Robert Smith

Listeners have questions. Google has answers. Sometimes, though, listeners have questions that Google can't answer. Like: Why is the lighting in hotel rooms so weird? How can a cooked and spiced rotisserie chicken be cheaper than an uncooked chicken? What is a Giffen Good, and why does demand for it go up when its price goes up? And why does it say on a coupon that it's worth 1/100th of a cent?

If you have a question you want us to answer, email us at Or better yet, tell us a great story about economics that answered a question you had.

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."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Episode 820: P Is For Phosphorus

Jan 26, 2018

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.

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.

SPACE 4: 3 2 1

Dec 8, 2017

It's launch day for the Planet Money satellite, POD - 1, and our intrepid Planeteers discover all the superstitions and complications of going to space. We eat the traditional pancake breakfast with the launch team. And we learn that the one time they did not eat pancakes, the rocket didn't make it to orbit.

That's not the only launch danger. Will Marshall, the CEO of our satellite partner Planet, always makes a speech where he lists what can go wrong (BOOM). But Will says taking risks is actually part of the business plan.

Going to space used to be the playground of governments, but now rockets and satellites are becoming so small and so cheap that even a podcast can launch a space mission. So that's just what Planet Money did!

Officially, corporations in the U.S. are taxed at a rate of 35 percent. In reality, they pay a much, much lower rate. That's because the U.S. tax code is filled with deductions and exemptions (which, if you don't like them, you call loopholes).

Politicians from both sides of the aisle like to propose the same kind of change: lower the corporate tax rate, and get rid of some of the loopholes. A few weeks ago, President Trump and Republicans in Congress released a plan to do just that. Today on the show: We break down that plan.