Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Hosted by Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood, Make Me Smart With Kai & Molly is now a daily news podcast that breaks down the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and the most complex topics of the week. Together, we make sense of today. Because none of us is as smart as all of us.... Show More

Episodes

February 26, 2021 14 min

As the Senate pulls the minimum wage hike out of the COVID-19 relief bill (a ruling that came down just after we taped), let’s talk about two very different pay stories. First, Costco says it will pay employees at least $16 an hour— how long before the market laps Congress? Then, former CEO Adam Neumann — remember him? — is still getting paid off of the mess at WeWork. It’s bananapants, folks. Plus: Dunkin’ is getting avocado toast...

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Texans are being hit with massive electric bills after last week’s winter storm knocked out much of the state’s grid, which is primarily powered by natural gas. You might not know that many of the data centers mining for cryptocurrency in this country also run on natural gas. On today’s Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday, we’re digging into Texas’ unregulated energy market and Bitcoin’s carbon footprint. Plus your questions about stoc...

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Millions of Texans spent last week without power, boiling water, dealing with burst pipes and collapsed roofs as a “once-in-a-lifetime” winter storm battered the state and infrastructure failed. Climate change is an existential crisis, and it’s already at our doorstep. And for all the money that’s gone toward trying to slow down or reverse that change, relatively little has gone toward adapting to it. On today’s show, we’ll hear fr...

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It’s not the absolute worst worst-case, but 500,000 dead from COVID-19 is more than what some experts painted as the worst-case scenario back when the pandemic started, and about a third of the way to the death toll if the country had taken no action at all. Today, we’ll do the numbers. Plus: The bond market gains and NASA’s new Martian probe.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

US surpasses 500,000 COVID deaths” from US...

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During the GameStop brouhaha, we asked you to send us your stonks-inspired cocktail recipes, and you delivered. In true Economics on Tap style, guest host Kimberly Adams taste tested a few. Plus, a tidbit about the minimum wage tucked into the big economic relief bill, and voters may have gone to the polls in records number in 2020, but now lots of states are considering restricting voting access. We end the show with our favorite ...

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Like a lot of people, we’ve spent some time today watching this story about Sen. Ted Cruz’s scuttled trip to Cancún, Mexico, but don’t take your eye off the ball. Today, we’ll talk about the crisis brought on by cold weather and infrastructure failures in Texas. Plus, what it takes for a woman to be promoted to general and the Mars rover Perseverance.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Sen. Ted Cruz faces storm of contr...

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Guest host Kimberly Adams mentioned the return of earmarks yesterday, and a listener wants to know more about the “currency of compromise.” To help answer that one, we called up Laura Blessing, a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University. Plus, Kimberly and Kai Ryssdal answer more of your questions about the 10-year Treasury note, women in postsecondary education and, uh, campaign promises.

Here’...

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The Biden administration is working to repair norms and rollback policies covering so much from the Trump era. So where does immigration sit in the priority list? The White House already rescinded the “zero-tolerance” policy that separated migrant families, but unwinding rules and reuniting those families are very different things. Today, we’ll talk with The Atlantic’s Caitlin Dickerson about the reunification effort and the lasti...

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It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the U.S. Postal Service. We’re about three weeks into the Biden administration, so why is a political lightening rod like Louis DeJoy still running the post office? We’ll explain. Plus: more Elon Musk stonks and a new wrinkle in Kai Ryssdal’s vendetta against his internet provider. And, of course, we’ll finish off with a round of our favorite game, “Half Full/Half Empty.”
Here’s everythin...

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GameStop closed at $51.10 a share today. We’re far away from the heady days of, uh, two weeks ago. But something has still been nagging at us: Why didn’t the beleaguered video game retailer jump on the opportunity to sell some shares and pay down its debt? Today we finally got an answer, and we’ll take some time to explain. Plus: a little talk about the impeachment trial so far, vaccines and Bitcoin.

Here’s everything we talked ...

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February 11, 2021 17 min

Well, Elon Musk has been tweeting again. Specifically, he’s been tweeting about how much he loves bitcoin, right after his automaker Tesla bought up $1.5 billion worth of it. Is this a distraction from the company’s China troubles? A scheme running afoul of the SEC? An epic bacon win for all the lulz, good sir? Maybe all three? We try and get into Musk’s head on today’s show. Wish us luck. Plus, your questions about minimum wage, ...

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Why is it so hard to raise the minimum wage? Even the leading expert on the topic isn’t quite sure. It’s one of the few issues that’s broadly popular with Americans, and even some corporate hard-liners are softening. Democrats have been trying to tie a new federal minimum wage to the COVID relief bill, and the Congressional Budget Office has come out with a new analysis of its impact. Today, we’ll talk with that expert, University ...

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Oh, you say you need one more thing to worry about? Look to Oldsmar, Florida, where hackers seem to have broken into a water treatment plant, temporarily raising the amount of lye in the water. Today, we’ll talk about the cyber arms race and the threats, large and small, that are facing this country. Plus: women’s workforce participation has been set back decades, and Kai Ryssdal looks into minimum wage’s impact on the deficit.

Her...

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We’ve been covering COVID’s impact on women in the workforce for a while, and this New York Times profile of three moms “on the brink” hit close to home. Today, we take a step back and look at how these women and their struggles are being framed and reckoned with. Plus: More SPAC news, Valentine’s Day plans and the coverage of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

  • Marjorie Taylor Greene harangu...
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    Voting tech company Smartmatic is suing several of Donald Trump’s allies, Fox News personalities and the network itself for an eye-watering $2.7 billion in damages over false claims of fraud in the 2020 election. Another company, Dominion, has been rattling its saber as well. Today we’ll talk about where those suits might go and why even the right-wing Newsmax is backing off its #StopTheSteal claims. Plus: Snow cocktails!

    Here’...

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    Amazon, the so-called “everything store,” is increasingly becoming the “everywhere store.” Why would the largest online retailer pivot so hard into brick and mortar? And, oh yeah, what’s up with Jeff Bezos stepping down as CEO? Also on tap for this Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday: Are we headed for a COVID baby bust? What about a recession? And before our Friday happy hour episode: What’s a hazy IPA?

    Here’s everything we talked a...

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    There’s another hot, disruptive force in finance beyond r/WallStreetBets: special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs. A SPAC is basically big pools of money that help take companies public quickly. They attracted big names in 2020, and now individual investors want in. Here to make us smart on the promise and peril of SPACs is Wall Street Journal markets reporter Amrith Ramkumar.

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    We can’t lie y’all, we’re fighting off The Dark Place today. On the docket: extremism in Facebook groups, how quickly we’re aging and all the poor folks losing money in “stonks.” Maybe you can listen while you watch these pandas in the snow?

    Here are links for everything we talked about:

    Facebook Knew Calls for Violence Plagued ‘Groups,’ Now Plans Overhaul” from The Wall Street Journal

    How Facebook Groups Are Being Exploited T...

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    We just can’t look away from these stonks! The whole affair around GameStop, r/WallStreetBets, Robinhood and the rest is like a car crash — a 20-car pileup of money, power, technology, regulation and more. It’ll be with us for a bit longer here. Today we start assessing the fallout. Plus: We play “Half Full/Half Empty” with outdoor dining, buying American and more.

    Here’s everything we talked about today:

    After GameStop Backl...

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    Two things you need to know about the situation with GameStop, WallStreetBets and that whole mess today: First, retail traders aren’t actually the customers at Robinhood, the stock-trading app that many of those retail traders are mad at. Second, while the potential losses of retail stock buyers max out at 100%, if a hedge fund is selling short, as they often do, the losses can be infinite. We’ll fill you in on what you need to kn...

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