Robert Smith

Robert Smith is a correspondent for NPR's Planet Money where he reports on how the global economy is affecting our lives.

If that sounds a little dry, then you've never heard Planet Money. The team specializes in making economic reporting funny, engaging and understandable. Planet Money has been known to set economic indicators to music, use superheroes to explain central banks, and even buy a toxic asset just to figure it out.

Smith admits that he has no special background in finance or math, just a curiosity about how money works. That kind of curiosity has driven Smith for his 20 years in radio.

Before joining Planet Money, Smith was the New York correspondent for NPR. He was responsible for covering all the mayhem and beauty that makes it the greatest city on Earth. Smith reported on the rebuilding of Ground Zero, the stunning landing of US Air flight 1549 in the Hudson River and the dysfunctional world of New York politics. He specialized in features about the overlooked joys of urban living: puddles, billboards, ice cream trucks, street musicians, drunks and obsessives.

When New York was strangely quiet, Smith pitched in covering the big national stories. He traveled with presidential campaigns, tracked the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and reported from the BP oil spill.

Before his New York City gig, Smith worked for public radio stations in Seattle (KUOW), Salt Lake City (KUER) and Portland (KBOO). He's been an editor, a host, a news director and just about any other job you can think of in broadcasting. Smith also lectures on the dark arts of radio at universities and conferences. He trains fellow reporters how to sneak humor and action into even the dullest stories on tight deadlines.

Smith started in broadcasting playing music at KPCW in his hometown of Park City, Utah. Although the low-power radio station at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, likes to claim him as its own.

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?

Have you noticed? Something strange has happened to the passage of time. Sometimes it feels like Friday... but it's still Tuesday afternoon. We've felt it at Planet Money, too.

At the end of every year, we do a special podcast; it's a holiday tradition. In that podcast we look back at the year behind us and see what's happened to places and people after we turned the microphone off.

Eighty years ago, Qatar's primary industry was pearl-diving. Today, the tiny Persian Gulf nation is the richest country in the world per capita. It's also in a lot of trouble.

Saudi Arabia and several nearby countries have blockaded tiny Qatar, cut off all trade, closed the border. It seemed like overnight, Qatar went from being on top of the world to being a regional pariah.

So we wondered: What's going on?

There is nobody more sunny and optimistic than a politician writing a budget, and Donald Trump is no different.

His budget promises a golden age of new jobs and progress, with tax cuts and a border wall to boot. To make all this possible, it assumes one thing: that the economy will grow at 3% every year. This is very hard. Other countries do it all the time, but the United States hasn't consistently seen that kind of growth in decades.

On today's show, we come up with a plan to get there, but Donald Trump might not like it.

This part two of a two part series. Listen to part one here.

Here's what Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, and Ireland have in common: They all have Irish pubs.

And a bunch of them are the product of one man: Mel McNally.

McNally spent his final year in architecture school studying the architecture of Irish pubs. He and his buddies hit up all the famous pubs in Dublin, and brought along their sketchbooks and measuring tape to answer one question: What makes these places work?

This episode originally ran in 2014.

Millions of tax cheats never get caught. And the IRS seems powerless to stop them.

This isn't just a problem here. American taxpayers are Dudley Do-Rights compared to people in some other countries.

And there are some very smart people working to get tax cheats to change their ways.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Gary Snyder has holes in his garden fence.

That's not normally the kind of oversight you'd find in a well-kept British garden in a market town like Chipping Norton, 75 miles northwest of London. But the holes are there for a reason: hedgehogs.

A groundbreaking law on domestic abuse takes effect today in England and Wales. It expands the meaning of domestic violence to include psychological and emotional torment. So it is now a crime there to control your spouse, say, through social media or online stalking. Experts in domestic violence say it represents a new way to look at the whole issue of abuse.

If you are eating turkey this Christmas out of some sense of tradition, food historian Ivan Day says, put down that drumstick. After studying English cookbooks hundreds of years old, Day says the giant bird isn't even that traditional. Besides, he says, "It's a dry wasteland of flavorless meat."

Sure, the first turkey came to England in the 1600s. It was an exotic "treat" from the New World. But a time traveler from Shakespeare's time wouldn't understand why everyone in the modern world was having the same dull bird on Christmas night.

Not too long ago, a New York taxi medallion was worth more than a million dollars. Gene Friedman managed to buy more than 1,000. But that was before Uber, and now people like Friedman face bankruptcy.

Listen to the full story by Planet Money.