Planet Money
Planet Money
NPR
Wanna see a trick? Give us any topic and we can tie it back to the economy. At Planet Money, we explore the forces that shape our lives and bring you along for the ride. Don't just understand the economy – understand the world.Wanna go deeper? Subscribe to Planet Money+ and get sponsor-free episodes of Planet Money, The Indicator, and Planet Money Summer School. Plus access to bonus content. It's a new way to support the show you love. Learn more at plus.npr.org/planetmoney
Why is everyone talking about Musk's money?
We've lived amongst Elon Musk headlines for so long now that it's easy to forget just how much he sounds like a sci-fi character. He runs a space company and wants to colonize mars. He also runs a company that just implanted a computer chip into a human brain. And he believes there's a pretty high probability everything is a simulation and we are living inside of it.But the latest Elon Musk headline-grabbing drama is less something out of sci-fi, and more something pulled from HBO's "Succession."Elon Musk helped take Tesla from the brink of bankruptcy to one of the biggest companies in the world. And his compensation for that was an unprecedentedly large pay package that turned him into the richest person on Earth. But a judge made a decision about that pay package that set off a chain of events resulting in quite possibly the most expensive, highest stakes vote in publicly traded company history.The ensuing battle over Musk's compensation is not just another wild Elon tale. It's a lesson in how to motivate the people running the biggest companies that – like it or not – are shaping our world. It's a classic economics problem with a very 2024 twist.Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
Jun 19
28 min
What's with all the tiny soda cans? And other grocery store mysteries, solved.
There's a behind the scenes industry that helps big brands decide questions like: How big should a bag of chips be? What's the right size for a bottle of shampoo? And yes, also: When should a company do a little shrinkflation? From Cookie Monster to President Biden, everybody is complaining about shrinkflation these days. But when we asked the packaging and pricing experts, they told us that shrinkflation is just one move in a much larger, much weirder 4-D chess game. The name of that game is "price pack architecture." This is the idea that you shouldn't just sell your product in one or two sizes. You should sell your product in a whole range of different sizes, at a whole range of different price points. Over the past 15 years, price pack architecture has completely changed how products are marketed and sold in the United States. Today, we are going on a shopping cart ride-along with one of those price pack architects. She's going to pull back the curtain and show us why some products are getting larger while others are getting smaller, and tell us about the adorable little soda can that started it all.By the end of the episode, you'll never look at a grocery store the same way again. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
Jun 14
24 min
Bringing a tariff to a graphite fight
Graphite is sort of the one-hit wonder of minerals. And that hit? Pencils. Everyone loves to talk about pencils when it comes to graphite. If graphite were to perform a concert, they'd close out the show with "pencils," and everyone would clap and cheer. But true fans of graphite would be shouting out "batteries!" Because graphite is a key ingredient in another important thing that we all use in our everyday lives: lithium ion batteries.Almost all of the battery-ready graphite in the world comes from one place: China. That's actually true of lots of the materials that go into batteries, like processed lithium and processed cobalt. Which is why it was such a big deal when, earlier this year, President Biden announced a tariff package that will make a bunch of Chinese imports more expensive. Included in this package are some tariffs on Chinese graphite. He wants to create a new battery future—one that doesn't rely so much on China. In this episode, we get down on the ground to look at this big supply chain story through the lens of one critical mineral. And we visit a small town that realizes that it might be the perfect place to create an American graphite industry. And we find that declaring a new battery future is one thing, but making it happen is another thing entirely. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
Jun 12
25 min
How much national debt is too much?
Most economic textbooks will tell you that there can be real dangers in running up a big national debt. A major concern is how the debt you add now could slow down economic growth in the future. Economists have not been able to nail down how much debt a country can safely take on. But they have tried.Back in 2010, two economists took a look at 20 countries over the course of decades, and sometimes centuries, and came back with a number. Their analysis suggested that economic growth slowed significantly once national debt passed 90% of annual GDP... and that is when the fight over debt and growth really took off.On today's episode: a deep dive on what we know, and what we don't know, about when exactly national debt becomes a problem. We will also try to figure out how worried we should be about the United States' current debt total of 26 trillion dollars.This episode was hosted by Keith Romer and Nick Fountain. It was produced by Willa Rubin and edited by Molly Messick. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez with help from Sofia Shchukina and engineered by Cena Loffredo. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
Jun 7
26 min
The history of light (classic)
For thousands of years, getting light was a huge hassle. You had to make candles from scratch. This is not as romantic as it sounds. You had to get a cow, raise the cow, feed the cow, kill the cow, get the fat out of the cow, cook the fat, dip wicks into the fat. All that--for not very much light. Now, if we want to light a whole room, we just flip a switch.The history of light explains why the world today is the way it is. It explains why we aren't all subsistence farmers, and why we can afford to have artists and massage therapists and plumbers. (And, yes, people who make podcasts about the history of light.) The history of light is the history of economic growth--of things getting faster, cheaper, and more efficient.On today's show: How we got from dim little candles made out of cow fat, to as much light as we want at the flick of a switch.Today's show was hosted by Jacob Goldstein and David Kestenbaum. It was originally produced by Caitlin Kenney and Damiano Marchetti. Today's rerun was produced by James Sneed, and edited by Jenny Lawton. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Engineering by Valentina Rodríguez Sánchez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
Jun 5
21 min
How the FBI's fake cell phone company put criminals into real jail cells
There is a constant arms race between law enforcement and criminals, especially when it comes to technology. For years, law enforcement has been frustrated with encrypted messaging apps, like Signal and Telegram. And law enforcement has been even more frustrated by encrypted phones, specifically designed to thwart authorities from snooping. But in 2018, in a story that seems like it's straight out of a spy novel, the FBI was approached with an offer: Would they like to get into the encrypted cell phone business? What if they could convince criminals to use their phones to plan and document their crimes — all while the FBI was secretly watching? It could be an unprecedented peek into the criminal underground. To pull off this massive sting operation, the FBI needed to design a cell phone that criminals wanted to use and adopt. Their mission: to make a tech platform for the criminal underworld. And in many ways, the FBI's journey was filled with all the hallmarks of many Silicon Valley start-ups. On this show, we talk with journalist Joseph Cox, who wrote a new book about the FBI's cell phone business, called Dark Wire. And we hear from the federal prosecutor who became an unlikely tech company founder. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
May 31
23 min
So you've been scammed, now what?
We are living in a kind of golden age for online fraudsters. As the number of apps and services for storing and sending money has exploded – so too have the schemes that bad actors have cooked up to steal that money. Every year, we hear more and more stories of financial heartbreak. What you don't often hear about is what happens after the scam?On today's show, we follow one woman who was scammed out of over $800,000 on her quest to get her money back. That journey takes her from the halls of the FBI to the fraud departments of some of the country's biggest financial institutions. And it offers a window into how the systems that are theoretically designed to help the victims of financial cybercrime actually work in practice. This episode was hosted by Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi and Jeff Guo. It was produced by Willa Rubin and edited by Keith Romer. It was engineered by Neal Rauch and fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
May 29
27 min
The junkyard economist
On today's episode, we ride through the streets of San Francisco with a long-time junkman, Jon Rolston. Jon has spent the last two decades clearing out houses and offices of their junk. He's found all sorts of items: a life-time supply of toilet paper, gold rings, $20,000 in cash. Over the years, he's developed a keen eye for what has value and what might sell. He's become a kind of trash savant.As we ride with Jon, he shows us the whole ecosystem of how our reusable trash gets dealt with — from metals (ferrous and non-ferrous) to tires to cardboard. And we see how our junk can sometimes get a second chance at life. If you can understand the junk market like Jon, you can understand dozens of trends in our economy. This episode was hosted by Erika Beras and James Sneed, and produced by James Sneed with help from Emma Peaslee. It was edited by Jess Jiang. Engineering by Josh Newell. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney. Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
May 24
25 min
Anatomy of a layoff
By one estimate, 40 percent of American workers get laid off at least once in their careers. And when that happens, companies will often say, "It's not personal. It has nothing to do with you or your performance. We're just changing priorities, making a strategic shift." It's like the business version of: "It's not you, it's me." And just like a breakup, it feels terrible. This happened to a man we're calling V, who was working at the same company as his husband when he got laid off. And for V, the experience felt shocking. It left him and his husband with a lot of unresolved questions. On today's show, the story of that layoff. And we help that couple get some answers by taking their questions to an HR expert who gives the low-down on lay-offs. This story is adapted from a 3-part series on layoffs produced by Yowei Shaw for her show, Proxy. The layoff series was edited by John DeLore with research and reporting help from Kim Nederveen Pieterse. You can listen to the full layoff series from Proxy wherever you get your podcasts, and you can support the show and find out more by going to patreon.com/proxypodcast. And you can check out her original song "Gold Star" on Spotify and YouTube. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
May 22
27 min
The hack that almost broke the internet
Last month, the world narrowly avoided a cyberattack of stunning ambition. The targets were some of the most important computers on the planet. Computers that power the internet. Computers used by banks and airlines and even the military. What these computers had in common was that they all relied on open source software. A strange fact about modern life is that most of the computers responsible for it are running open source software. That is, software mostly written by unpaid, sometimes even anonymous volunteers. Some crucial open source programs are managed by just a single overworked programmer. And as the world learned last month, these programs can become attractive targets for hackers. In this case, the hackers had infiltrated a popular open source program called XZ. Slowly, over the course of two years, they transformed XZ into a secret backdoor. And if they hadn't been caught, they could have taken control of large swaths of the internet. On today's show, we get the story behind the XZ hack and what made it possible. How the hackers took advantage of the strange way we make modern software. And what that tells us about the economics of one of the most important industries in the world. Help support Planet Money and hear our bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
May 17
25 min
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