32 minutes | May 31, 2023
AI Podcast 2.0: The host in the machine
In Part 1 of this series, AI proved that it could use real research and real interviews to write an original script for an episode of Planet Money. Our next task was to teach the computer how to sound like us. How to read that script aloud like a Planet Money host. On today's show, we explore the world of AI-generated voices, which have become so lifelike in recent years that they can credibly imitate specific people. To test the limits of the technology, we attempt to create our own synthetic voice by training a computer on recordings of former Planet Money host Robert Smith. Then we introduce synthetic Robert to his very human namesake. There are a lot of ethical, and economic, questions raised by a technology that can duplicate anyone's voice. To help us make sense of it all, we seek the advice of an artist who has embraced AI voice clones: the musician Grimes. (This is part two of a three-part series. For part one of our series, click here)This episode was produced by Emma Peaslee and Willa Rubin, with help from Sam Yellowhorse Kesler. It was edited by Keith Romer and fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Engineering by James Willetts. Jess Jiang is our acting executive producer. We built a Planet Money AI chat bot. Help us test it out: Planetmoneybot.com.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
34 minutes | May 26, 2023
AI Podcast 1.0: Rise of the machines
We used to think some jobs were safe from automation. Though machines have transformed industries like agriculture and manufacturing, the conventional wisdom was that they could never perform what's called "knowledge work." That the robots could never replace lawyers or accountants — or journalists, like us. Well, ever since the release of artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT, it feels like no job is safe. AI can now write essays, generate computer code, and even pass the bar exam. Will work ever be the same again? Here at Planet Money, we are launching a new three-part series to understand what this new AI-powered future looks like. Our goal: to get the machines to make an entire Planet Money show. In this first episode, we try to teach the AI how to write a script for us from scratch. Can the AI do research for us, interview our sources, and then stitch everything together in a creative, entertaining way? We're going to find out just how much of our own jobs we can automate — and what work might soon look like for us all. (And, in case you're wondering... this text was not written by an AI.) This episode was produced by Emma Peaslee and Willa Rubin. It was edited by Keith Romer. Maggie Luthar engineered this episode. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Jess Jiang is Planet Money's acting executive producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
22 minutes | May 24, 2023
Green energy gridlock
Lyle Jack wants to build a wind farm on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. But to make the project work, he has to connect that wind farm to the electric grid. Which is easier said than done. On today's show - how the green energy revolution may live, or die, by bureaucrats trying to untangle a mess of wires. This episode was produced by Willa Rubin. It was edited by Sally Helm, fact-checked by Sierra Juarez, and engineered by Katherine Silva. Jess Jiang is our acting executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
21 minutes | May 19, 2023
It's time for another installment of ... Planet Money Predictions! *air horn* Last year, we invited two economic forecasters to tell us what they saw coming for jobs, the housing market, and inflation. And now they're back. Which means it's time to find out whose predictions were more on the money, and send the victor to the next round, where they face off against a new forecasting phenom. Since our last game, housing and inflation have cooled, but the job market keeps going strong. And the possibility of a recession still looms large. Our forecasters tell us what they see in the economy now, and what they expect in the months ahead. This episode was produced by James Sneed. It was engineered by Katherine Silva. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez and edited by Molly Messick. Jess Jiang is our acting executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
21 minutes | May 17, 2023
How AI could help rebuild the middle class
For the last four decades, technology has been mostly a force for greater inequality and a shrinking middle class. But new empirical evidence suggests that the age of AI could be different. We speak to MIT's David Autor, one of the greatest labor economists in the world, who envisions a future where we use AI to make a wider array of workers much better at a whole range of jobs and help rebuild the middle class. This episode was produced by Dave Blanchard and edited by Molly Messick. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez and engineered by Katherine Silva. Jess Jiang is Planet Money's acting executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
27 minutes | May 12, 2023
Inflation and the Profit-Price Spiral
Economists say that inflation is just too much money chasing too few goods. But something else can make inflation stick around. If you think of the 1970s, the last time the U.S. had really high sustained inflation, a big concern was rising wages. Prices for goods and services were high. Workers expected prices to be even higher next year, so they asked for pay raises to keep up. But then companies had to raise their prices more. And then workers asked for raises again. This the so-called wage-price spiral. So when prices started getting high again in 2021, economists and the U.S. Federal Reserve again worried that wage increases would become a big problem. But, it seems like the wage-price spiral hasn't happened. In fact wages, on average, have not kept up with inflation. There are now concerns about a totally different kind of spiral: a profit-price spiral. On today's show, why some economists are looking at inflation in a new light. This episode was produced by Sam Yellowhorse Kesler and engineered by Katherine Silva, with help from Josh Newell. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez and edited by Jess Jiang.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
19 minutes | May 10, 2023
The Day of Two Noons (Classic)
(Note: this episode originally ran in 2019.) In the 1800s, catching your train on time was no easy feat. Every town had its own "local time," based on the position of the sun in the sky. There were 23 local times in Indiana. 38 in Michigan. Sometimes the time changed every few minutes. This created tons of confusion, and a few train crashes. But eventually, a high school principal, a scientist, and a railroad bureaucrat did something about it. They introduced time zones in the United States. It took some doing--they had to convince all the major cities to go along with it, get over some objections that the railroads were stepping on "God's time," and figure out how to tell everyone what time it was. But they made it happen, beginning on one day in 1883, and it stuck. It's a story about how railroads created, in all kinds of ways, the world we live in today.This episode was originally produced by Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi and edited by Jacob Goldstein. Jess Jiang is Planet Money's Acting Executive Producer.
29 minutes | May 6, 2023
How to fight a squatting goat
Back in 2005, Burt Banks inherited a plot of old family land in Delaware. But when it came time to sell it, he ran into a problem: his neighbor had a goat pen, and about half of it crossed over onto his property. Burt asked the goats' owner to move the pen, but when neighborly persuasion failed to get the job done, he changed his strategy. He sued her. And that is when things got complicated. Protecting private property is one of the fundamental jobs of the American legal system. If you hold a deed saying you own a plot of land, it's your land. End of story. Right? But, as Burt would soon learn, the law can get really complicated when it comes to determining who actually owns something. And when goats are involved ... anything can happen. This episode was produced by Willa Rubin and Dylan Sloan and edited by Molly Messick. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Katherine Silva engineered this episode. Jess Jiang is Planet Money's acting executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Always free at these links: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, NPR One or anywhere you get podcasts.Find more Planet Money: Facebook / Instagram / TikTok / Our weekly Newsletter.Music: "Fruit Salad," "Keep With It" and "Purple Sun."
20 minutes | May 3, 2023
Two Indicators: the influencer industry
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? An astronaut, a doctor or maybe a famous athlete? Today one of the most popular responses to that question is influencer – content creators who grow their following on Tik Tok, Instagram and YouTube and monetize that content to make it their full-time job. In a lot of ways influencing can seem like the dream job - the filters, the followers, the free stuff. But on the internet, rarely is anything as it appears. From hate comments and sneaky contracts to prejudice and discrimination, influencers face a number of hurdles in their chosen careers. This week we're bringing you two stories from our daily show The Indicator on the promise and perils of the multi-billion dollar influencer industry. This episode was produced by Corey Bridges and Janet Lee. It was engineered by Robert Rodriguez and Katherine Silva. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez and Dylan Sloan. Emily Kinslow was the podcast coordinator for this series. Viet Le is The Indicator's senior producer. Kate Concannon edits the show. Our acting executive producer is Jess Jiang.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
28 minutes | Apr 28, 2023
Financial advising while Black
After a successful career in advertising, Erika Williams decided it was time for a change. She went back to school to get an MBA at the University of Chicago, and eventually, in 2012, she got a job at Wells Fargo as a financial advisor. It was the very job she wanted. Erika is Black–and being a Black financial advisor at a big bank is relatively uncommon. Banking was one of the last white collar industries to really hire Black employees. And when Erika gets to her office, she's barely situated before she starts to get a weird feeling. She feels like her coworkers are acting strangely around her. "I was just met with a lot of stares. And then the stares just turned to just, I mean, they just pretty much ignored me. And that was my first day, and that was my second day. And it was really every day until I left." She wasn't sure whether to call her experience racism...until she learned that there were other Black employees at other Wells Fargo offices feeling the exact same way.On today's episode, Erika's journey through these halls of money and power. And why her story is not unique, but is just one piece of the larger puzzle. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
17 minutes | Apr 26, 2023
The zoo economy (classic)
Note: This episode originally aired in September, 2014.Zoos follow a fundamental principle: You can't sell or buy the animals. It's unethical and illegal to put a price tag on an elephant's head. But money is really useful — it lets you know who wants something and how much they want it. It lets you get rid of things you don't need and acquire things that you do need. It helps allocate assets where they are most valued. In this case, those assets are alive, and they need a safe home in the right climate. So zoos and aquariums are left asking: What do you do in a world where you can't use money? This episode was originally produced by Jess Jiang.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
27 minutes | Apr 21, 2023
The quest for the factory-built house
Imagine if we built cars the same way we build houses. First, a typical buyer would meet with the car designer, and tell them what kind of car they want. Then the designer would draw up plans for the car. The buyer would call different car builders in their town and show them the blueprints. And the builders might say, "Yeah, I can build you that car based on this blueprint. It will cost $1 million and it will be ready in a year and a half." There are lots of reasons why homes are so expensive in the U.S., zoning and land prices among them. But also, the way we build houses is very slow and very inefficient. So, why don't we build homes the way we build so many other things, by mass producing them in a factory? In this episode, the century-old dream of the factory-built house, and the possibility of a prefab future. This episode was produced by Emma Peaslee. Molly Messick edited the show, and it was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Brian Jarboe mastered the episode. Jess Jiang is our acting Executive Producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
25 minutes | Apr 19, 2023
Tax Code Switch
This past January, researchers uncovered that Black taxpayers are three to five times as likely to be audited as everyone else. One likely reason for this is that the IRS disproportionately audits lower-income earners who claim a tax benefit called the earned income tax credit. And this, says law professor Dorothy Brown, is just one example of the many ways that race is woven through our tax system, its history, and its enforcement. Dorothy discovered the hidden relationship between race and the tax system sort of by accident, when she was helping her parents with their tax return. The amount they paid seemed too high. Eventually, her curiosity about that observation spawned a whole area of study. This episode is a collaboration with NPR's Code Switch podcast. Host Gene Demby spoke to Dorothy Brown about how race and taxes play out in marriage, housing, and student debt. This episode was produced by James Sneed, with help from Olivia Chilkoti. It was edited by Dalia Mortada and Courtney Stein, and engineered by James Willets & Brian Jarboe.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
26 minutes | Apr 15, 2023
The life and possible death of low interest rates
Right now, the economy is running hot. Inflation is high, and central banks are pushing up interest rates to fight it. But before the pandemic, economies around the world were stuck in a different rut: low inflation, low interest rates, low growth. In 2013, Larry Summers unearthed an old term from the Great Depression to explain why the economy was in this rut: secular stagnation. The theory resonated with Olivier Blanchard, another leading scholar, because he had made similar observations himself. Larry and Olivier would go on to build a case for why secular stagnation was a defining theory of the economy and why government policies needed to respond to it. They helped reshape many people's understanding of the economy, and suggested that this period of slow growth and low interest rates was here to stay for a long time. But today, Larry and Olivier are no longer the duo they used to be. As inflation has spiked worldwide, interest rates have followed suit. Earlier this year, Larry announced that he was no longer on the secular stagnation train. Olivier, meanwhile, believes we're just going through a minor blip and will return to a period of low interest rates within the near future. He doesn't see the deep forces that led to a long-run decline in interest rates as just vanishing. Who's right? The future of the global economy could depend on the answer.Help support Planet Money by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
18 minutes | Apr 12, 2023
Two mysterious bond market indicators
Right now, the economy is all over the place. And when things get confusing, we look to basic economic indicators to help explain what's going on. Today, we're bringing you two episodes of our daily show The Indicator that focus on the bond market. The market for U.S. treasury bonds is generally safe, predictable and pretty boring. Recently, though, it's been anything but. We look into the fluctuations in bond prices and the yield curve (one of our favorite indicators) to try to help us understand where the economy stands right now. These two Indicator episodes were originally produced by Brittany Cronin and Noah Glick. They were fact-checked by Sierra Juarez and engineered by Gilly Moon and Katherine Silva. Kate Concannon edits The Indicator. The Planet Money version was produced by Dylan Sloan and edited by Dave Blanchard. Music: "Funk Lounge," "A Fulltime Job" and "Velvet Groove." Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
27 minutes | Apr 8, 2023
Your banking questions, answered
It's been a month since the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank touched off the worst episode of banking turmoil since 2008. While the financial system appears to have stabilized, we're still reckoning with what happened. Regulators are getting dragged before Congress. The Federal Reserve and the FDIC have promised reports on what went wrong with bank oversight. And judging by our inbox, you, our listeners, have a lot of lingering questions. Questions like: Was it a bailout? Where were the regulators? Is it over yet? And what about those other banks that were teetering on the edge? Today on the show, some answers for you. This episode was produced by Sam Yellowhorse Kesler with help from Willa Rubin. It was engineered by Brian Jarboe. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez and edited by Molly Messick. Jess Jiang is our acting executive producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
23 minutes | Apr 5, 2023
The battle for Puerto Rico's beaches
Puerto Rico's beaches are an integral part of life on the island, and by law, they're one of the few places that are truly public. In practice, the sandy stretch of land where the water meets the shore is one of the island's most contested spaces. Today we're featuring an episode of the podcast La Brega from WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios, a show about Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican experience. On the island, a legal definition dating back to the Spanish colonial period dictates what counts as a beach. But climate change, an influx of new residents and a real estate boom are all threatening legal public access to some of Puerto Rico's most cherished spaces. The debate all comes down to one question: what counts as a beach? You can listen to the rest of La Brega (in English and Spanish) here. They have two full seasons out, which explore the Puerto Rican experience through history and culture. Check it out. This episode was reported by Alana Casanova-Burgess and produced by Ezequiel Rodriguez Andino and Joaquin Cotler, with help from Tasha Sandoval. It was edited by Mark Pagan, Marlon Bishop, and Jenny Lawton and engineered by Joe Plourde. The zona maritimo terrestre was sung as a bolero by Los Rivera Destino. The Planet Money version was produced by Dave Blanchard, fact checked by Sierra Juarez, edited by Keith Romer, and engineered by Brian Jarboe. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
23 minutes | Apr 1, 2023
The safety net for banks
In the first half of March, three banks - Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and Silvergate - all had relatively classic bank runs and collapsed. Which sparked some major banking stress. As a result, the Federal Reserve got a lot of requests to use one of its oldest and most important tools for soothing such troubles: the discount window. The discount window is like a safety net for banks. And recently, a lot of banks have needed it. So, what is the discount window, where did it come from, and how does it work? And, amidst all the recent banking turmoil, has it been working the way it should? In this episode, we crack open the discount window. This episode was produced by Emma Peaslee with help from Willa Rubin. It was engineered by Katherine Silva. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez and edited by Sally Helm. Jess Jiang is our acting executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
19 minutes | Mar 30, 2023
A Great Recession bank takeover
Earlier this month, we saw the largest bank collapse since the 2008 financial crisis. For many of us, seeing Silicon Valley Bank's meltdown brought us right back to that time 15 years ago, at the beginning of what would become the Great Recession. In early 2009, one or two banks were failing every week. That's when Planet Money reporter Chana Joffe-Walt went inside one of those banks: the Bank of Clark County, in Washington State. Her reporting on the inner workings of a bank collapse and government takeover helps explain exactly what happens when a bank goes under, minute-by-minute. This story originally aired in March 2009 on This American Life, from WBEZ Chicago. We're airing it for the first time in full on our podcast. This version of the story was produced by Dylan Sloan and edited by Dave Blanchard. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez and engineered by Katherine Silva. Jess Jiang is Planet Money's acting executive producer. Music: "Butter" "Bassline Motion" and "Fantasmi." Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.
24 minutes | Mar 25, 2023
The battle over Osage headrights
Richard J. Lonsinger is a member of the Ponca tribe of Oklahoma, who was adopted at a young age into a white family of three. He eventually reconnected with his birth family, but when his birth mother passed away in 2010, he wasn't included in the distribution of her estate. Feeling both hurt and excluded, he asked a judge to re-open her estate, to give him a part of one particular asset: an Osage headright. An Osage headright is a share of profits from resources like oil, gas, and coal that have been extracted from the Osage Nation's land. These payments can be sizeable - thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars a year. Historically, they were even larger – in the 1920s the Osage were some of the wealthiest people in the world. But that wealth also made them a target and subject to paternalistic and predatory laws. Over the previous century, hundreds of millions of dollars in oil money have been taken from the Osage people. On today's show: the story of how Richard Lonsinger gradually came to learn this history, and how he made his peace with his part of a complicated inheritance. This episode was produced by Willa Rubin with help from Alyssa Jeong Perry and Emma Peaslee. It was engineered by Brian Jarboe and fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. It was edited by Keith Romer, with help from Shannon Shaw Duty from Osage News.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.