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.

The U.S. economy is doing great — unemployment is low, businesses are investing more. What could possibly go wrong?

It's like watching the first 20 minutes of a horror movie. Everything seems great. The kids are out swimming in the lake. It's a beautiful summer. But you know something bad is going to happen sooner or later. It always does.

On today's show, we talk about one way things might go wrong: We look at parts of the economy where borrowing is getting frighteningly easy — and where more and more people are struggling to repay their debts.

Happy New Year.

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.

At The Indicator, we've been covering numbers in the news for literally weeks now. And we've hit some of the big stories — sexual harassment, jobs, taxes.

For today's show, we decided to do something a little different: Stacey and Cardiff looked back over 2017 and picked one indicator each — not necessarily the biggest or most important indicator, but one that stood out for one reason or another. These may not be the indicators of the year. But they're our indicators of the year.

Our own Stacey Vanek Smith had to pay through the nose to fly home for Christmas. And not just because it was Christmas — her ticket was way more expensive than usual.

As we say in the news business: Stacey is not alone. Airfare dynamics have changed a ton in the past few years.

On today's show: Why it's getting cheaper to fly to some types of cities and more expensive to fly to others. Also: Why Stacey will probably get a better deal next year.

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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")

This month, The Virginia Department of Transportation added a new toll on a 10-mile stretch of highway that connects the Virginia suburbs with Washington, DC. The toll varies according to traffic — and it's been spiking much higher than many people expected. At one point last week, it spiked all the way to $44.

There is a beautiful, econ 101 logic behind a toll that spikes when demand spikes. On today's show, we talk to an economist who commutes on this road — and who thinks we need to go beyond econ 101 to really understand the toll.

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.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

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