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Episodes

Japan's Lost Decades
1w ago
Japan's Lost Decades
Last month, Japan's central bank raised interest rates for the first time in 17 years. That is a really big deal, because it means that one of the spookiest stories in modern economics might finally have an ending. Back in the 1980s, Japan performed something of an economic miracle. It transformed itself into the number two economy in the world. From Walkmans to Toyotas, the U.S. was awash in Japanese imports. And Japanese companies went on a spending spree. Sony bought up Columbia Pictures. Mitsubishi became the new majority owners of Rockefeller Center. But in the early 1990s, it all came to a sudden halt. Japan went from being one of the fastest growing countries in the world to one of the slowest. And this economic stagnation went on and on and on. For decades. On this episode, the unnerving story of Japan's Lost Decades: How did one of the most advanced economies in the world just fall down one day — and not be able to get up? Japan's predicament changed our understanding of what can go wrong in a modern economy. And gave us some new tools to try and deal with it. This episode was hosted by Jeff Guo. It was produced by Emma Peaslee and engineered by Cena Loffredo. It was edited by Molly Messick. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
The real estate industry on trial
03-04-2024
The real estate industry on trial
In 2019, Mike Ketchmark got a call. Mike is a lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri, and his friend, Brandon Boulware, another lawyer, was calling about a case he wanted Mike to get involved with. Mike was an unusual choice - he's a personal injury lawyer, and this was going to be an antitrust case. But Brandon knew Mike was great in front of a jury. And that he'd won huge settlements for his clients in the past. So the lawyer friend drops by Mike's office, and pitches him the case. Rhonda and Scott Burnett had just sold their home for $250,000, and out of that amount, they had paid $15,000 in commission (plus a small fee), which was split between two real estate agents - even though they had hired only one. And the commission was high - 6%. Mike's friend said the whole thing seemed... suspicious. Maybe even illegal. Mike agreed to take the case, a case that would soon become bigger than one about just what had happened to the Burnetts. It would become a fight about the way homes are bought and sold in the U.S. and challenge the way real estate agents have done business for more than 100 years. This episode was hosted by Amanda Aronczyk and Keith Romer. It was produced by Willa Rubin, edited by Keith Romer, engineered by Valentina Rodríguez Sánchez, and fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer. Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
The billion dollar war behind U.S. rum
15-03-2024
The billion dollar war behind U.S. rum
When you buy a bottle of rum in the United States, by law nearly all the federal taxes on that rum must be sent to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It's an unusual system that Congress designed decades ago to help fund these two U.S. territories. In 2021 alone, these rum tax payments added up to more than $700 million.Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands split the money according to how much rum each territory produces. And the territories produce a lot of it — especially Puerto Rico, which single handedly supplies the majority of the rum that Americans drink.But in 2008, the U.S. Virgin Islands pulled off a coup. It convinced one of the largest rum brands in the world, Captain Morgan, to abandon Puerto Rico and to shift its operations to the tiny island of St. Croix.This was the beginning of the Rum Wars.On today's show, the story of how a scheme designed to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands turned them into bitter rivals. And how it ended up putting hundreds of millions of dollars a year — U.S. taxpayer dollars — into the pockets of big liquor companies instead.This episode was hosted by Jeff Guo and Sarah Gonzalez. It was produced by James Sneed with help from Sam Yellowhorse Kesler. It was edited by Molly Messick, engineered by Cena Loffredo, and fact checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy
A controversial idea at the heart of Bidenomics
23-02-2024
A controversial idea at the heart of Bidenomics
Réka Juhász is a professor of economics at the University of British Columbia, and she studies what's known as industrial policy. That's the general term for whenever the government tries to promote specific sectors of the economy. The idea is that they might be able to supercharge growth by giving money to certain kinds of businesses, or by putting up trade barriers to protect certain industries. Economists have long been against it. Industrial policy has been called a "taboo" subject, and "one of the most toxic phrases" in economics. The mainstream view has been that industrial policy is inefficient, even harmful. For a long time, politicians largely accepted that view. But in the past several years, countries have started to embrace industrial policy—most notably in the United States. Under President Biden, the U.S. is set to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on industrial policy, to fund things like microchip manufacturing and clean energy projects. It's one of the most ambitious tests of industrial policy in U.S. history. And the billion dollar question is ... will it work? On today's show, Réka takes us on a fun, nerdy journey to explain the theory behind industrial policy, why it's so controversial, and where President Biden's big experiment might be headed.Help support Planet Money and get bonus episodes by subscribing to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoicesNPR Privacy Policy