Stacey Vanek Smith

Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; flew to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and spoke with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.

Prior to coming to NPR, Smith worked for Marketplace, where she was a correspondent and fill-in host. While there, Smith was part of a collaboration with The New York Times, where she explored the relationship between money and marriage. She was also part of Marketplace's live shows, where she produced a series of pieces on getting her data mined.

Smith is a native of Idaho and grew up working on her parents' cattle ranch. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in comparative literature and creative writing. She also holds a master's in broadcast journalism from Columbia University.

China is imposing tariffs on about 3 billion dollars worth of U.S. exports. That's roughly the value of the steel and aluminum exports from China that President Trump taxed last month.

On today's show, we look at the list of goods from the U.S. that China is going to start taxing and we talk to a hog farmer who estimates his pigs have already lost 10 percent of their value.

One of the most puzzling trends of the last few decades has been the unrelenting rise in the number of people who fell out of the labor force because they were disabled.

The number of these disabled Americans went up for so long that the trend seemed like it might be permanent.

Today on the show, the story of a quietly dramatic turnaround in the U.S. economy. And what we can learn from it.

Healthcare spending represents a huge chunk of the American economy; more than in other places. And it's not because Americans are hypochondriacs.

Dr. Ashish Jha, physician and professor of global health at Harvard, discusses why we spend so much money on medical care and some ways we might be able to spend less.

The Baker Hughes Rig Count is a tally of all the rigs that are drilling for oil in the US.

It comes out every Friday, and it's often used as a gauge of the American oil business.

But technological advances in the industry could end up making the Baker Hughes index less relevant.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Independent bookstores got crushed by big box stores in the 90s, and hammered by Amazon in the aughts.

But since then, they've reinvented themselves.

Now independent bookstores are back, often as the mainstays of new retail developments.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

President Trump recently had a disagreement with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump says the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada, Trudeau says it's a trade surplus.

Today on the show we explain how it's possible for both men to be right and wrong at the same time. It turns out that sometimes statistics is more art than science.

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After the Revolutionary War, one of the first acts of the brand new Congress was to tax goods imported from foreign countries. Since then the debate over tariffs hasn't changed much, but the U.S. economy definitely has.

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The way most companies first sell their shares to the public is tried and true; hire an investment bank, do a roadshow, agree to a lockup period, etc etc.

But Spotify is doing none of those things. In fact it's not doing an initial public offering at all: it's doing a direct public offering instead.

It's an unusual move. but if it works, it could change the way a big part of Wall Street business is done.

Links:
How ans IPO gets done, step by step (CNBC)

Ten years ago, the investment bank Bear Stearns collapsed, and the government stepped in to broker a bailout.

William D. Cohan thinks that was a mistake. He wrote about Bear in his book, House of Cards.

He talked to us about what happened then and what's changed since.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump recently slapped tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from certain countries, but not because those countries don't play fair on trade.

Instead, the Trump administration cited national security concerns. The move has got him what he wants, but it puzzled America's trading partners. If they retaliate with the same tactic, the damage to the global trading system — and to the rules that underpin the system — could be huge.

Links:

Japan has more government debt (outstanding as a percentage of GDP) that Greece did at the height of its financial crisis. To the casual observer, Japan looks as overloaded as a Vegas buffet. And yet the country is somehow able to keep on borrowing at the same low, low rate. Why?

Also, what British (Indian) car does James Bond drive (but only once)?

Your questions, answered.

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Most products in this world are vulnerable to creative destruction: as new products are developed, they make old ones obsolete.

But there are some exceptions to this rule. There are products that persist, resisting change while economic evolution continues on without them.

Like the graphing calculator.

75.2 percent. That is the prime age female labor force participation rate, the share of all adult women between the ages of 25 and 54 who are working or looking for work.

In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the number of women participating in the workforce went up and up and up.But, in 2000, that momentum waned.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Americans are expected to spend $3.6 trillion on physical goods this year. Amazon and WalMart are competing fiercely to see which of them can get a bigger slice of that pie.

Even with the rise of the Internet, almost all retail sales in America still occur in physical stores, so WalMart's massive network of big box outlets gives it an edge.

But Amazon has a secret weapon: Prime.

Cobalt used to be a byproduct of copper mining, used in everyday, boring stuff like tires and magnets.

But that all changed when someone discovered its ability to stabilize the lithium in batteries for electronics like cell phones.

Now it's become one of the most important and sought after metals on the periodic table. Which has implications for big tech firms like Apple.

The quality of American cars got a lot better after the financial crisis. They got lighter, more efficient and more reliable. And the car business boomed.

But now they're getting too expensive. Sticker prices for the SUVs and trucks that Americans love are high enough that manufacturers don't have to sell as many vehicles to make money.

But that's not going to last.

Like all oil well owners, Jason Bruns watches the oil market closely. When crude hits a certain price, he'll either switch a pump on - if prices are rising - or turn it off, if they're not.

Right now oil prices are at a bit of a sweet spot for small producers like Jason. Pumpjacks all over the country are being switched on. Consumers may not like rising oil prices much, but they're a sign the economy is doing better.

Since the late 1990s, inflation — or average prices — has increased by 55.6 percent. But while things like televisions and smartphones have gotten much cheaper in that time, certain other things have gotten much more expensive.

So while some people may be able to afford the latest gadget, certain other things remain out of reach. Today on the show we look at what that tells us about the true cost of living in America in the 21st century.

Stacey Vanek Smith and Cardiff Garcia host the Planet Money spin-off, The Indicator. Each day, they take a number or term in the news, and tell you what it means and why it matters.

Today on Planet Money, we are bringing you three indicators, three numbers that tell us something about the world. We'll tell you what the US really sells to the world, how the conservative tax plan is maybe just what a liberal economist had always hoped for, and how craft beer blew up the hops business.

The Trump Administration is making major changes to trade policy, and that is affecting all kinds of U.S. companies.

Usually we hear about these issues as they relate to big industries like steel and aluminum, or in markets for solar panels or washing machines. Today we look at another industry caught up in the debate over global trade: the rubber band business.

There's a new Fed chair in town. Jerome - call him Jay - Powell is a former investment banker who has worked in both the Treasury and the Fed.

He has already indicated that when it comes to the philosophy of monetary policy, he tracks pretty closely with his predecessor, Janet Yellen.

But as Karl Smith, Director of Economic Research at the Niskanen Center, discussed with us, Powell has got an entirely different challenge ahead.

Today we debut a new segment on the Indicator: the two-minute explainer. Cardiff and Stacey take up the challenge of explaining what's behind an economic event or data point in 120 seconds or less.

On this show: what is productivity, how is it measured, and why is it such an important indicator?

And, why did KFC have to close almost all of its stores in the UK last week?

Sales of firearms have soared in America over the past twenty years. But fewer people are purchasing.

Today America's guns are concentrated in the hands of a comparatively small number of enthusiasts.

Their love of add-ons and special features has been a boon to gun manufacturers. Their periodic fear of anti-gun regulation has made sales spike in the past. But relying on a concentrated market of mega-buyers can come at a cost.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A couple of weeks ago the biggest labor union in Germany negotiated a big new deal with hundreds of German companies. Workers didn't just get a raise, they also won the option of working just 28 hours a week for up to two years without losing ground in their careers.

We talked to Simon Kuper of the Financial Times about the increasing need for companies to consider flexible working arrangements, as employees work longer and our lives become more complicated.

Project Lakhta was the Russian campaign to spend a million dollars a month to destabilize American democracy.

But that money didn't pay for sophisticated hackers or deadly assassins. Instead, it bought Facebook ads and Twitter accounts.

Today on the show: Russia's plan to mess with our election was crude, expensive ... and surprisingly effective.

Hops are the cones of the hop plant. They're used in making beer. Craft beer lovers love hops. (Just ask them; they'll tell you.)

As the market for craft beer exploded over the hops business boomed. Until it didn't.

Today on the show: The craft beer explosion, and the hops boom and bust that went with it.

Sanctions on Ice

Feb 13, 2018

North Korea has been getting sanctioned for decades. But in spite of the sanctions, North Korea has managed to keep buying fancy stuff for the elites — and fund a nuclear weapons program.

The country has done this by raising money through a clandestine outfit called Office 39. Among other things, Office 39 runs counterfeiting operations, engages in international bank fraud, and sells illegal drugs.

On today's show: sanctions, Office 39 and the North Korean Olympic team

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