Wealth & Poverty

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The Federal Reserve on Wednesday said it will hold short-term interest rates steady for the time being. But the central bank said that in October it will begin to unwind the extraordinary stimulus it used to battle the Great Recession.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said the process will be gradual. But over the long run, the plan will put upward pressure on consumer interest rates, including for car loans and mortgages.

Episode 795: Is Record Breaking Broken?

Sep 20, 2017

Ashrita Furman has broken more than 600 records— earning him the Guinness World Record for most records broken. He grew up reading the Guinness Book of World Records. A lot of kids did. It's one of the best selling books of all time.

But book sales have been dropping and now Guinness has started having to change the way it makes money. Now, record holders like Ashrita are being joined by a different kind of record breaker: celebrities and companies looking for publicity. People pay thousands to have Guinness orchestrate a record-breaking event for them.

Illmind is a music producer. He isn't famous. He doesn't DJ at festivals in front of huge crowds. He's not best friends with Drake. But the producers who do DJ for huge crowds, who are best friends with Drake — they know Illmind. They use his sounds. They text him when they're working on a song that needs a little something.

Aspiring producers who want to be famous — they also know Illmind. Some of them pay hundreds of dollars and fly across the country just to sit in a room with him and hear what he thinks of their work.

Episode 647: Hard Work Is Irrelevant

Sep 13, 2017

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Most companies reward hard work. This is why people get paid overtime, and why full-time workers make more than part-time ones.

But, if you think about it, hard work alone says nothing about how much value you create. You could be toiling day and night, and be mostly useless to your employer. To your employer's bottom line, what really matters isn't how much you put in, but what you deliver.

Grant Blankenship

When Hurricane Irma took out the power in Marshallville, Georgia, Monday, it took the water pump behind City Hall with it. 

Since then, the 1,500 or so residents of Marshallville have had no drinking water. Officials with Georgia's Environmental Protection Division said eight South Georgia water systems are under boil advisories with more to come soon. That's where Marshallville Chief of Police Ronald Jackson said the city finds itself now that the power is back on and the water is running.

Grant Blankenship

The contents of a child’s room–baby dolls, blankets, toys–line the ditch in front of Cary Westbrook’s house in Radium Springs not far outside Albany. She hasn’t lived there since January. The windows are nailed dark with nine month old plywood and the roof is gone.

 

“It’s not habitable at all. At all,” Westbrook said.

 

We returned from vacation this week and it felt like the world as we know it was about to end.

We're not talking about nuclear war or natural disasters. (Although there is that, too.) We're talking about the approaching economic abyss. Amid the hustle and bustle of the summer, Congress has somehow neglected to perform the basic job of passing essential legislation that keeps the U.S. economy going.

For instance, the fiscal year for the United States of America ends this month, and somebody (we're looking at you, Congress) has not yet written a new budget.

Note: This show originally ran in 2015.

Episode 792: The Ransom Problem

Sep 1, 2017

Amanda Lindhout traveled to Somalia to report on a humanitarian crisis. She was no stranger to dangerous countries; she had reported from Iraq and Afghanistan. But almost immediately after she arrived in Somalia, she was captured by a criminal gang whose members seemed to have ties to terror groups. The gang phoned her mother and demanded a large ransom payment.

Updated at 11 a.m. ET

The U.S. economy created an estimated 156,000 jobs in August, falling slightly short of analysts' estimates, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 4.4 percent; it had been at 4.3 percent.

Episode 791: Tips From Spies

Aug 30, 2017

Talking to spies is hard! You'll ask an innocuous question and they just clam up. But, after interrogating spies and a spy reporter, we teased out a few bits of advice that you might find useful.

The thing is, real spies don't like car chases and rooftop shootouts. What they want to do is fly below the radar, stay out of trouble, and always have a getaway. But pulling that off takes a lot of training and practice. It means keeping your wits when everyone is panicking, staying cool under pressure, knowing how to size up a complicated problem in a second.

Warning: This episode contains some explicit language.

When NPR reporter Gregory Warner arrives in a town on the Ukrainian front lines, residents try to keep their distance. 'Don't come here,' they say. 'When journalists come, the bombs fall." How did journalists come to be seen as instruments of war?

Atlanta's Homeless Face Uncertain Future As Peachtree-Pine Closes

Aug 25, 2017
David Goldman / AP Photo

On Monday, one of the largest homeless shelters in Georgia will begin the months-long process of shutting its doors.

On its busiest nights, Atlanta’s Peachtree-Pine shelter would house hundreds of men, women, and children. About 300 or so people live there now, and starting next week they’ll be looking to find new places to stay.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Foter

The South is a proud place. Southerners are notorious for their love of their heritage and culture. But following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, it’s becoming more difficult to separate the South from its roots in racism and white supremacy.

Episode 789: Robocall Invasion

Aug 18, 2017

Warning: This episode contains some explicit language.

There are now a billion robocalls going to cellphones and landlines every month. Many of them look like they're from your neighbor.

It's not really your neighbor, of course. It's neighbor spoofing--which means using the internet to make it look like a scammer (who could be anywhere in the world) is calling from your area.When we asked our listeners if it's been happening to them... right away, we got about a thousand responses.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

It used to be that if you ran a store, you wanted to make it easy for your customers. But Price Club and Costco went in the opposite direction: They made shopping harder. And people loved it.

Today on the show: How Costco and its imitators changed the way we shop. And how a new company is taking what Costco started to new extremes.

¡Hola!

NPR's Planet Money is hosting a two day radio training for member station reporters and editors who cover business and international trade. As the US starts to renegotiate NAFTA and rethinks free trade, every state will feel the impact. At this training, you will learn how Planet Money uses narrative and humor to explain complicated economic ideas. You will get to pitch your stories and get editorial feedback from our hosts. And you'll hear from experienced international correspondents on how to cover cross-cultural issues.

A state fair is a magical place. But for Planet Money, the true magic takes place in a massive warehouse where old-fashioned salesmen and women practice the ancient art of looking you in the eye and convincing you to buy something you do not need. It's the art of pitching, and Planet Money's Robert Smith has been obsessed with it since he was twelve years old.

Robert and his accomplice Kenny Malone head out to the Ohio State Fair, with a journalistic excuse. They embed with the pitchmen and pitchwomen--the true artisans of salesmanship--to learn the secrets of their trade.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2012.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 


Allison Goldey says there’s one big question that makes her job hard.

“How do we even think about solving this problem without knowing what we have?” she asks.

As the head of the Macon-Bibb County Land Bank, Goldey is on the front lines of the $15 million blight remediation effort in the city. The Land Bank buys blighted houses, which the county then demolishes. The thing is, Macon-Bibb County can’t really say where its blighted housing is.

 

 

Georgia Congressman Austin Scott (R GA-08) wants to end a program that offers subsidized, low cost cell phones.

Scott introduced the End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act in late July. It would end an Obama era program which provides basic smart phone service to people with low incomes for $9.25 a month.

Earlier this summer, a European official walked into a roomful of reporters and answered a question that some people have been asking for a long time now:
Is Google abusing its power over the Internet?

Google--which is now technically owned by a company called Alphabet — is one of the biggest corporations on the planet. It controls the information billions of people see when they want to know: who was FDR's secretary of state, or where the nearest gas station is, or where to order a Sony Digital Camera.

The U.S. economy created an estimated 209,000 jobs in July, representing a modest slowdown from the previous month but coming in better than many economists had expected. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent from 4.4 percent.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its monthly report that, statistically, July showed little change from previous months, as the number of unemployed persons remained around 7 million.

Episode 471: The Eddie Murphy Rule

Aug 2, 2017

Note: This episode originally ran in 2013. It contains some explicit language.

On this show, we talk to commodities traders to answer one of the most important questions in finance: What actually happens at the end of Trading Places?

David Goldman / AP Photo

The number of high-poverty neighborhoods in the metro Atlanta area tripled between 2000 and 2015. That’s according to a new Harvard study, which finds poverty is largely moving to the suburbs surrounding the city. We talk about this with Kim Addie, Senior Director of Health for United Way of Atlanta.

Have you noticed? Something strange has happened to the passage of time. Sometimes it feels like Friday... but it's still Tuesday afternoon. We've felt it at Planet Money, too.

At the end of every year, we do a special podcast; it's a holiday tradition. In that podcast we look back at the year behind us and see what's happened to places and people after we turned the microphone off.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Sam Cohen's business works like this: He walks into a big retail store and buys a bunch of stuff. Then he sells it on Amazon for more. It's straightforward and surprisingly lucrative.

This is a multimillion-dollar business for Sam — and for lots of other people who do the same thing. It's called retail arbitrage.

After a two-day meeting in Washington, D.C., Federal Reserve policymakers say they'll keep their benchmark rate in a range between 1 percent and 1.25 percent for the time being.

Fed officials said "job gains have been solid" and the U.S. "labor market continues to strengthen" in the statement after a meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee.

The officials described economic activity as "rising moderately." They noted that unemployment rate has declined since the beginning of the year. The Fed is close to meeting its mandate to maximize employment.

Wikimedia Commons

The Atlanta City Council, along with the United Way, has committed $50 million  to help combat homelessness. This comes after news that the city’s largest shelter, Peachtree-Pine, will close by the end of August. Joining us is Rick Westbrook, Executive Director for Lost N Found, and Deirdre Oakley, Professor of Sociology for Georgia State University. 

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