Wealth & Poverty

Ways to Connect

Episode 632: The Chicken Tax

Jan 25, 2017

This episode originally ran in 2015.

German families in the 1960s loved tasty, cheap American-raised chicken that was suddenly coming in after the war. At the same time, Americans loved fun, cheap Volkswagen Beetles. This arrangement was too good to last.

Photo courtesy of Blue Seas Catering

There is a renewed effort to revitalize communities in West Atlanta--such as ‘The Bluff,’ or Vine City. In the shadow of the new home of the Falcons, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Blue Seas Restaurant provides healthy, affordable food, as well as jobs to folks in the neighborhood. But it’s more than a restaurant. It also unites Christians, Muslims, and community members in one place.

On a frigid winter night, a man wearing two coats shuffles into a brightly lit brick restaurant in downtown Madrid. Staff greet him warmly; he's been here many times. The maître d' stamps his ID card, and the hungry man selects a table with a red tablecloth, under a big brass chandelier.

The man, Luis Gallardo, is homeless — and so are all the diners, every night, at the city's Robin Hood restaurant. Its mission is to charge the rich and feed the poor. Paying customers at breakfast and lunch foot the bill for the restaurant to serve dinner to homeless people, free of charge.

Episode 749: Professor Blackjack

Jan 20, 2017

Ed Thorp was the first 'quant', the first person to make mathematical analysis and statistics the center of his investing. But he only got there because of a card game.

As a young man, Ed Thorp was a mathematician doing pretty much what you'd expect a mathematician to do: teaching, studying, trying to solve hard problems. There was one particular problem that nobody else had been able to solve. He wanted to come up with a mathematical system to beat the casino at blackjack.

Sam Whitehead / GPB

All over Georgia, property is passed down from generation to generation without proper legal paperwork. 

 

It’s known as heirs property, and it creates a host of problems: from the inability to access home equity to the risk of losing your house.

 

And in the small city of Porterdale, about 40 miles east of Atlanta, it’s put one community on the verge of disappearing completely.

Episode 748: Undoing Obama

Jan 18, 2017

There is this race going on right now in Washington D.C. The finish line is Friday at noon--inauguration day. The desperate runners are all the people who work for Barack Obama. They're rushing to do everything they can to cement the legacy of this president before the next one takes office.

The way they are doing this: Rules. Congress may pass the laws, but the president and the agency heads he appoints write the rules. And it is the rules that dictate how laws play out in our daily lives--how strong a regulation will be, and even who gets funding.

Episode 747: The Man Who Sued Iran

Jan 13, 2017

Steve Flatow's daughter, twenty-year-old Alisa Flatow, was studying abroad in Israel. One day she was on a bus in the Gaza Strip, and a suicide bomber blew the bus up. Alisa died in the attack.

The bomber was part of a group called Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which the U.S. State Department believed was funded by Iran. Flatow decided to sue Iran for monetary damages. But under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, U.S. citizens couldn't sue countries.

Episode 577: The Kansas Experiment

Jan 11, 2017

Note: Today's show originally ran in October 2014.

Sam Brownback cut taxes dramatically in Kansas. As a Republican governor of a Republican state, he was going to enact the dream. Taxes on small businesses went down to zero. Personal income taxes went down. The tax rate on the highest income bracket went down about 25 percent. Brownback promised prosperous times for the state once government got out of the way.

The final chapter of the Obama economy drew that much closer to its end on Friday, with the final jobs report of the 44th president's time in office. That report showed the 75th straight month of job growth, with employers adding 156,000 jobs.

Solid, but nothing flashy.

Episode 746: Wall Street Goes To Vegas

Jan 6, 2017

Nevada pretty much has a monopoly on sports betting in the United States, but it is illegal for a casino in Nevada to take bets from out of state. The thing is, there are plenty of gamblers all across the country who want to lay down money on a game.

The U.S. added 156,000 jobs last month and hourly wages rose by 10 cents, according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate was little changed; it ticked up slightly to 4.7 percent, compared to November's 4.6 percent.

Economists had been watching closely to see if the jobs report reflected a rise in wages.

Episode 443: Don't Believe The Hype

Jan 4, 2017

Note: Today's show originally ran in March 2013.

You may have heard about a big milestone coming up for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It's been all over the news: The Dow is creeping up towards twenty thousand. It's been hovering just below that mark for weeks now. And people are kind of freaking out.

But here's the thing about the Dow: It doesn't matter.

Every year at Planet Money, we take a cue from radio legend Paul Harvey and bring you "The Rest of the Story." It's a show where we check in on some of the episodes that we've done in the past year, and tell you what's changed.

It turns out that 2016 is a hard year to wrap up. A lot of the big economic stories that we covered this year still don't have endings. Puerto Rico is still crushed under massive debt. Venezuela is still collapsing. The United Kingdom hasn't yet pulled the trigger on Brexit. And, of course, Donald Trump won't take office for another few weeks.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

It's a landmark that will soon be moved to a new patch of land. 

The home Little Richard called home as a kid in Macon's Pleasant Hill neighborhood is one of eight slated to be moved out of the way of a massive Georgia Department of Transportation expansion of the Interstate 75/Interstate 16 interchange. About 40 other homes will be demolished. 

Episode 744: The Last Bank Bailout

Dec 27, 2016

Neel Kashkari oversaw the government's bailout of the banks in 2008.

And, he says, the bailout had lasting consequences that go far beyond finance.

"As a society we have a core belief, that's been passed down from generation to generation, in free markets," Kashkari said. "We violated that fundamentally when we bailed out the banks."

Now Kashkari is the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. And he's come up with a plan he says will make future bank bailouts much less likely.

Episode 587: Jubilee! (?)

Dec 23, 2016

There's an idea that dates back at least to biblical times. That there should be a moment when debts are forgiven. Its called a jubilee.

The jubilee has not gotten a lot of traction in the modern world. You may remember after the financial crisis, some of the Occupy Wall Street protesters were calling for a jubilee. But it basically ended there.

Today on the show, we go to a country that tried it to see if it really works out as planned.

Episode 743: 50 Ways to Leave Your Union

Dec 21, 2016

In the 1950s, when the European Union was just coming together, not every country was so eager to join. The people pushing for it, like Kimmo Kiljunen, a member of parliament from Finland, had to do some convincing. There were years of negotiations, each one filtered through tedious layers of translation into over 20 languages.

So by the end of it, to close the deal, Kimmo and others added a law to the E.U. constitutional documents: Article 50, an exit clause. Kimmo never thought anyone would use it. It was meant to be a way to make skeptics worry a little less.

Episode 742: Making Bank

Dec 16, 2016

During the Middle Ages, Christian pilgrims en route to Jerusalem had a problem. They needed to pay for food, transport and accommodation during their journey across Europe, which could take months. They also didn't want to carry large amounts of precious coinage because they'd become a target for robbers. This became an obstacle to worship.

Episode 592: Bell Wars

Dec 14, 2016

When you've got two companies down the road from each other making the same thing, you can almost guess the history. Originally there was just one company, but something happened. Maybe someone got angry, somebody left, and they started a second business, a competitor.

Episode 741: Amy and Steve vs. Facebook

Dec 9, 2016

It's Silicon Valley in 2006. Social networking is getting huge. Myspace is hot. Friendster is still a thing. Facebook is taking off. New sites are starting all the time, all of them trying to come out on top. There's one thing in this early world of social networking that is sort of a pain--you have separate usernames and passwords for each account. It's annoying to log in three times to post the same photo in three places, or to check three inboxes.

Episode 740: Burnout

Dec 7, 2016

Exhaustion. Anxiety. Stress. Depression. Forgetfulness. Irritability. Screaming at large bodies of water. These are some symptoms of burnout.

Hospitals, tech companies, schools and law firms all struggle with burnout. Companies try to fix it. But burnout is really tough to solve. Even the psychologist who coined the term "burnout" had trouble preventing it. After working around the clock, he ended up burnt out.

Today on the show, why burnout is such a menace, and how a 26-year-old call center manager tried to beat it.

Episode 739: Finding The Fake-News King

Dec 2, 2016

A few days before the election, an extraordinary story popped up in hundreds of thousands of people's Facebook feeds. This story was salacious. It was vivid, filled with intriguing details. There was a photo of a burning house, firemen rushing in. The headline read, "FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide."

Unemployment dropped by 0.3 percentage points, to 4.6 percent, last month — the lowest rate since 2007 — according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Episode 534: The History Of Light

Nov 30, 2016

Note: This episode originally aired in April, 2014.

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, have food to 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.

Episode 738: The Russian Rodeo

Nov 25, 2016

Shawn Weekes is a fourth-generation cowboy. A rope was his first toy. He knows the cattle business inside and out. He is good at his job. But he couldn't find work.

Times are tough for American cowboys. Cowboy crews are smaller and more specialized than they used to be. The U.S. has fewer heads of cattle than at any time since the 1950s. But one day Weekes got a phone call from someone willing to pay him double what he was used to making. The catch: the job was in Russia.

Emily Jones / GPB News

Thanksgiving is always a busy time for charities that feed the hungry. And Hurricane Matthew has forced many of those groups in Savannah to work overtime since early October. The storm created more need - but it’s also inspired people to give back.

More than a month after Hurricane Matthew, many in Savannah are still recovering from the losses the storm brought. Food, lost during the power outage. Wages, lost during the evacuation. Homes, lost to flooding and fallen trees.

Episode 737: 17 Deals In 17 Minutes

Nov 23, 2016

We love deals. Deals in every sense of the word. Discounts. Devil's bargains. Sketchy transactions. We love that feeling you get when you've gotten a good deal. A feeling of victory. We also like that deals are complicated. They're more than math and numbers. They're about relationships. Emotions. Trust.

Episode 736: Messy Nobel

Nov 18, 2016

The Nobel Memorial Prize for economics was announced a few weeks ago. It was for contract theory. Normally, we'd interview the prize winners and then do a lot of clever talking about what it means, but this year we tried something different.

We called on one of our favorite economics experts, Tim Harford, and asked him how we should think about contract theory. His new book, "Messy," is about unlocking creativity, and it looks at how disorganization and improvisation are often the routes to invention.

Episode 574: The Buffalo Talk-Off

Nov 16, 2016

In today's show, we visit Buffalo, New York, and get a window into a rough business: Debt collection. This is the story of one guy who tried to make something of himself by getting people to pay their debts. He set up shop in an old karate studio, and called up people who owed money. For a while, he made a good living. And he wasn't the only one in the business--this is also the story of a low-level, semi-legal debt-collection economy that sprang up in Buffalo. And, in a small way, it's the story of the last twenty or so years in global finance, a time when the world went wild for debt.

dangerismycat / Flickr

The Atlanta Beltline was originally the master's thesis of Georgia Tech student Ryan Gravel in 1999. Now a pivotal landmark of the city's infrastructure, the Beltline has become a source of some controversy. Gravel stepped away from the Atlanta Beltline Partnership in September. He joins us to talk about his concerns, and what the trail leaders can do to get back on track.

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