Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly artwork

Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

101 episodes - English - Latest episode: about 11 hours ago - ★★★★★ - 2.5K ratings

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. In a time when the world is moving faster than ever, this podcast is where we unpack complex topics, together. Because none of us is as smart as all of us.

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These are broken times

May 30, 2020 00:41 - 16 minutes - 11.8 MB

It’s been a long week, so we went live on YouTube Friday to talk about what’s happening in Minneapolis, our hobbled economy, and President Trump’s leadership over a drink. In lighter news, we’ll also discuss how to leave your dog at home after the pandemic and “Haircut Night in America.” For a full list of the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at

What does Hong Kong bring to China’s economy?

May 29, 2020 00:11 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

As China cracks down on Hong Kong’s autonomy, we take a minute to examine the territory’s place in the world’s second-largest economy. Plus: the Boston Marathon, the Wall Street Journal and a couple of Uncles David. For a full list of the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at

What’s HBO Max?

May 28, 2020 00:22 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday isn’t just about answering your questions.  Sometimes our hosts have questions too. Today, Kai is trying to figure out the latest entrant in the streaming wars. Plus: how oil prices bounced back and the future of higher ed. For a full list of the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at

Back to the mall … but is anyone buying?

May 27, 2020 00:42 - 31 minutes - 11.8 MB

After years of sagging sales and changing customer habits, the coronavirus pandemic has retail fighting for its life. As more states move to partially reopen nonessential businesses, it’s still not clear who’s going to make it out of this crisis. For our 200th (!) episode, Marketplace retail reporter Marielle Segarra walks us through the winners and losers, what this crisis says about the way Americans shop and what’s coming next. Get ready for a mall-walking comeback. For a full list of th...

Happy Friday: Your SAT scores really don’t matter anymore

May 23, 2020 00:06 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

Not in California, anyway. The University of California system announced this week it will phase out the use of ACT and SAT test scores in its admissions process. Will it ease stress and lower barriers for low-income families? We’ll talk about it. Plus: American oil production and coffee snobbery. For a full list of the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at And another big thanks to everyone who helped make our spring fundraiser a success. If you mis...

Hank Paulson on the strong dollar

May 22, 2020 00:14 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

On today’s show, we’ll dig into former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s column in Foreign Affairs about how to keep the dollar strong. Plus, Big Tech’s new work-from-home reality check and some useful euphemisms for “President Trump lied.” For a full list of the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at And if you can, consider supporting Marketplace with a donation at

Can you deduct a home office on your taxes?

May 20, 2020 23:56 - 17 minutes - 11.8 MB

Or will your employer pay for some WFH remodeling? Eh, don’t get your hopes up. We’re fielding a couple of personal finance questions on today’s Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday. We’ll also answer your mail about the confusing surge in the stock market and the future of retail (which we’ll talk about more on our Tuesday episode next week). For a full list of the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at And if you can, consider supporting Marketplace with a...

When we go back to work, tech will have a new job

May 20, 2020 01:03 - 31 minutes - 11.8 MB

Ready or not, the country is starting to reopen, and some Americans are getting back to work. There’s a lot of new tech on the table for preventing a surge in COVID-19 cases, but what’s actually effective? And what data will you have to give up to use it? Here to talk us through how the American office will change is Chris Calabrese, the vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology. For a full list of the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at ma...

This recession curve could take many shapes

May 19, 2020 00:18 - 14 minutes - 11.8 MB

Is it a “V”? A “W”? What about a Nike swoosh? What about a “K”? Stay with us. Also meeting up here today: Masayoshi Son, Chuck E. Cheese and Jesus Christ. For a full list of stories we talked about today, check out our episode page at

Will there be a baseball season?

May 16, 2020 00:26 - 20 minutes - 11.8 MB

For now, it’s millionaires versus billionaires. The MLB is exploring a way to get baseball season started during the pandemic… and Kai’s out today. So we drafted Andy Uhler to go deep on the players union, salary caps and more. Plus: a playlist for your weekend and, oh yeah, Facebook’s $400 million purchase of Giphy. For a full list of the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at And if you can, consider supporting Marketplace with a donation at marketpl...

If you could work from anywhere, where would you live?

May 14, 2020 23:47 - 16 minutes - 11.8 MB

Twitter was the first big tech company to tell workers they could work remotely indefinitely, even after the pandemic wanes. Does this portend tech workers fleeing the high price of living in Silicon Valley, or even a migration away from big cities? We’ll talk about it. Plus: spaceflight simulators, the legacy of “Demolition Man” and the grim outlook for America’s restaurants. For a full list of all the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at And if you...

Some Airbnb, more MMT and ‘keyboard money’

May 14, 2020 00:23 - 17 minutes - 11.8 MB

You guys had a lot of questions after our episode about Modern Monetary Theory, and today we’re going to answer one on Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday. We’ll also talk about the Fed, Airbnb and the history of unemployment in this country. For a full list of all the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at And if you can, consider supporting Marketplace with a donation at

Maybe Modern Monetary Theory is an answer to the COVID-19 economic crisis

May 13, 2020 00:40 - 40 minutes - 11.8 MB

Does debt matter? For an individual, a household or even a generation, sure it does. But what about a nation? Modern Monetary Theory says no. To help us understand MMT and why it matters in this crisis is Stephanie Kelton. She’s a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University, and she served as an adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Her new book, “The Deficit Myth” is out June 9. For a full list of all the stories we talked about today, check out the ...

What is Elon Musk doing now?

May 12, 2020 00:42 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

In his (sigh) tweet today, the Tesla CEO said he’s reopening a Northern California factory a couple weeks before he’s allowed, daring police to come arrest him. But given the way this pandemic works and Tesla’s safety record, Elon Musk could very well be threatening Oakland overall. Also on the docket today: hotel bonds, Guy Fieri and dog poop bags. For a full list of all the stories we talked about today, check out the episode page at And if you can, consider supporting Ma...

What a week, huh?

May 09, 2020 01:58 - 19 minutes - 11.8 MB

Some days you’re the murder hornet, some days you’re the praying mantis. It’ll make more sense when you listen. For all the links from today’s show, check out the episode page at

We know what we need to do, but we’re not doing it

May 08, 2020 00:21 - 13 minutes - 11.8 MB

The U.S. is the richest country in the world. Why can’t we get our act together around COVID-19? If it sounds like we’re oversimplifying, on the show today we’ll look to Germany and how it’s kept factories open while avoiding severe outbreaks. Plus, why so many oil tankers are slowing way down, and why men need to get over themselves. What else is new? For more links from today, check out the episode page at Finally, tomorrow’s “Economics on Tap” episode will be broadcast l...

When we look back, will this be a blur? Or a new beginning?

May 07, 2020 00:19 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

Will the memories of this COVID-19 outbreak and economy fade away for most of us, or change society forever? That’s one of the big questions for this edition of “Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday.” Plus: Is this 2008 for commercial real estate? And how is unemployment counted anyway? Send your questions for WYWKW to [email protected] Your donations make this show possible. If you can, give today at, and thanks!

The state of the states

May 06, 2020 01:17 - 35 minutes - 11.8 MB

Thirteen percent of American workers are employed by a state government, and states get about 70 percent of their income from sales and income taxes. But with businesses shuttered and unemployment claims surging, local governments are facing a huge financial crunch. Here to talk us about what states are facing and what’s ahead is Marc Nicole. He’s president of the National Association of State Budget Officers and the deputy secretary of the Department of Budget and Management in Maryland.

Is the simulation breaking? Cruises are going to set sail again?

May 04, 2020 23:45 - 16 minutes - 11.8 MB

We don’t have enough time today to ponder the nature of our existence, but we are going to talk about these fascinating coronavirus pandemic simulations. Also, yes, Carnival’s plan to start cruises again in August. Plus: Kai’s deep in this thread and Molly’s making bread pudding.

Elon Musk is tweeting through it

May 01, 2020 23:53 - 18 minutes - 11.8 MB

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Twitter this morning: “Tesla stock price is too high imo,” along with a bunch of other stuff. We need a drink before we can dive into this one. Also today on Economics on Tap: consumer spending, additional stimulus and a remote jazz festival.

How about contact tracing for COVID-19 misinformation?

April 30, 2020 23:47 - 14 minutes - 11.8 MB

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, no great fan of Facebook, has asked other tech giants to follow the company’s example by contacting users who’ve interacted with misinformation. Plus, we’ll talk about the joy of vacuuming and the wonders of nature.

Can states run out of unemployment money?

April 29, 2020 23:46 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

And can they go bankrupt? That’s just two of the questions we’re tackling in today’s “Whadda Ya Wanna Know Wednesday.” Plus: Should we be concerned Google is in so many schools? Why do big companies get small business money? And maybe the most important of all: How are we staying sane right now?

We need millions of tests to open this economy. So, where are they?

April 28, 2020 23:55 - 33 minutes - 11.8 MB

Coronavirus testing is way, way, waaaay behind here, folks. A lack of tests hobbled the government’s efforts to track the pandemic in the U.S. Now health experts say we need millions of tests every week to safely reopen the economy. Here to walk us through the problems in the testing supply chain is Loren Wold, director of biomedical research at the College of Nursing at Ohio State.

UFOs? Sure, why not.

April 28, 2020 00:11 - 12 minutes - 11.8 MB

After years of leaks and reportage, the Pentagon has finally declassified three videos of Navy pilots encountering unidentified flying objects. You know our own former Navy pilot and current sci-fi geek had to weigh in. But first, a bit about the Payroll Protection Program for small businesses, which restarted again today. After that, though: Aliens. Yes.

A very-happy happy hour

April 24, 2020 23:55 - 16 minutes - 11.8 MB

First of all, we have to kick off this episode with a big thank you. In just two days, 230 of you donated to support the show. If you wanna join that group, head to Also on tap today: the continuing scandal in the U.S. Navy, how to reopen local economies, and… New Yorker cartoons? This is public radio after all.    

That new $484 billion aid package isn’t enough

April 23, 2020 23:55 - 17 minutes - 11.8 MB

Right before we started the taping, the House of Representatives passed another big coronavirus relief bill. President Donald Trump has said he will sign it, but how long will it last? Kai’s predicting another bill in less than 12 days. Plus: The “invisible menace” in Facebook, and we hear from a priest who’s enjoying some Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (with a selfie you can find on our site). Correction (4/23/20): A previous version of this story misstated the value of the new coronavirus aid...

Where will all that extra oil go?

April 23, 2020 00:14 - 16 minutes - 11.8 MB

It’s time for another “Whaddya Wanna Know Wednesday,” where Kai and Molly take your questions about the economics of the COVID-19 crisis. On the docket today: What’s it take for contact tracing apps to work? Where will we keep all that excess oil? And the economic impact of mass casualties. You know how we like to keep it light. By the way, we love doing five episodes per week, but this doesn’t work without your help. Consider a donation at

Trump’s OSHA could mandate essential worker protections, but it hasn’t. Why not?

April 22, 2020 00:09 - 32 minutes - 11.8 MB

In the U.S., there are no specific regulations for protecting workers from a disease like COVID-19. President Donald Trump could use the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to mandate essential worker protections, but he hasn’t. Why not? To help talk us through it, we’re joined by Dr. David Michaels, who ran OSHA under President Barack Obama.

Who’s organizing those anti-quarantine protests?

April 21, 2020 00:37 - 12 minutes - 11.8 MB

Large Facebook groups appear to be amassing protests against local shelter-in-place orders, but the real organizers are apparently a trio of pro-gun activists. We’ll talk about it and the implications of taking those pages down. Plus: A new resource for tracking the virus and how Molly’s staying entertained at home.

Whatever you’re going through, it’s OK

April 18, 2020 00:06 - 21 minutes - 11.8 MB

It’s important to take care of yourself in these trying times, so we’re back with another happy hour episode, aka Economics on Tap. We’ll cover Trump’s “liberate” tweets, some new mental health data and this oral history of pandemic warnings in Wired. Then a special guest stops by and things get a little chaotic.

Where Is Congress?

April 16, 2020 23:44 - 14 minutes - 11.8 MB

Lawmakers are deadlocked over additional funding for struggling small businesses, and the already-approved loans are almost gone. So why did the Senate adjourn today? And where’s the House? We’ll talk about it. Plus: Why testing is still the biggest coronavirus story, and the 99-year-old raising money for British health services.

Why did Zoom win the teleconference race?

April 16, 2020 00:10 - 14 minutes - 11.8 MB

There’s a lot of video conferencing software out there, so why did the relatively new Zoom take over the public consciousness so quickly? That’s just one question we try to answer in this week’s Waddaya Want to Know Wednesday episode. Also discussed: inflation, the job market for 2020 graduates and which businesses have actually gotten their relief loans.

There’s plenty of food. Why can’t we get it?

April 15, 2020 00:44 - 32 minutes - 11.8 MB

No matter how many times we hear that the U.S. has plenty of food, the sight of empty grocery store shelves can still provoke anxiety. Should we worry? Here to talk us through the disruptions in the supply chain is Millie Munshi, an agriculture editor at Bloomberg. Plus, we’ll hear from listeners struggling to access small business relief loans.

Trump alone can’t reopen the economy, so who can?

April 13, 2020 23:51 - 13 minutes - 11.8 MB

President Donald Trump has said repeatedly, including during this taping, that he alone has the authority to reopen this economy after we’re past the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s not true, and several governors have banded together to go their own way. But it’s not that simple. We’ll talk through it. Plus: What do consumers really want from Amazon, other than stuff?

Google and Apple are linking up to track COVID-19

April 11, 2020 00:10 - 17 minutes - 11.8 MB

The two giant-est giants in mobile software are collaborating on a system to track contact between users and slow the spread of the coronavirus. But what are the privacy implications? We’ll talk about the system’s potential and its limitations. Plus, as part of our Friday series “Economics on Tap,” we’ll discuss Republican Sen. Josh Hawley’s co-sign on a proposal for the federal government to pay workers.

Tip your delivery people, people!

April 09, 2020 23:52 - 16 minutes - 11.8 MB

CNN reported today that some Instacart shoppers are taking on delivery jobs on the promise of big tips that never materialize. We’ll talk a bit today about that, and the grocery supply chain ahead of a bigger show on where the food is next week. Plus: Even if the science is dubious, it’s probably not a great idea to spit while you run right now.

Is that coronavirus relief check taxable?

April 09, 2020 00:37 - 17 minutes - 11.8 MB

Another Wednesday, more of your questions. Like: Whenever it arrives, how do you deal with that $1,200 check on your taxes? How’s this crisis going to affect the housing market? And when can people who have recovered from COVID-19 return to work? Plus, a glimpse into Kai’s college days. Say it with us: “burrito popsicles.”

Relief for small businesses is already too little, too late

April 07, 2020 23:47 - 35 minutes - 11.8 MB

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has asked Congress for another $250 billion for small businesses suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. But a lot of small businesses haven’t been able to access the existing relief package. Unemployment insurance is its own trial by fire. Today, we’ll talk with Marketplace personal finance reporter Sam Fields about the lengths people and businesses need to go to get that financial aid, and whether it’s actually helping.

California leads states in coronavirus cooperation

April 07, 2020 00:07 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is interested in teaming up with other states to tamp down bidding wars on personal protective equipment, and we’re all learning the word “monopsony.” Plus: Apple’s spending spree and a very musical Zoom call.

Start getting comfortable with the word “depression”

April 04, 2020 00:40 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

Now, there’s no technical definition of an economic depression other than a very, very bad recession. That’s what it looks like we’re in the early stages of — and today on the show, Kai Ryssdal and guest host Kimberly Adams will talk about some of the knock-on effects of coronavirus we’ll feel for a long time. Plus, Trump’s COVID-19 protectionism, a little gardening talk and of course, some drinks. TGIF.

The coronavirus economy numbers are getting big

April 03, 2020 00:13 - 12 minutes - 11.8 MB

… So big that it’s starting to feel hard to grasp the damage this pandemic is doing. Like the 7% gross domestic product drop in the second quarter, the more than 6 million new unemployment claims or … a 9% year-over-year increase in cruise bookings? We’ll break it down. Plus: Dolly Parton reads to your kids.

What are we not talking about … while we’re talking about coronavirus?

April 02, 2020 00:35 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

Like many of you, we’re starting to build routines in self-isolation. So now Wednesdays are “Whadd’ya Wanna Know Wednesdays,” where we take your questions. Questions like: Will credit card companies be more forgiving while we all weather this crisis? And, what other news is happening while everyone’s talking about COVID-19? Kai and Molly each have their own very specific examples. Plus, we learn about the little recessions that can happen inside a depression.

So, when are we getting that $1,200 check?

April 01, 2020 00:18 - 33 minutes - 11.8 MB

Rent is due tomorrow, along with car payments and other bills. You might think that historic $2 trillion economic stimulus package, with up to $1,200 going directly to Americans, is coming just in time. But not everyone’s getting a check, and those checks are definitely not arriving tomorrow. Here to talk us through it is Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

Things can always get worse

March 31, 2020 00:24 - 16 minutes - 11.8 MB

The March jobs report is due out this Friday, and it’s not going to be pretty. But thanks to some wonkery with how the Bureau of Labor Statistics handles its data, the reality is probably a lot worse than the numbers will look. We’ll explain. Plus, we’ll talk about making your own masks, finding “Joy” when you’re stuck at home and — sorry, why is Nancy Pelosi out shopping?

Happy hour for an unhappy time

March 28, 2020 00:50 - 14 minutes - 11.8 MB

It’s Friday. Kai and Molly raise a glass to a very hard week and talk through everything you need to know: what’s ahead for states that are losing their tax base, what the Instacart workers are threatening to strike over and what kind of recession we might be facing. We might even talk about something that will make you smile (we hope).

Reminder: the markets don’t care if you live or die

March 27, 2020 00:41 - 13 minutes - 11.8 MB

Markets are up for the third day in a row, even as weekly unemployment claims hit 3.2 million, ten times what they were last week. Plus this milestone: the U.S. notches the most cases of COVID-19 in the world. What gives? We’re steering straight into the dark place today.

Your coronavirus questions, answered

March 26, 2020 00:14 - 11 minutes - 11.8 MB

We started doing daily podcasts and asking about your COVID-19 economy almost a week ago, and you guys didn’t disappoint. We’ve already received more than 100 emails, and we’re devoting this Wednesday show to answering as many as we can. It’s like an abbreviated Explainathon. Today: answers about $2 trillion relief bill, our national debt and the work-from-home broadband load now that lots of us are doing that.

The U.S. health care system is bracing for COVID-19

March 24, 2020 23:41 - 34 minutes - 11.8 MB

Just because we’re doing 10-minute daily dispatches doesn’t mean we’re stopping the regular weekly podcast. For this week’s deep-dive, we’re speaking with New York Times health care reporter Sarah Kliff about supply chains for masks and ventilators, the Defense Production Act and how Obamacare will fare in a recession. Plus, we hear from a listener who recovered from COVID-19 and another who does buying for grocery stores.

Where are all the masks?

March 23, 2020 23:55 - 13 minutes - 11.8 MB

As some political and industry voices start calling for America to “reopen for business,” we have another, more pressing question: why aren’t there enough masks for medical professionals who need them? We’ll talk about it, and skid into the Dark Place. Only Dodgers legend Vin Scully can pull us out.

Early indicators of a COVID-19 recession are here

March 21, 2020 00:28 - 15 minutes - 11.8 MB

The economy is hitting a brick wall, but we don’t yet have the hard economic data — like jobs numbers. On our second daily episode, Kai and Molly talk about some of the indicators we do have and how much you can trust them. Plus, we look at the essential question in fighting this pandemic: If we shut down the economy, will that paralyze our healthcare system? Finally, a seasonal Make Me Smile moment.    


Esther Duflo

1 Episode