KRWG

Greg Rosalsky

Up until recently, the idea of sucking gigatons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to reverse climate change was solidly in the realm of science fiction. For believers, it's been an exciting fantasy in which human ingenuity and technology triumph in saving the planet. For naysayers, it's been a fantastical distraction from the urgent work of cutting emissions. Climate activists fear that focusing on carbon removal might lull us into a false sense of complacency as humanity careens a fossil-fuel-powered locomotive off a cliff.

Natchez, Miss., is a town of about 15,000 people nestled on the Mississippi River. It's pretty enough to be a popular wedding destination. It's racially diverse. It's got a college campus, multiple art galleries, good steakhouses and Southern eateries, a brewery and a decent nightlife. Natchez's tourism agency says the town offers "a taste of true southern hospitality" and "a visit to Natchez feels like coming home."

The average American home is now more expensive than it's ever been. For homeowners, that's probably great news. For renters and would-be homebuyers, it's a calamity. A big part of the reason for surging prices is a lack of new housing supply. And to build new houses, you need lumber.

In the first scene of the first episode of the classic sitcom 30 Rock, television showrunners Liz Lemon and Pete Hornberger nervously walk into an office under renovation to meet their boss, Gary. They can't see him anywhere. "Where is Gary?" asks Lemon. Just then a man in a suit kicks down a wall and barges into the room. "Gary's dead," the man says. "I'm Jack Donaghy, new VP of development for NBC-GE-Universal-Kmart."

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Inflation is the highest it's been in 30 years in this country. You've noticed it, no doubt, at the gas station, in the supermarket.

Most blockbusters have sequels. Apparently, that's also true in economics. A new study by David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson offers another installment in their epic China Shock saga. You might call it China Shock: The Final Chapter. It may be the best one yet, with solid exposition and cutting-edge statistical effects.

All is not so happy at the happiest place on Earth. The guests of the Magic Kingdom are restless. Despite reopening more than six months ago, Disney World and Disneyland have yet to restart their tram services to and from parking lots, forcing visitors to walk nearly a mile to enter and exit the parks.

Goodbye. Farewell. Adios. Sayonara. Workers have been giving their bosses an earful of such words as of late. Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 4.3 million Americans, or 2.9% of the entire workforce, quit their jobs in August. That was a record-breaking month, piggybacking on previous record months. "The Great Resignation" is real, and it can be seen across virtually all industries.

Sure, winning the Nobel Prize in economics may be one of the crowning achievements of David Card's storied career. And, yeah, he gets to split more than a million dollars with the two other winners of the 2021 prize, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens. But that's just the cake. There's also the icing. David Card teaches at UC Berkeley, so for him becoming a Nobel laureate comes with an extra perk: free parking for life. Seriously.

In recent weeks, thousands of refugees from Haiti have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, desperate for a better life. Most left Haiti years ago, after a 2010 earthquake ravaged what was already one of the most dismal economies in the world.

Last week, global markets shook after a Chinese company named Evergrande fell into what looks like a downward spiral into oblivion. Evergrande is — or was — the second-largest real estate company in China. A couple years ago, it was the world's most valuable real estate stock. It's also been involved in an eclectic mix of other businesses, from mineral water to electric cars to pig farming. It even owns a professional soccer team.

Bad predictions are an occupational hazard for forecasters. And, on this front, the late futurist Alvin Toffler was not immune. Human cloning by the 1980s? Nope. Toffler was a renowned writer who accurately described many forces that would reshape the world. But along with his many good predictions, there were many bad ones. And what only a few years ago looked like another one of his duds — that remote work would kill the office and lead to urban decline — may now seem prophetic.

Plumes of smoke waft through California. Popular vacation spots have become evacuation zones. Neighborhoods are burning to the ground. As the climate changes and rainy days become even fewer and further between, the state is being forced to reckon with a demonic new season sandwiched between summer and fall: fire season, the time of year you wear an N95 mask for reasons other than just a pandemic, and the smoky skies can make it feel like Armageddon.

On a sleepy cul-de-sac amid the bucolic vineyards and grassy hills of California's Sonoma Valley, a $4 million house has become the epicenter of a summer-long spat between angry neighbors and a new venture capital-backed startup buying up homes around the nation. The company is called Pacaso. It says it's the fastest company in American history to achieve the "unicorn" status of a billion-dollar valuation — but its quarrels in wine country, one of the first regions where it's begun operations, foreshadow business troubles ahead.

Even before the pandemic pushed the U.S. housing market into overdrive, the price of the average American home was on a rocket ride, climbing more than 50 percent between 2012 and 2019. It was the third biggest housing boom in American history. Then came the pandemic, marked by a buying frenzy and a selling freeze, which created a supply-demand mismatch that made the price boom go into warp speed.

If you're in the market for gourmet dog food these days, there are a lot of options for your pooch. I mean, if you've got bills to pay, you could buy a 20-pound bag of chicken flavor Pedigree kibble for $12. But Open Farm Pet offers a similar size bag of "Wild-Caught Salmon & Ancient Grains Dry Dog Food" for $72. Not only does it have wild salmon, it's got steel-cut oats, quinoa, chia seeds and "superfoods like coconut oil, pumpkin and turmeric."

If you're Jeff Bezos, you're not going to have some random dude manage your money and hope for the best. You're not gonna open up a Robinhood account and risk it all on meme stocks like GameStop. You're going to hire the type of investor who has a Ph.D. in mathematics and drives a Bugatti, a go-getter who wakes up with a turmeric latte and pores over satellite images of factories in Asia to predict the earnings of some 3D-printing company most of us have never heard of. We're talking about the best of the best in finance.

Sure, the book Nudge may have become a cultural phenomenon that ended up selling millions of copies. And, OK, it resulted in hundreds of governments and countless companies around the world adopting its concepts and methods. And, yeah, its co-author Richard Thaler went on to win the Nobel Prize and appear in an Oscar-winning movie starring Brad Pitt, Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling. But, Thaler says, when he and co-author Cass Sunstein were trying to sell the book back in the mid-2000s, they had a hard time finding someone to publish it.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Last month, Michigan's two largest hospital systems, Spectrum Health and Beaumont Health, announced they wanted to become one. The $12.9 billion "megamerger" would create a health industrial complex spanning 22 hospitals, 305 outpatient facilities, and an insurance company. It would employ 64,000 people, making it the largest employer in Michigan. Local newspapers had expected the merger to "sail through" government approval.

It was only a few years ago that Apple finished construction of its 2.8 million-square-foot "spaceship" headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area. The glittering, doughnut-shaped building cost the company about $5 billion to construct, making it one the most expensive buildings in the world.

A couple of weeks ago, Edgar Dworsky walked into a Stop & Shop grocery store in Somerville, Mass., like a detective entering a murder scene.

He stepped into the cereal aisle, where he hoped to find the smoking gun. He scanned the shelves. Oh no, he thought. He was too late. The store had already replaced old General Mills cereal boxes — such as Cheerios and Cocoa Puffs — with newer ones. It was as though the suspect's fingerprints had been wiped clean.

Back in November, the Planet Money newsletter reported that — despite a deadly pandemic and an ugly recession — America was seeing a boom in the creation of new startups. We spoke with University of Maryland economist John Haltiwanger, one of the leading scholars of business formation.

For one of the most distinguished critics of automation, MIT economist Daron Acemoglu has been, ironically, cranking out research on the subject lately like he's a machine. He and his co-author Pascual Restrepo have produced so many studies on the subject that he couldn't tell us how many they've done. "I've lost count," he says.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Whidbey Island is a lovely place about 30 miles north of Seattle on the Puget Sound. Most days the tranquil sounds of rolling waves and chirping birds provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. But these days, all is not so serene. Residents are complaining about the ruckus created by humongous container ships anchored off their shore.

For a city as opulent as San Francisco, it's long been jarring to see the extreme poverty of those experiencing homelessness on its streets. If you walk around downtown, tents, makeshift cardboard beds and human excrement can be seen littering the sidewalks. Impoverished people lie on the ground as a blur of highly paid professionals whiz by.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

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