Robert Smith

Robert Smith is a correspondent for NPR's Planet Money where he reports on how the global economy is affecting our lives.

If that sounds a little dry, then you've never heard Planet Money. The team specializes in making economic reporting funny, engaging and understandable. Planet Money has been known to set economic indicators to music, use superheroes to explain central banks, and even buy a toxic asset just to figure it out.

Smith admits that he has no special background in finance or math, just a curiosity about how money works. That kind of curiosity has driven Smith for his 20 years in radio.

Before joining Planet Money, Smith was the New York correspondent for NPR. He was responsible for covering all the mayhem and beauty that makes it the greatest city on Earth. Smith reported on the rebuilding of Ground Zero, the stunning landing of US Air flight 1549 in the Hudson River and the dysfunctional world of New York politics. He specialized in features about the overlooked joys of urban living: puddles, billboards, ice cream trucks, street musicians, drunks and obsessives.

When New York was strangely quiet, Smith pitched in covering the big national stories. He traveled with presidential campaigns, tracked the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and reported from the BP oil spill.

Before his New York City gig, Smith worked for public radio stations in Seattle (KUOW), Salt Lake City (KUER) and Portland (KBOO). He's been an editor, a host, a news director and just about any other job you can think of in broadcasting. Smith also lectures on the dark arts of radio at universities and conferences. He trains fellow reporters how to sneak humor and action into even the dullest stories on tight deadlines.

Smith started in broadcasting playing music at KPCW in his hometown of Park City, Utah. Although the low-power radio station at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, likes to claim him as its own.

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Eighty years ago, Qatar's primary industry was pearl-diving. Today, the tiny Persian Gulf nation is the richest country in the world per capita. It's also in a lot of trouble.

Saudi Arabia and several nearby countries have blockaded tiny Qatar, cut off all trade, closed the border. It seemed like overnight, Qatar went from being on top of the world to being a regional pariah.

So we wondered: What's going on?

There is nobody more sunny and optimistic than a politician writing a budget, and Donald Trump is no different.

His budget promises a golden age of new jobs and progress, with tax cuts and a border wall to boot. To make all this possible, it assumes one thing: that the economy will grow at 3% every year. This is very hard. Other countries do it all the time, but the United States hasn't consistently seen that kind of growth in decades.

On today's show, we come up with a plan to get there, but Donald Trump might not like it.

This part two of a two part series. Listen to part one here.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

About 1,800 economics graduate students converged on the chilly Chicago streets in early January. Some of them ran through those streets, trying to get to the next hotel on time.

They were trying to find a job.

At some point in time, the economics profession decided it was going to create a job market unlike any other. They were going to create a system that is the most efficient job market imaginable.

Here's what Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, and Ireland have in common: They all have Irish pubs.

And a bunch of them are the product of one man: Mel McNally.

McNally spent his final year in architecture school studying the architecture of Irish pubs. He and his buddies hit up all the famous pubs in Dublin, and brought along their sketchbooks and measuring tape to answer one question: What makes these places work?

This episode originally ran in 2014.

Millions of tax cheats never get caught. And the IRS seems powerless to stop them.

This isn't just a problem here. American taxpayers are Dudley Do-Rights compared to people in some other countries.

And there are some very smart people working to get tax cheats to change their ways.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Spring is just a few weeks away.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hallelujah.

CORNISH: Sunny days, flowers, bees...

SHAPIRO: Buzzsaws, nail guns, plywood...