Stacey Vanek Smith

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

Brian Krebs, a journalist and cybersecurity expert, recently published this list. It has hundreds of company names, in alphabetical order. And next to each name is a price.

This list comes from a site on the dark web where people buy and sell stolen usernames and passwords. It's a price list.

On today's show, we talk to Krebs about this list, and what it tells us about the market for your stolen passwords.

A few years ago, Wells Fargo got in trouble for opening millions of accounts for its customers without their permission. Hundreds of thousands of people lost money and saw their credit scores drop.

On Friday, the Federal Reserve dropped a bomb. It said Wells Fargo would not be allowed to grow until further notice.

On today's show: Matt Levine of Bloomberg View explains why this is a big deal — and why other banks are likely to notice.

Glenn Kelman has been running the real-estate company Redfin since 2007. He saw it through the housing crash and the recovery. Last year, Redfin went public. It's now worth more than $1.7 billion.

Glenn was in town recently, and we asked him to come in and play overrated/underrated with us.

We bring up a bunch of trends and ideas — really, anything we want — and ask: is this overrated or underrated?

Among other things, we asked Glenn about home ownership, the cult of the CEO and the importance of the dungeon master.

There's a new study out about the origins of the mafia. It finds that the essential ingredient in the birth of the mafia as we know it isn't the threats or the murders or the other stuff that's great for Hollywood. The detail that matters is lemons.

Music: "Head of The Family".

Last week, General Electric said it was taking a massive loss — $6.2 billion — related to an obscure corner of the company: long-term-care insurance.

Long-term-care insurance is this kind of insurance that anyone can buy. It covers things like nursing home care, or a home health aide.

But recently, GE came out and said it was having an "adverse claims experience" with these policies. Basically, the company got the math wrong, and lost billions as a result.

Congress is on the verge of a deal that will end the partial government shutdown. But that deal will only keep the government open for a few weeks.

There's a bigger underlying issue here: Year after year, Congress fails to pass a budget in time.

Today on the show: Why this keeps happening, and why it's a problem.

Last June the price of oil was $44 a barrel. Then, it started climbing. Earlier this week, it briefly hit $70.

The price of oil is a big deal. It affects how much you pay for heating, or a gallon of gas, or a flight home.

The price of oil is also famously volatile, and in the last six or seven years it's taken an incredible ride. On today's show, we tell the story of what happened and try to figure out what it means for the future of oil prices.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The Trump administration had a plan to save the coal industry, but a panel headed by a Trump appointee rejected that plan. Stacey Vanek Smith co-hosts the Planet Money podcast The Indicator, where she's been reporting on the threats to the coal industry.

The Beigies

Jan 18, 2018

Eight times a year, the Federal Reserve publishes the Beige Book. It's a report that is, oddly, a collection of little, random anecdotes.

An example from the latest Beige Book, which dropped yesterday: "Crop yields in Central California slipped slightly at year-end, driven by the weak performance of certain nuts."

Some of these stories deliver really interesting little insights into the economy. Insights so illuminating, someone should give out prizes for the best anecdotes in the Beige Book.

So: Welcome to the first Beigie awards, brought to you by the Indicator.

The bridge to nowhere. The teapot museum. People loved to point out how congressional earmarks led to wasteful government spending. Then, in 2011, Congress dramatically restricted earmarks.

Now, Congress is considering bringing them back.

Earmarks are easy to mock. But on today's show, Jonathan Rauch of Brookings and The Atlantic argues that earmarks make democracy work better.

You may already know the headline jobs numbers the government released this morning: The unemployment rate held steady last month at 4.1 percent. The economy added 148,000 jobs.

But these numbers are just the surface of the monthly jobs report; the report has a huge amount of information about how the job market is working (or not working) for people in different industries, and different age groups.

For the last several months, Congress was almost all tax bill almost all the time. Lots of regular business got postponed.

As a result, there is an insane amount of economic policymaking that has to be done by both Congress and the president by the end of the month.

From tariffs to immigration to funding for the military and social programs, the next 27 days are going to be huge.

Two years ago, international sanctions against Iran were largely lifted. People expected the economy to come surging back. But so far, it's been a disappointment. Unemployment is high. Prices are rising. Corruption is persistent. A surge in the price of eggs was the last straw.

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

Pages