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.

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

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.

Fear: The Index

Feb 12, 2018

There is this thing called the VIX. Some people call it the fear gauge. It was invented to measure people's expectations about how much the stock market is going to bounce around.

At some point, the VIX went from measuring expectations about the stock market. To being something people bet on.

Then, last week, when the market plunged, the role of the VIX may have gotten even larger: This thing that was invented to measure the stock market may have started driving the market itself.

On today's show, Tracy Alloway of Bloomberg News tells us the story of the VIX.

President Trump talks a big talk about protectionism and tariffs. So far, there hasn't been much action. But this week, a new tariff does kick in — one that makes it more expensive to import solar panels. President Trump also recently announced a new tariff on washing machines.

The story of these tariffs begins years ago — with policies that President Obama put in place. We dig into where they came from, and what effect they're likely to have on the economy.

As promised, here are the sources for this episode:

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.

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 War On Coal

Jan 10, 2018

Last September, Energy Secretary Rick Perry put a plan in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The plan was supposed to make our energy supply "resilient." But it was also a way to help subsidize coal.

The commission has five members. Four of them, including the chairman, were appointed by President Trump. This week, the commission unanimously rejected the Perry plan.

On today's indicator, we look at what the commission's decision tells us about energy markets in America, and about the future of coal.

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.

Destruction tends to happen quickly; progress is often gradual.

This combination of sudden, bad things and slow, good things can mess up the way we see the world. We notice the sudden but miss the gradual. The nature of daily (hourly, minutely) news only adds to the perception problem.

What would happen if, instead of getting constant news updates, we only got a news update once every 50 years?

Today's Indicator is 50. We're dreaming up a newspaper that comes out once every 50 years. What goes on the front page?

Spoiler alert: It's not all bad news.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Thirty-seven years ago, sexual harassment in the workplace became illegal. That led to the creation of the first harassment training videos. This one, called "Power Pinch," is narrated by a man sitting in a bar.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "POWER PINCH")

We've secured our satellite. And while that's pretty cool, we're not quite there yet. We need a rocket. That used to require a having a space agency, like NASA. We don't have a space agency at NPR. But luckily for us, space is a business now, with commercial operators vying for customers. And space companies are actually battling for our business. They want to be the company that takes us to the stars.

Power Pinch

Dec 4, 2017

At Planet Money, we love big projects. We bought a toxic asset. We made a T-shirt. We're trying to launch a satellite into space. Doing this stuff means we can't always keep up with the news as much as we'd like. So we're launching a new show. It's the Indicator: Planet Money's quick take on a number, or a term, or a story in the news.

Planet in San Francisco has agreed to send up a satellite with our logo on it and take some pictures for us. In a way, we're in the spying game now. Back in the 60s, satellites would take photographs from space and then send the film canisters back to earth--literally drop them into the atmosphere, where they were caught in a net attached to an airplane. There was only a limited number of pictures you could get that way. And they still took a ton of time to analyze.

Last year we started to look into the satellite business. It used to be that satellites were the size of a school bus and cost a half billion dollars. But the space business is changing. Private companies are competing to get tiny satellites into orbit, driving the cost down. Commercial rockets are launching around the world, carrying satellites for universities, and farmers, and oil traders.

So we, thought, what about podcasts? Who speaks for them? Why can't they go, too? Today on the show, we go looking for our own satellite.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2015.

When Susannah Morgan was running a food bank in Alaska, she always needed produce. Items like fresh oranges or potatoes. But her food bank didn't get much. Feeding America, a major supplier for food banks, assumed transporting fresh produce would be too expensive. Instead, among other things, Susannah's food bank got pickles. A lot of them. At the same time, Feeding America was flooding Idaho with potatoes.

Note: This episode originally aired in 2015.

There are people with Birkin bags, and then there are the rest of us. This purse, made by the French luxury brand Hermès, averages $60,000. It's a little boxy. It comes in just about every color. Each bag is handmade, and Hermès staff apprentice for years before they can produce a Birkin.

Even inside North Korea, the most restrictive, socialist regime in the world, there are entrepreneurs. People are dreaming up ideas of services to offer, products to sell, businesses to start. They're called the 'donju,' and they're part of North Korea's small middle class. Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, doesn't throw them in jail.

Episode 795: Is Record Breaking Broken?

Sep 20, 2017

Ashrita Furman has broken more than 600 records— earning him the Guinness World Record for most records broken. He grew up reading the Guinness Book of World Records. A lot of kids did. It's one of the best selling books of all time.

But book sales have been dropping and now Guinness has started having to change the way it makes money. Now, record holders like Ashrita are being joined by a different kind of record breaker: celebrities and companies looking for publicity. People pay thousands to have Guinness orchestrate a record-breaking event for them.

Copyright 2017 NCPR. To see more, visit NCPR.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

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

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

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

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

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

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

On today's show, we are going to explain every dollar the federal government spent last year — nearly $4 trillion — in 10 minutes.

And to get a real feel for how the money is divided up, we're going to divide up our 10 minutes exactly the way the government divided up the money last year. The more money a program gets from the government, the more time it gets from us.

We dig into social security's origin story, find a nice thing lobbyists do, and write a haiku about infrastructure. Experience the budget in real time.

Last November, India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, made a move that brought India's economy to its knees.

Modi said, starting on November 9th, most of the country's paper money would no longer be legal tender. Everything over the equivalent a US $5 bill would become worthless pieces of paper.

For an economy where 90 percent of business transactions happen in cash, this was a big deal.

Today on the show, we sit down with Dr. Ben Bernanke, the medicine man of the markets and the money supply.

Ten years later, we're still dealing with the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. Some industries and parts of the country are still trying to recover from the worst economic period since the Great Depression.

It was Ben Bernanke's job to stop the crashing and pick up the pieces.

Doing your taxes doesn't have to be a pain. In many countries around the world, filing taxes is so easy and painless, "tax day" isn't even a thing.

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