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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly
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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

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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.

253 Episodes
Molly just found herself telling her son about Gamergate — the 2014 explosion in targeted online harassment that showed how online speech can turn into offline harm. It influenced political discourse in ways that politicos, platforms and daily podcast hosts are still reckoning with. Why are we talking about this today? Well, Facebook is rethinking its moderation policies … again. We’ll talk about it, plus vaccines, the future of movie theaters and #SpotifyWrapped. Here’s everything we talked about today: “Facebook is stepping up moderation against anti-Black hate speech” from the Verge “Facebook to remove misinformation about Covid vaccines” from CNBC “Everything is Gamergate: How an Online Mob Created a Playbook for a Culture War” from The New York Times “Warner Bros. will release all of its new 2021 movies simultaneously on HBO Max” from the Verge “Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line” from The New York Times This cat and physics joke And Kai’s Spotify Wrapped, which is heavy on show tunes and sad indie rock. You can find screenshots on our episode page at Make Me Smart is powered by listeners like you — become a Marketplace Investor today!
The leftovers are almost gone, your inbox is full of tracking numbers and your credit card balance might be a little higher. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us. Or are they? One of our listeners has observed some new temporal flexibility around holiday sales, and she wants to know: Are “Cyber Week” and “Black Friday Month” here to stay? We’ll talk about it, along with Afterpay and the continued ascendance of dollar stores. Plus we look ahead to climate policy from the Biden administration. Here’s everything we talked about today: “Biden Outlines $2 Trillion Climate Plan” from NPR “How Joe Biden plans to use executive powers to fight climate change” from Vox “How Biden aims to amp up the government’s fight against climate change” from the Washington Post “Biden calls for major investments into carbon removal tech” from Technology Review “Covid Unknowns Leave Survivors Fearing Life Insurance Rejection” from Bloomberg “Black Friday weekend shopping and spending drop as season starts early, trade group says” from CNBC “What will Black Friday be like this year?” from Marketplace “More Americans are opting for ‘buy-now-pay-later’ this holiday shopping season — here are the pitfalls to watch out for” from Marketwatch Make Me Smart is powered by listeners like you — become a Marketplace Investor today!
The vast majority of Americans lacked enough retirement savings even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, some older Americans are leaving the workforce and others have stopped contributing to retirement accounts because they can’t afford to. Just half of workers participated in a retirement plan at work in the first place, partly because employers are not required to offer 401(k)s or other retirement plans. So, where did these plans come from? And, are they actually helping people save? On today’s show, New School labor economist Teresa Ghilarducci walks us through the 40-year decline of retirement in this country, the incentive structures setting up Americans for failure and why there’s some reason for hope in the new presidential administration. Here’s everything we talked about today: Ghilarducci’s first appearance on Marketplace in 2012 “A brief history of the 401(k), which changed how Americans retire” from CNBC “The 401(k) is forty and fabulous” from Quartz BLS data showing just half of private sector workers participate in a retirement plan at work “Few people are tapping 401(k)s, even without withdrawal penalties” from Marketplace “Nasdaq pushes diversity requirements for company boards” from the Washington Post “Don’t forget the other virus: How to keep COVID from reversing progress on AIDS” from Fortune Make Me Smart is powered by listeners like you — become a Marketplace Investor today!
It’s still too early to know how the Thanksgiving holiday — and some Americans’ refusal to follow the advice of experts and stay home for it — will impact the number of coronavirus cases, but we’re headed for a dark winter indeed. What are teachers to do? We’ll talk about it. Plus, Molly’s sad bitcoin story and the changing GOP line on “mean tweets.” Here’s a list of everything we talked about today: “Teaching in the Pandemic: ‘This Is Not Sustainable’” from The New York Times “Exxon Slashes Spending, Writes Down Assets” from The Wall Street Journal “Bitcoin Climbs to Record High” from The New York Times “With Bank of America Announcement, Every Major US Bank Has Ruled out Funding for Arctic Drilling” from the Sierra Club And finally, this bit Kai caught on CNN this afternoon



We say it again and again: The stock market is not the economy. Well right now, the economy is trying to limp out of a coronavirus recession, and the Dow just hit 30,000. Our listener wants to know: What does that even mean? For this Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday, we’ll give you a quick refresher. Plus, we’ll answer your questions about tax season and the difference between Janet Yellen’s old job and her (potential) new job. We gotta make it quick, because guest host Marielle Segarra hasn’t done her Thanksgiving grocery shopping yet. Here’s a list of everything we talked about today: “The pandemic-resistant Dow Jones Industrial Average” from Marketplace Morning Report “Here’s what you need to know about paying taxes on unemployment benefits” from CNBC “The K-shaped recovery is getting worse” from the Washington Post “Mnuchin Plans to Put $455 Billion Beyond Yellen’s Easy Reach” from Bloomberg Revisit Kai’s interview with Janet Yellen from last year. >We’re off tomorrow and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. See you next week! Stay safe out there.
Sixteen trillion dollars is a lot of money. It’s hard to even conceive of a number so big in real economic terms — it’s bigger than China’s GDP, for one thing. It’s also the economic cost of racism in this country in just the past 20 years. And it’s a conservative estimate. Today we’ll do the numbers with economist Dana Peterson, who did the numbers for Citi. Peterson helps us dig into that $16 trillion number, how the study came together, what surprised her about it and how her findings could play into the ongoing conversation around reparations.
AstraZeneca is the third pharmaceutical company in recent weeks to say it has a potentially viable coronavirus vaccine, and a cheaper one at that. With Marketplace’s Marielle Segarra, we’ll talk about how businesses can influence public health once we have a vaccine, and even dare to imagine a day when kids can permanently go back to school. Plus: The people President-elect Joe Biden has tapped to run the Treasury and State departments. Did you know Antony Blinken has a singing career? Here’s everything we talked about today (if these links don’t work on your device, check out the episode page on “3rd major COVID-19 vaccine shown to be effective and cheaper” from the Associated Press “Vaccination will be required to fly, says Qantas chief” from the BBC “Biden Picks Janet Yellen for Treasury Secretary” from The Wall Street Journal “The end is in sight’: Experts express optimism about COVID-19 pandemic coming to a close” from the Boston Globe “Key government agency acknowledges Biden’s win and begins formal transition” from CNN Antony Blinken’s Spotify page And this Janet Yellen meme
No matter who you are — even, say, a New York Times columnist — it’s so important that you stay safe at home this Thanksgiving, because your bubble is likely bigger than you think. Also, the hospitals are already straining ahead of a long winter. We’ll talk about it, plus our favorite Thanksgiving sides in another round of “Half-Full or Half-Empty.” Here’s a list of everything we talked about today: Some background info on Kimberly’s cocktail today “I Traced My Covid-19 Bubble and It’s Enormous” from The New York Times Opinion “One in Five U.S. Hospitals Face Staffing Crises Within a Week” from Bloomberg “Dolly Parton & Friends Set for Live Holiday Special With Pandora” from Billboard Thanks to everyone who joined us live on YouTube today! We’re off next Friday, and planning to be back in December. Subscribe so you don’t miss it!
It’s almost hack to say at this point, but it’s worth remembering: If what President Donald Trump and his campaign are doing right now — refusing to concede a called election, eroding trust in the democratic process, asking for ballots to be tossed — if all that was happening in another country, we’d be talking about it very differently. It’s worth unpacking why that is, which we’ll do today. But first: We’ll explain the feud between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Fed Chair Jerome Powell and present yet more evidence that you should stay home for Thanksgiving. Seriously. Join us tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time/6:30 p.m. Eastern for our live happy hour episode on YouTube! Subscribe so you don’t miss out. Here’s a list of everything we talked about today (if these links don’t work on your device, try our episode page at “The coronavirus risk for a big Thanksgiving dinner in your community” from The Washington Post “Don’t rely on a negative test result to see your family for Thanksgiving” from CNN “Treasury moves to end several crisis-era programs, drawing pushback from the Fed” from CNBC “Federal Reserve’s Emergency Loan Programs at Center of Political Fight” from The New York Times “Dog at Delaware SPCA for 866 days finds forever home” from Fox 29 Philadelphia This Twitter exchange between Chef José Andrés and Chris Krebs, the recently fired director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Kai’s interview with Andrés from 2018
The bills are piling up for the Trump campaign. Even though its legal challenges to the election don’t seem to be going anywhere, someone’s got to pay the lawyers. We discuss who is on the hook. Plus: We answer your questions about what a Biden administration may mean for businesses struggling during the pandemic, why the Fed’s Main Street Lending Program flopped, and Kai and Molly reminisce about the last time they were in the same place together, pre-COVID-19 (sigh). Here’s a list of everything we talked about today (if these links don’t work on your device, check out the episode page on “Who Is Paying for Trump’s Lawsuits and Recounts?” from Campaign Legal Center “Justice Dept. Intervenes to Help Trump in E. Jean Carroll Defamation Lawsuit” from The New York Times “Wisconsin recount would cost Trump campaign $7.9 million” from CNN “Dr. Céline Gounder, Adviser to Biden, on the Next Covid Attack Plan” from The New York Times “Fed Again Eases Terms for Main Street Lending Program” from The Wall Street Journal
One in three Americans now live in a state with legal recreational marijuana, and that wasn’t the only big drug story on Election Day. Oregon voted to decriminalize possession of hard drugs and legalized medical use of magic mushrooms. On today’s show, Beau Kilmer, director of Rand Corp.’s Drug Policy Research Center, will make us smart about the country’s growing patchwork of legalization and how it could reshape the drug economy. Here’s everything we talked about today (if these links don’t work, check out the episode page on “This Election, a Divided America Stands United on One Topic” from The New York Times “1 in 3 Americans now lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legal” from Politico “Zuckerberg, Dorsey Tout Progress in Combating Political Misinformation” from the Wall Street Journal This Twitter account that shows the top-ten best-performing Facebook posts of the day “No, This Election Did Not Go ‘Smoothly‘” from Slate
With the promise of another coronavirus vaccine from Moderna, in addition to last week’s blockbuster news from Pfizer, we were inspired to go back and do the numbers: Once there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, who’s actually going to take it? The answer is … not ideal. Also on the docket for today: high-stakes content moderation, low-stakes voter fraud and, yes, Dolly Parton’s own efforts to fund a coronavirus vaccine. Here’s a list of everything we talked about today (if these links don’t work for you, check out our episode page at “Facebook Has A Rule To Stop Calls To Arms. Moderators Didn’t Enforce It Ahead Of The Kenosha Shootings.” from BuzzFeed News “Why Obama fears for our democracy” from The Atlantic “Second coronavirus vaccine, from Moderna, shows promise” from Marketplace “U.S. Public Now Divided Over Whether To Get COVID-19 Vaccine” from Pew Research Center “Voter fraud alleged in New Zealand bird of the year contest” from The Washington Post “Renowned philanthropist Dolly Parton donates a million to COVID-19 vaccine effort” from PinkNews
We’re trying out a new game on the show today, where Kai Ryssdal and Molly Wood say whether they’re “half full” or “half empty” on a bunch of stuff in the news. It’s our first try at this, so let us know what you think! Before that, we’ll talk about Nancy Pelosi’s leadership, Charles Koch’s new self-reflection and why Elon Musk is “a boob.” TGIF! Here’s a list of everything we talked about today (if these links don’t work, check out our episode page at “Pelosi & House Dems, GOP Slammed for Indoor Freshmen Dinner” from Mediaite “Charles Koch Says His Partisanship Was a Mistake” from The Wall Street Journal Kai’s full interview with Koch from 2015 “Mr. McNamara’s War” from The New York Times “Elon Musk says he’s tested positive and negative for COVID-19” from The Verge And the topics we talked about in our new game, “half full or half empty”: “Will a ‘skinny’ coronavirus relief package help those who need it most?” from Marketplace “How the election certification process works, and why it matters” from Marketplace “Flying soon? That middle seat might be occupied” from Marketplace “In this time of comfort-at-home fashion, Crocs are having a moment” from Marketplace Thanks to everyone to tuned into our livestream this evening! Subscribe here so you don’t miss the next one.
It’s hard to fit a mask over that big beard, but never fear. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and, by extension, our show would like to reassure children that they shouldn’t worry about Santa Claus breaking the COVID-bubble for this socially distant holiday season — he’s got a special dispensation for international travel, one night only. We have Kimberly Adams back on the show today to talk about that and some more depressing coronavirus news, like case counts and potential new lockdowns. Maybe your kids can just listen to the last few minutes? Here’s everything we talked about today: “Zuckerberg says Bannon has not violated enough policies for suspension” from Reuters “Biden Covid advisor says U.S. lockdown of 4 to 6 weeks could control pandemic and revive economy” from CNBC APM Research Lab’s “The Color of Coronavirus” project “Trump is now sabotaging the transition. Democrats have a way to fight back.” from The Washington Post “Cybersecurity officials say the election was ‘the most secure in American history.’” from The New York Times “Italy’s PM reassures kids that Santa won’t be locked down” from Agence France-Presse
The 2000 election isn’t a particularly great analogue to the Trump campaign’s legal challenges here in 2020, but it can help us better understand presidential transitions — because George W. Bush had the shortest one ever. We discussed the transfer of power on yesterday’s show, and a listener asked about it, so today we’re going to get into some presidential history. Plus: your questions about campaign finance, conservative social media and California’s new rules for gig workers, all on this super-sized Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday. Here’s a list of everything we talked about today (if these links don’t work, try our episode page at “Campaign spending could continue long after Election Day” from “Marketplace Morning Report” “2020 election to cost $14 billion, blowing away spending records” from Open Secrets, the Center for Responsive Politics website “A Twitter for conservatives? Parler surges amid election misinformation crackdown” from NBC News “Foreign election interference is finding plenty of places online to spread” from “Marketplace Tech” “Fact-Checked on Facebook and Twitter, Conservatives Switch Their Apps” from The New York Times “Why it’s ‘critical’ for presidential transition to move forward” from PBS NewsHour “What’s ascertainment? The green light to launch transition” from the Associated Press “What Uber, Lyft Prop 22 win could mean for the future of all freelance work” from NBC News
You’d be forgiven for feeling like this election has been going on forever. Early voting started over a month ago in some states. The media couldn’t project a winner until three days ago, and it’s not over yet. There’s the Georgia runoffs, the Trump campaign’s lawsuits and basless allegations of voter fraud, plus the searching about what the polls got wrong. Today Kimberly Adams joins us to sort through all this. We’ll discuss her key takeaways from the election, what it means for the economy, which storylines need a little more nuance and who’s making money off it all. Here’s a list of everything we talked about today (if these links don’t work, try our episode page on Adams’ latest for us: “Change in the White House means changing plans for some businesses” “No, This Election Did Not Go ‘Smoothly‘” from Slate “False claims that Biden ‘lost’ Pennsylvania surge, and tech companies struggle to keep up.” from The New York Times “A little-known Trump appointee is in charge of handing transition resources to Biden — and she isn’t budging” from The Washington Post This campaign spending dashboard “A Peculiar Way to Pick a President” from The New York Times’ podcast “The Daily”
A lot of people are talking about President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud today, and for good reason, but he made another move that’s worth your attention. The president fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper via tweet, and there could be more personnel changes on the way at the FBI and CIA. Today, we’ll talk about these moves and what they mean for national security at the end of the Trump administration. Plus: new mask mandates, new revelations about Alexander Hamilton and a video that made us all cry. Here’s a list of everything we talked about today. If these links don’t work for you, you can also find them on our episode page at “Trump Fires Mark Esper, Defense Secretary Who Opposed Use of Troops on U.S. Streets” from The New York Times “Pritzker Again Hints at Possibility of Another Stay-at-Home Order” from NBC5 Chicago “Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declares state of emergency, mandates masks to fight COVID” from ABC News “Here’s who’s on President-elect Biden’s newly formed Transition Covid-19 Advisory Board” from CNN “Alexander Hamilton, Enslaver? New Research Says Yes” from The New York Times “Former Ballerina with Alzheimer’s Recreates Her Swan Lake Choreography” from Kottke “TD Bank says it will not finance oil and gas activities in the Arctic” from Reuters
Trumpism is here to stay

Trumpism is here to stay


Look, we’re gonna have some fun today. We’re gonna have happy hour and talk about Philadelphia and Stephen Colbert. But we have to do some soul-searching first. Because no matter what results come in tonight, the policies of the Trump administration, and the chaos and uncertainty it sowed, are not an aberration. Happy Friday? Here’s a list of everything we talked about today (if these links don’t work for you, you can find them all on our episode page at -“Trump Proved That Authoritarians Can Get Elected in America” from The Atlantic –This thread from NBC News’ Ben Collins -“Stephen Colbert briefly breaks down, says Trump’s baseless claims of fraud ‘cast a dark shadow on our most sacred right’” from the Washington Post -“Commentators call on Republicans to surround Philly. Philly social media responds: You’ve obviously never met us” from the Philadelphia Inquirer –And this video. Thanks to everyone who joined us live on YouTube for happy hour today! Subscribe so you don’t miss the next one.
We taped today’s show while waiting for President Donald Trump’s first non-tweet remarks since election night, not to mention results from key states. To fill the time, let’s talk a bit about voter turnout, both in this election and across history. Plus, a bit about misinformation and why that dubious Hunter Biden story wasn’t the “October surprise” that Hillary Clinton’s emails were back in 2016. Here’s a list of everything we talked about today. If you can’t open these links, check out the episode page on “The 2020 Election Set a Record for Voter Turnout. But Why Is It Normal for So Many Americans to Sit Out Elections?” from Time “Who can afford to vote?” from our podcast “This Is Uncomfortable” “Misinformation 2020: What the Data Tells Us About Election-Related Falsehoods” from Defense One “On Election Day, Facebook and Twitter Did Better by Making Their Products Worse” from The New York Times This performance of Beyoncé’s “Freedom”
Making Election Day a holiday would surely benefit democracy, but what about the economy? A listener wants to know, so for this Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday, we’re looking at the cost to businesses when Election Day stretches to Election Week and beyond. Plus: questions about jobs data, tax filing in the pandemic and all the money thrown away on Senate races this year. Here’s a list of everything we talked about today (if you can’t click the links, check out our episode page at “The case for making Election Day an official holiday” from the Marketplace Morning Report Pew data on Election Day as a holiday “Election Day likely cost billions in lost productivity” from Marketplace “GOP retains Senate seats despite record-breaking Democratic fundraising” from Axios “GOP House candidates overcome fundraising deficits in toss-up races” from Open Secrets “Working from home? You might owe income tax to two states” from CNN
Comments (25)

Solomon Mars

oh my gosh Vampires vs. the Bronx has the same plot idea as a comic that was proposed by artist Ronald Wimberly a back in 2017! aww maaan

Oct 13th

Eric Everitt

wow Kai.. way to stick up for the milllions of men that single handly raise their kids, without mother's involved. Sexism to the max.

Sep 16th

Victor Lopez

I used to drink in a bar where the frosted mugs were so cold it would turn your beer to ice. Not the whole thing, but enough to ruin it. No cold glass!

Jul 11th
Reply (1)

Chris Horton

Wow!! This episode was mind blowing! Really made me think. The guest has a narrative that a lot of people should listen to.

Jul 1st

No Face

Will this show ever be about tech & the economy again? I'll unsub and check back after Christmas.

Jun 17th

Solomon Mars

episode error. it won't download.

May 27th

Megan Taylor

The source is bad

May 27th

Nellie Fly

He makes it so hard for me to keep being a fan.

May 12th

Nellie Fly

Aliens more believable then the Donald

Apr 29th

Phil Ouellette

OMG! Cruise bookings are up? Cannot believe it. So love the topics you explore

Apr 3rd

Amy Nelson

Kai and Molly, you smile!

Mar 21st

Vernon Shoemaker

The glib "capitalism" impresses ideologically but the principle that seems to come through is "self-interest.". Nothing wrong with that if you recognize your self-interest. Is it short term personal gain through manipulation and exploitation of the system or is it commitment in consideration that all our attachments are existentially temporary (We can define our insecurity by our attachments.)? The current form goes like this:. When innovation and growth are desired, there is a competitive market created which exhausts itself in a bubble and the conservative hangover results in a stable cooperative form, monopolistic capitalism (The bubble is the divergence of systematic value and what it's supposed to represent.). Capitalistic principles are consistent but apply differently.

Feb 16th

Vernon Shoemaker

I listened to the interview twice dissatisfied. Is it possible to be subject to disinformation about disinformation? Am I wrong or "neurotic" to be suspicious of people who complicate beyond recognition until I acquiesce in the hope of deferred clarity? Is that what "agreeable" people do? "The Wisdom of Crowds" implies a faith that guides both democracy and markets. It's not absolute but it's regulation is for the purpose of setting ground rules and correcting clear abuses. Disinformation is signified by a Russian ad but this remains vague. Is this really the bellwether it's made out to be?

Jan 17th

Mark Matthieu

it's 2019 and they've never made a profit and lost $1.2 billion in the first quarter alone this year.

May 25th

Roger Fredrickson

Ah what a stupid idea.

Feb 23rd

Cat Blossom

😂 Oh my gosh...Africa! Was wrong about the same thing!

Feb 23rd

Shanaya Painter

Awesome! Gene editing has the potential to really make leaps and bounds in lethal and chronic illnesses. I don't know why we fear it so much. Things in moderation <3. We were terrified of phones, internet, etc, its time to stop fearing science out right and proceed with optimistic caution.

Jan 10th

Bridget Collins

The show is cutting off at 35:48 - without credits, almost in mid word- which seems weird to me.

Oct 25th

Daryl Sande

Re:. Episode 78. Kai, listen to the tape of Lillian's discussion on this episode and see if you can count the number of times she started a sentence with SO. Really annoying, huh? She even managed to sneak in a SO or two in the middle and near the end of a sentence. God, I hope she doesn't write as she speaks. She even got you caught up using "so" near the end of the interview. My condolences.

Aug 22nd

Dan Mastel

Great job you two! I get a little smarter every week

Apr 24th
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