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.

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2:53am

Fri October 19, 2012
Planet Money

The Candidate Is Fake; The Consultants Are Real

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 12:31 pm

One consultant's vision for our political ad: "I see a horse."
iStockphoto.com

When our series began yesterday, we brought together five economists from across the political spectrum and had them create a platform for their dream presidential candidate. It's a platform — Get rid of a tax deduction for homeowners!

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3:32am

Thu October 18, 2012
Planet Money

A Tax Plan That Economists Love (And Politicians Hate)

Originally published on Fri October 19, 2012 12:51 pm

The mortgage is going to cost more than you thought.
Paul Sakuma AP

Watching a presidential campaign, it's easy to think that the nation is deeply divided over how to fix the economy. But when you talk to economists, it turns out they agree on an enormous number of issues.

So we brought together five economists from across the political spectrum and had them create their dream presidential candidate. Over the next few days, we'll have a series of stories on our economists' dream candidate. We start this morning with some changes to the tax code.

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5:42am

Wed October 3, 2012
Planet Money

Why New York Is A Hub In The Global Trinket Trade

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 11:07 am

Lam Thuy Vo NPR

For more on the junk economy, see this slideshow.

There's a neighborhood in New York City that has always been a mystery to us. Smack dab in the middle of Manhattan, around 29th street, is the wholesale district. There you can find rows of narrow storefronts packed to the ceiling with trinkets. Racks and racks of fake gold chains. Acres of souvenir lighters and walls of belt buckles. Plastic, plastic, plastic toys.

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7:31am

Thu September 13, 2012
Planet Money

The Fed's Other Big Power

Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 2:06 pm

Give us a sign.
Alex Brandon AP

We think of the power of the Federal Reserve as the power of money. After all, the Fed is the one institution that can create U.S. dollars out of thin air.

But recently, Ben Bernanke has argued that the Fed has another, critical power: the power of words. And when you're the chairman of the Fed, a few words can go a long way.

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2:40pm

Fri August 10, 2012
Planet Money

How A Pasta Factory Got People To Show Up For Work

Originally published on Mon August 13, 2012 10:06 am

Robert Smith NPR

Zoe Chace and Robert Smith are reporting from European borders this week. This story is about the unofficial border within one country — the border that divides northern and southern Italy. This is the fourth story in a four-part series.

A decade ago, the Barilla pasta factory in Foggia, Italy, had a big problem with people skipping work. The absentee rate was around 10 percent.

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2:59am

Fri August 10, 2012
Planet Money

Why Don't More Unemployed Spaniards Get Jobs In Germany?

Originally published on Mon August 13, 2012 11:22 am

Jobs ahead.
iStockphoto.com

Zoe Chace and Robert Smith are reporting from European borders this week. This is the third story in a four-part series.

The eurozone was supposed to create one big labor market by making it easy to cross borders for work.

But Gerhard Wiegelmann, a CEO in Stuttgart, Germany, can't find enough workers to staff his company — even with unemployment in Spain over 20 percent. He's had to turn down projects because he can't hire enough people.

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3:22am

Thu August 9, 2012
Planet Money

The Building That's In Two Countries At Once

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 2:43 pm

Hans Hover has one foot in Germany, and one in the Netherlands.
Robert Smith NPR

Zoe Chace and Robert Smith are reporting from European borders this week. This is the first story in a four-part series.

A metal strip on the floor of Eurode Business Center marks the border between Germany and the Netherlands.

On one side of the building, there's a German mailbox and a German policeman. On the other side, a Dutch mailbox and a Dutch policeman.

The building was supposed to make it easy to work in both countries. But it's also a reminder of how the European dream isn't yet a reality.

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4:11pm

Fri July 20, 2012
Planet Money

Just How Blind Are Blind Trusts, Anyway?

Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 10:32 am

J.D. Pooley Getty Images

As Mitt Romney has faced questions about his investments and tax returns, the likely Republican presidential nominee has responded with two words of explanation: blind trust.

Romney keeps most of his wealth in a blind trust designed to prevent him from knowing exactly where his money is and what it's doing. It's a long tradition for presidents and candidates, though anyone can set one up if he wants to.

But it turns out that not all blind trusts are equally blind. Some are cast into complete and utter darkness. Others are more nearsighted.

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11:08am

Mon July 9, 2012
Planet Money

Identifying The Real Victims In The LIBOR Scandal

Originally published on Wed July 11, 2012 5:16 pm

LIBOR affects many consumer credit rates, from mortgages to credit cards.
Theo Francis NPR

A lot of the coverage of the LIBOR scandal has focused on the ways that Barclays tried to manipulate LIBOR lower during the financial crisis, to make the bank look more secure. This has led some listeners to ask a good question: if rates were being shoved down, doesn't that help consumers? LIBOR, after all, is a financial benchmark that shows up in adjustable rate mortgages and other loans.

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8:13am

Mon July 9, 2012
Planet Money

Did The Bank of England Urge Barclays to Lie?

Morning light on the houses of Parliament in London, where Bank of England Deputy Governor Paul Tucker faces questions over his role in a banking scandal.
Christopher Furlong Getty Images

The scandal over LIBOR, a key global interest rate, has already hit banks around the world. Today, it moves to the very heart of the British government.

A deputy governor of the Bank of England will be quizzed by parliament on whether he told banks to lie to about the crucial interest rate.

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