Robert Smith

Journalists are a jealous bunch. We steal each other's stories, and sources. And when someone writes a story that we're envious of, we usually curse them under our breath, and move on. But once a year at Planet Money, we give a shout out to our favorite work.

This year, our Valentines go out to:

-Eric Konigsberg, for finding out what people do all day at WeWork 'coworking' spaces in his awesomely-titled article, "Sriracha Is for Closers."

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Episode 820: P Is For Phosphorus

Jan 26, 2018

Phosphorus is in pretty much everything: bombs, toothpaste, cheese. It's irreplaceable. Nothing can live without it and it's only economically recoverable in a few places. Like Morocco, and China.

Most of our phosphorus—or phosphate, which is its usable form—goes into fertilizer. The farmers pile it on, and then the bulk of it just washes right off into the rivers and then ocean. It's really hard to get phosphorus out of the ocean, which means, as far as we're concerned, that phosphorus is pretty much gone once it's in the water.

In 1992, Douglas Bruce proposed a measure called the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, TABOR for short. TABOR was effectively a tax-limitation measure that said, whenever a government wanted more money — whenever it wanted to increase taxes — it had to put the question on the ballot. Increased taxes for roads? The voters would get to decide. Better schools? Put it on the ballot. But put the price there first.

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.

Going to space used to be the playground of governments, but now rockets and satellites are becoming so small and so cheap that even a podcast can launch a space mission. So that's just what Planet Money did!

Officially, corporations in the U.S. are taxed at a rate of 35 percent. In reality, they pay a much, much lower rate. That's because the U.S. tax code is filled with deductions and exemptions (which, if you don't like them, you call loopholes).

Politicians from both sides of the aisle like to propose the same kind of change: lower the corporate tax rate, and get rid of some of the loopholes. A few weeks ago, President Trump and Republicans in Congress released a plan to do just that. Today on the show: We break down that plan.

Note: This show originally ran in 2015.

A state fair is a magical place. But for Planet Money, the true magic takes place in a massive warehouse where old-fashioned salesmen and women practice the ancient art of looking you in the eye and convincing you to buy something you do not need. It's the art of pitching, and Planet Money's Robert Smith has been obsessed with it since he was twelve years old.

Robert and his accomplice Kenny Malone head out to the Ohio State Fair, with a journalistic excuse. They embed with the pitchmen and pitchwomen--the true artisans of salesmanship--to learn the secrets of their trade.

Episode 471: The Eddie Murphy Rule

Aug 2, 2017

Note: This episode originally ran in 2013. It contains some explicit language.

On this show, we talk to commodities traders to answer one of the most important questions in finance: What actually happens at the end of Trading Places?