stuff from North Korea have to write a letter to the U.S. government asking for special permission. As regular listeners know, we’re sort of obsessed with North…
#584: What The Lebron?
Nov 19, 2014 • 17 min
Nike is a smart multi-billion dollar company, but some sneaker fans have figured out how they can get a better price for Nike sneakers than Nike can. Some pairs trade like stocks — selling for double, quadruple, 12 times their retail price after they…
#583: Cow Noir
Nov 14, 2014 • 20 min
On September 9th, BJ Holloway’s life savings were stolen. His 6 cows were taken in the dead of the night from his land in Spencer, Oklahoma. BJ looked everywhere for his stolen cattle. He asked his neighbors. He filed a police report. But out in Oklahoma,…
#582: Guarding The Secret Path
Nov 12, 2014 • 16 min
In west Africa right now, there are two kinds of countries: Those that have Ebola and those that do not. Liberia for instance, has reported more than 6,000 cases of Ebola and 2,697 people have died. Right next door, in the country of Ivory Coast, there…
#581: Free Money
Nov 7, 2014
There’s a term in economics, arbitrage, that basically means free money. It’s finding a difference in price, a pricing mistake, you can exploit to make money. Arbitrage is a risk-free way to buy low and sell high. Everyday there are loads of people and…
#580: The Other Side Of The Pump
Nov 5, 2014
A gallon of gas is selling at some pumps for less than $3 right now. The price has been falling since early summer, and local TV news reporters are out at gas stations asking people ‘how happy do you feel?’ Today on the show, two stories from the other…
#579: Is The NCAA An Illegal Cartel?
Oct 31, 2014 • 19 min
In big-time college football or basketball, money is everywhere. From giant TV contracts, to million-dollar coaches’ salaries, to deals with shoe companies. But it’s against NCAA rules for colleges to pay athletes. On today’s show, we ask: Is the NCAA’s…
#578: How To Steal A Million Barrels Of Oil
Oct 29, 2014
In Nigeria, millions of gallons of oil are stolen all the time. There are advertisements for stolen oil on the Nigerian version of Craigslist, and not JUST small containers. The advertisements are for giant tankers full of oil. Today on the show, how to…
#400: What Two Pasta Factories Tell Us About The Italian Economy
Oct 24, 2014
Note: Today’s show is a rerun. It originally ran in September 2012. A decade ago, the Barilla pasta factory in Foggia, Italy, had a big problem with people skipping work. The absentee rate was around 10 percent. People called in sick all the time,…
#577: The Kansas Experiment
Oct 22, 2014
Today on the show, a Republican governor lives the dream. He cuts taxes dramatically in his state, and he promises good times ahead. But the good times do not come. Now he’s fighting for his political life. For more: http://n.pr/1pBNfq7
#576: When Women Stopped Coding
Oct 17, 2014
Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. Most of the big names in technology are men. But a lot of computing pioneers, the ones who programmed the first digital computers, were women. And for decades, the number of women in computer science was growing.…
#381: Why It’s Illegal To Braid Hair Without A License
Oct 15, 2014 • 15 min
Note: Today’s show is a rerun. It originally ran in June 2012. A few years ago, Jestina Clayton started a hair braiding business in her home in Centerville, Utah. The business let her stay home with her kids, and in good months, she made enough to pay for…
#575: The Fondue Conspiracy
Oct 11, 2014
The popularity of fondue wasn’t an accident. It was planned by a cartel of Swiss cheese makers, which ruled the Swiss economy for 80 years. On today’s show: Swiss cheese. A story about what happens when well-meaning folks decide that the rules of…
#574: The Buffalo Talk-Off
Oct 8, 2014
Today’s show is the story of a guy who tried to make something of himself by getting into a rough business: debt collection. It’s also the story of the low-level, semi-legal debt-collection economy that sprung up in Buffalo, New York. And, in a small way,…