Wealth & Poverty

Ways to Connect

Episode 544: The M&M Anomaly

Dec 27, 2017

One day we noticed something strange: a pack of Milk Chocolate M&M's weighs 1.69 ounces, but a pack of Peanut Butter M&M's weigh a tiny tiny bit less, 1.63 ounces. The two packs are the same price, but you get slightly less of the Peanut Butter M&M's! 0.06 ounces less! It turns out there is a whole weird world living down there at the third decimal place. When you pull on that little thread, lots of things start to unravel.

After today's show, you will never pop a piece of candy in your mouth and think about it the same way again.

The new tax bill is long. More than 1,000 pages. And complicated. And very important.

For starters, the corporate tax rate has been cut! For it or against it, this is a change of massive importance, and one many economists never thought they'd see. It's gone down from 35 percent to 21 percent. But what happens to the money that these corporations are saving? Will it increase investments? Or will it just enrich shareholders who are mostly rich already?

Our own Stacey Vanek Smith had to pay through the nose to fly home for Christmas. And not just because it was Christmas — her ticket was way more expensive than usual.

As we say in the news business: Stacey is not alone. Airfare dynamics have changed a ton in the past few years.

On today's show: Why it's getting cheaper to fly to some types of cities and more expensive to fly to others. Also: Why Stacey will probably get a better deal next year.

On this episode of Nothing Funny About Money, Matt And Michael discuss the financial implications of the meaning of Christmas. Guests include Stephanie Cockfield of Ark Athens and some guy in a white beard!

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

Today's Planet Money indicator is zero. Earlier today, a bill transforming America's tax code was approved by congress with zero Democratic votes.

On today's show, we talk with Josh Barro. He points out a problem Democrats have been struggling with for a while: Most Democratic candidates promise not to raise taxes on the middle class, but also want to expand social programs.

Barro argues that, in the long run, the Republican tax bill could help the Democrats solve this problem.

This month, The Virginia Department of Transportation added a new toll on a 10-mile stretch of highway that connects the Virginia suburbs with Washington, DC. The toll varies according to traffic — and it's been spiking much higher than many people expected. At one point last week, it spiked all the way to $44.

There is a beautiful, econ 101 logic behind a toll that spikes when demand spikes. On today's show, we talk to an economist who commutes on this road — and who thinks we need to go beyond econ 101 to really understand the toll.

The New York Produce Show and Conference looks like a grocery store the size of the Javits Center, one of the biggest convention centers in the country. But it's a grocery store that's nothing but produce aisle. Fruits are carefully displayed, often accompanied by slick videos or Christmas trees. Salespeople wait at booths to extol the virtues of their pumpkins and avocados. They're eager to give away t-shirts, pens, lip balm, even bags of sweet potatoes. Their goal isn't just to network, it's to woo the power players of produce, who make decisions about the fate of fruits.

Forget Neutrality

Dec 15, 2017

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to end net neutrality — a rule that required internet providers to treat all web traffic equally.

The decision was really controversial. And a lot of the controversy boils down to a single number. As luck would have it, that number is today's indicator: 58 percent. As in, 58 percent of Americans have access to at most one option for broadband Internet.

On today's show, how the broadband market got the way it is, and what it means for the debate over net neutrality.

Trump SoHo is a high rise in lower Manhattan, part hotel, part condos; it's 46 stories tall, all slick grey glass. Conflicts, from zoning battles to accusations of fraud, have followed the project since it was announced during a 2006 episode of The Apprentice.

According to reports by Bloomberg News, Trump SoHo has attracted the interest of Department of Justice special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible ties between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russian officials.

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