Wealth & Poverty

Ways to Connect

The bridge to nowhere. The teapot museum. People loved to point out how congressional earmarks led to wasteful government spending. Then, in 2011, Congress dramatically restricted earmarks.

Now, Congress is considering bringing them back.

Earmarks are easy to mock. But on today's show, Jonathan Rauch of Brookings and The Atlantic argues that earmarks make democracy work better.

Cody Wilson makes gun-making machines. Depending whom you ask, he's either one of the most dangerous people in the world, or a hero of the first amendment.

Cody's never sold a gun. He's never killed anyone. And, to his knowledge, none of the guns he's made have ever killed anyone. So, how did Cody Wilson end up on the frontline of the debate over gun control? He ended up there, not by selling guns, but by creating ways for anyone to make their own gun.

Cody's game-changing tool? 3D printers.

There's a warning sign for the economy with an amazing track record: The last five times it flashed, the U.S. economy went into recession within about a year.

This economic crystal ball takes the views of people and institutions from from all around the world and boils them down into a single, simple signal.

That signal is called the yield curve. It's not flashing now, at least not yet, but it might be close enough to make you nervous.

In 2013, Jackson Palmer started paying close attention to cryptocurrencies — bitcoin, and everything that came after. Things seemed a little bubbly.

Also big back in 2013: Doge, an Internet meme that featured an adorable dog and strange syntax.

Jackson sent off a random tweet about "Dogecoin" — just a throwaway joke. But one thing led to another, and Dogecoin became a real thing. Jackson tried to keep Dogecoin light and fun — it was for learning about cryptocurrency, and giving money to charity.

Then things turned dark.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2013.

Back in 2013, we made a T-Shirt. And as you might remember, we made that T-Shirt with money raised on Kickstarter.

The War On Coal

Jan 10, 2018

Last September, Energy Secretary Rick Perry put a plan in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The plan was supposed to make our energy supply "resilient." But it was also a way to help subsidize coal.

The commission has five members. Four of them, including the chairman, were appointed by President Trump. This week, the commission unanimously rejected the Perry plan.

On today's indicator, we look at what the commission's decision tells us about energy markets in America, and about the future of coal.

This morning, the federal government released the JOLTS report. (The name is an acronym for Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.)

The has a bunch of useful data points about the jobs market. But, more than that, it implies a really dynamic, exciting way of looking at the job market.

Among its insights: Workers are getting more power relative to employers. Also, quitting is awesome.

Bonus: Our guest, Nick Bunker, tells the JOLTS story in graphs.

Updated Jan. 30

The job market is strong right now, with a 4.1 percent unemployment rate, and President Trump knows it.

In his State of the Union address, he said he is "proud" that "African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded. And Hispanic-American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history."

Earier this month, he also bragged about the latest jobs report, focusing in on minorities in particular.

Income inequality is rising. Over the past few decades, the rich have seen huge gains, while incomes for the middle class and the poor have largely stagnated.

Lots of people have ideas for how to get middle-class incomes growing again. On today's show: Branko Milanovic, one of the most insightful economists we know on this subject, says a lot of those ideas won't be that helpful in the 21st-century economy. He has some surprising ideas about what will.

Plenty of people will tell you they're getting rich off of bitcoin. They could be right. But there's another group of bitcoin owners that aren't so ecstatic. Because they might be rich, too, but they lost the passkey that would let them get at their digital fortune. Syl Turner is in that second, less glamorous group. When he got around one-and-a-half bitcoins seven or eight years ago, they were nearly worthless. So worthless he bunked the hard drive that held the key somewhere and now he can't remember where.

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