Wealth & Poverty

Ways to Connect

Today's Planet Money indicator is 4.55 percent. The Federal Reserve said just this afternoon that the American economy is at full employment when the unemployment rate is 4.55 percent.

The Fed updates this estimate every few months. And for years, it's been getting the number wrong.

Today on the show, what is full employment, why is it so hard to pin down, and most importantly, are we there yet?

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

For the third time this year and the fifth time since the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has increased interest rates another quarter of a point.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

There’s a city inside the City of Macon.

It’s made of tents strung along the banks of the Ocmulgee River downtown. Homeless people have been bedding down here, largely hidden from view, for years.

But this year, with the movement of people back to the nation’s downtown centers happening alongside the first increase in the nation’s homeless population in seven years, Macon-Bibb government says the tent city has to be pushed back, at least from inside Macon’s Central City Park.

One of the things we do at the Indicator is steal stuff we like from other podcasts. Today, we're stealing from Tyler Cowen. He's an economist and public intellectual who has his own podcast (of course).

It's an interview show, and in the middle of every episode Tyler does this thing we love: He goes through a list of subjects and asks the guest to say whether each subject is overrated or underrated, and to explain why.

SPACE 4: 3 2 1

Dec 8, 2017

It's launch day for the Planet Money satellite, POD - 1, and our intrepid Planeteers discover all the superstitions and complications of going to space. We eat the traditional pancake breakfast with the launch team. And we learn that the one time they did not eat pancakes, the rocket didn't make it to orbit.

That's not the only launch danger. Will Marshall, the CEO of our satellite partner Planet, always makes a speech where he lists what can go wrong (BOOM). But Will says taking risks is actually part of the business plan.

Where's My Raise?

Dec 8, 2017

The big monthly jobs report came out today. The good news? Lots of people have jobs. The bad news? Raises are hard to come by.

Today's Indicator is 2.5 percent. That's how much average hourly earnings grew over the past year. After you take inflation into account, that's pretty weak --much less than you'd expect given how low the unemployment rate is. Employers are are having to compete for increasingly scarce workers, so why aren't they offering more money? On today's show: Three theories for why wages are rising so slowly.

The U.S. economy added 228,000 jobs in November, according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.1 percent, unchanged from October.

"Employment growth has averaged 174,000 per month thus far this year, compared with an average monthly gain of 187,000 in 2016," the agency's acting Commissioner William J. Wiatrowski said of the report.

We've secured our satellite. And while that's pretty cool, we're not quite there yet. We need a rocket. That used to require a having a space agency, like NASA. We don't have a space agency at NPR. But luckily for us, space is a business now, with commercial operators vying for customers. And space companies are actually battling for our business. They want to be the company that takes us to the stars.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Phillip Tutt talks about okra and collards with his neighbors. He’s lived in the same home on Macon, Georgia’s Bowden Street for close to 50 years. Most of that time he’s had a garden.

“Now for my turnips and things like that I don’t want to plant them before Labor Day,” he said. “But if I can get them in on Labor Day I’ll be happy. But collards I believe I set them out in August if I’m not mistaken.”

Over the years the rows of vegetables in his garden have thrived while the neighborhood around them has withered. There was a time when he would walk next door to share his peppers with neighbors and return with a basket of tomatoes.

When Republicans launched their tax push this fall, they said, here's the plan: We are going to lower taxes for people and companies. And part of the way we're going to pay for that is by getting rid of loopholes and special deductions and lots of little perks hiding in the tax code.

Today on the show: What happened to that plan, and what it says about the way our tax code works.

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