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Planet Money

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

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Recent Episodes of Planet Money


How flying got so bad (or did it?)

How flying got so bad (or did it?)

We often hear that air travel is worse than it's ever been. Gone are the days when airplanes touted piano bars and meat carving stations — or even free meals. Instead we're crammed into tiny seats and fighting for overhead space.

How did we get here? Most of the inconveniences we think about when we fly can be traced back to the period of time just after the federal government deregulated the airlines.

When commercial air travel took off in the 1940s, the government regulated how many national airlines were allowed to exist, where they were allowed to...

Episode 5 July 2024 25m and 15s


The two companies driving the modern economy

The two companies driving the modern economy

At the core of most of the electronics we use today are some very tiny, very powerful chips. Semiconductor chips. And they are mighty: they help power our phones, laptops, and cars. They enable advances in healthcare, military systems, transportation, and clean energy. And they're also critical for artificial intelligence, providing the hardware needed to train complex machine learning.

On today's episode, we're bringing you two stories from our daily show The Indicator, diving into the two most important semiconductor chip companies, which have transformed the industry over the past 40 years.

First, we trace NVIDIA's journey...

Episode 3 July 2024 20m and 15s


Do immigrants really take jobs and lower wages?

Do immigrants really take jobs and lower wages?

We wade into the heated debate over immigrants' impact on the labor market. When the number of workers in a city increases, does that take away jobs from the people who already live and work there? Does a surge of immigration hurt their wages?

The debate within the field of economics often centers on Nobel-prize winner David Card's ground-breaking paper, "The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market." Today on the show: the fight over that paper, and what it tells us about the debate over immigration.

More Listening:
- When The...

Episode 29 June 2024 25m and 43s


The Carriage Tax (Update)

The Carriage Tax (Update)

(Note: A version of this episode originally ran in 2019.)

In 1794, George Washington decided to raise money for the federal government by taxing the rich. He did it by putting a tax on horse-drawn carriages.

The carriage tax could be considered the first federal wealth tax of the United States. It led to a huge fight over the power to tax in the U.S. Constitution, a fight that continues today.

Listen back to our 2019 episode: "Could A Wealth Tax Work?"

Listen to The Indicator's 2023 episode: "Could SCOTUS outlaw wealth taxes?"

...

Episode 26 June 2024 18m and 46s


The Vapes of Wrath

The Vapes of Wrath

When the vape brand Juul first hit the market back in 2015, e-cigarettes were in a kind of regulatory limbo. At the time, the rules that governed tobacco cigarettes did not explicitly apply to e-cigarettes. Then Juul blew up, fueled a public health crisis over teen vaping, and inspired a regulatory crackdown. But when the government finally stepped in to solve the problem of youth vaping, it may have actually made things worse.

Today's episode is a collaboration with the new podcast series "Backfired: the Vaping Wars." You can listen to the full series at audible.com/Backfired.
<...

Episode 21 June 2024 27m and 24s


Why is everyone talking about Musk's money?

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...

Episode 19 June 2024 28m and 24s


What's with all the tiny soda cans? And other grocery store mysteries, solved.

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...

Episode 14 June 2024 24m and 22s


Bringing a tariff to a graphite fight

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...

Episode 12 June 2024 25m and 38s


How much national debt is too much?

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...

Episode 7 June 2024 26m and 50s


The history of light (classic)

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...

Episode 5 June 2024 21m and 23s

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