Wealth & Poverty

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On today's show: stories about what happens when you actually read the fine print.

The fine print sends a Midwestern family on a two-thousand-mile road trip to open dozens of bank accounts.

It leads to a multi-million-dollar fight over the essence of the Snuggie. (Blanket? Or robe?)

And the fine print starts a fight over printer toner that goes all the way to the Supreme Court.

Also: cold beer. Via a loophole.

This episode first ran in 2015.

Get Out is a comic film. Get Out is a horror movie. Get Out is serious commentary. It's hard to say what exactly Get Out is, but it is definitely a blockbuster. Which is surprising, because it was made by a company which totally rejects the blockbuster model: Blumhouse Productions.

streetsensedc / Foter

Last month, two grocery stores shuttered in downtown Augusta. Both of them - a Whole Foods and a Kroger - cited a lack of customers as the reason. The Kroger was the only full-service store within a two-mile radius of downtown. These closures have made it much more difficult to find affordable, healthy food there.

Banks and governments have been fighting each other for hundreds of years, but never more dramatically than during the showdown between President Andrew Jackson and Nicholas Biddle, the president of the Second Bank of the United States.

Jackson was a populist, who rode to victory on promises to wrest control of the country from the East Coast elite. He was angry at the power structure, and he was furious at the banks. To him, they were the phantom controllers of the economy, issuing spurious scripts that often vanished with the banks when they collapsed.

Doing your taxes doesn't have to be a pain. In many countries around the world, filing taxes is so easy and painless, "tax day" isn't even a thing.

Episode 759: What's It Worth To You?

Mar 17, 2017

Hiding inside each price tag is a messy tangle of information. How much did this cost to make? How much will someone pay to have it? What else can they buy with that money? What did it cost last year?

We bring you three stories untangling a price tag, three stories of setting a value on something when it isn't so easy to slap on a price tag.

  • We try to figure out what $1 trillion means, because that's what Donald Trump says he wants to spend on infrastructure. We'll tell you what $1 trillion can buy, and two caveats about Trump's plan.

Episode 522: The Invention Of 'The Economy'

Mar 15, 2017

The Great Depression brought unemployment, hunger and anxiety, but it also brought us a great new acronym: The GDP. In the midst of the United States' worst economic downturn — the GDP, Gross Domestic Product — was born. It was a number and an idea that changed the way we talked and thought about the world.

Until the concept of GDP came around, no one really had figured out a way to measure what was happening, economically. There was no way to compare one year to another.

The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee has voted 9-1 to increase its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point and said it aims to raise interest rates twice more by the end of the year.

The only dissenting vote came from Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve's regional bank in Minneapolis, according to the Fed's statement.

Wednesday's move brings the federal funds rate to a range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent. The increase was expected by the market and is consistent with what Fed officials had been signaling.

This episode first ran in 2015 and contains explicit language.

Every time there is a big new release of some software, an operating system or a new browser, hackers get to work. Each new release is the start of a race because there are all these giant players who desperately want to find the new flaw in the software.

After the 2008 financial crisis, lawmakers decided they needed to do something about the banking industry. The government had bailed out big banks like Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase, and wanted to prevent another crisis.

The response was the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (aka Dodd-Frank), which was signed into law in 2010. In hundreds of pages, the law transformed the way finance is regulated in this country.

Now, President Donald Trump has made it clear he does not like Dodd-Frank and wants to make big changes.

Episode 513: Dear Economist, I Need A Date

Mar 1, 2017

This episode originally ran in 2014.

Economists get a bad rap. People say they're dry, they're boring, too rational or always going on about one indicator or another.

But here at Planet Money, we wanted to see if the principles of economics could help us out with something more personal, more abstract: love.

Episode 756: The Bees Go To California

Feb 24, 2017

Every spring convoys of trucks arrive in the almond orchards of central California. They are carrying bees. Millions of them.

They arrive from all over the country, but especially southern states like Louisiana, and they have to get there at just the right time, when the almond trees start to flower so the bees can pollinate hundreds of acres of almond fields.

Episode 654: When The Boats Arrive

Feb 22, 2017

This episode originally ran in 2015.

In 1980, Fidel Castro had a problem. The Cuban economy was in shambles. And there was open dissent in his tightly controlled country. People wanted to leave.

Castro said they didn't 'have revolutionary blood.' So he decided, you know what? If you don't like it here, you can leave. Get on any boat you can find at the port of Mariel, near Havana.

Some of this story may sound familiar. Some of it may sound downright bizarre.

In the late 2000s, Argentina was facing a slew of economic problems. The president was a charismatic populist with bold plans and the will to act. One of the things then-President Cristina Kirchner wanted to tackle: unemployment. So she set out to create manufacturing jobs in Argentina.

She made a rule in 2010 that if a company wanted to sell things in Argentina, they needed to make things in Argentina.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

How will you celebrate when you pay off your house? After 20 years in her home purchased with the help of Macon Area Habitat for Humanity, Lillie Ward burned her mortgage.

Episode 754: I'm So Happy For You!

Feb 13, 2017

Regret. Self-loathing. Jealousy. Love. Happy Valentine's Day! We have it all.

When we're not making podcasts, we're reading and watching and listening to stories on other podcasts and magazines and websites. And when we love something, we always ask, "Why didn't we do that?"

Today on the show, we bring you the little stories that we love so much we wish we had thought of them ourselves.

Our valentines go out to:

Episode 753: Blockchain Gang

Feb 10, 2017

Charlie Shrem had a prison epiphany. Instead of using packets of mackerel to buy and sell things, inmates should use something more like the digital currency Bitcoin. He even came up with a way it could work in prison, never mind that it was Bitcoin that got him arrested in the first place.

A version of this episode originally ran in 2013.

There's a lot about U.S. immigration policy that doesn't add up, that just doesn't make sense. It's much more than who gets to enter and who doesn't and from where. There's a mix of visa types, quotas, preferences and incentives adding up to a messy tangle of laws that make it all so complicated that both political parties have tons to complain about.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Federal assistance is on the way for people affected by the storms that hit south Georgia on the weekend of January 21.

Governor Nathan Deal’s office says the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help residents of an 11 county area that includes the town of Adel, where a tornado killed seven, and Albany where the second tornado in a month’s time wrecked a large section of the city. This is the second federal disaster designation for Albany this year.

The total list of counties is Baker, Brooks, Calhoun, Clay, Cook, Crisp, Dougherty, Thomas, Turner, Wilcox and Worth. 

Episode 752: Eagles vs. Chickens

Feb 3, 2017

Will Harris took over his family's industrial farm after he graduated from college. Harris was making a profit, just as his dad had. He was also farming just as his dad had: with pesticides in the field, hormone injections for the cattle, and whatever else squeezed more money out of his land.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

The U.S. added 227,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate rose just slightly, ticking up a tenth of a percentage point to 4.8 percent, according to the monthly report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The robust jobs number beat most predictions from economists, who had pegged the payroll increase at 175,000, according to NPR's Yuki Noguchi.

America's corporate tax is a mess. Republicans have a plan to fix it. But it will be a tough sell.

The new plan would lower the corporate tax rate, currently one of the highest in the world. And it would change how the tax works on a fundamental level. It's called a border adjustment tax, and it would be a huge tax break to American exporters.

Of course every tax change has winners and losers. The losers under the new tax plan would be any business that imports products. Businesses like Walmart and Target would likely pay more in taxes.

There's a problem in Silicon Valley. The problem is diversity. Companies know this. They're trying to work on it.

A couple of our reporters started looking into why gender diversity in the tech industry is so dismal, and their quest took them back to the year 1984.

Episode 750: Retraining Day

Jan 27, 2017

Trade has winners and losers. The winners are American consumers. We all get cheaper goods from abroad. American companies benefit too; they sell more products overseas, even hire extra workers. But there are also people who lose, and those people tend to lose big and lose in big groups. In parts of the country, factories have been closing and jobs have been moving overseas for decades.

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.

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