Watch Planet Money Shorts : Planet Money Have you ever wanted to watch video of the people who make NPR acting out Planet Money stories? Well, who asked you anyway.
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Watch Planet Money Shorts

We made a video series. It has a logo and everything. NPR hide caption

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We made a video series. It has a logo and everything.

NPR

Yes, it's true — we have a video series. These videos tell the weird stories behind big economic facts and ideas, re-enacted and explained by the crew of goofballs over here at National Public Radio.

So affix yourself to your chair, tape your eyelids open and binge on this classy content (organized in descending order of recency):

The Origin Of Government Cheese

In 1976, Jimmy Carter made a single campaign promise that snowballed into a longstanding cultural phenomenon: government cheese. It shows up in comedy sketches, songs and even a cooking show with Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg.

So what is government cheese, and how did the U.S. government end up buying two pounds of cheese for every American?

Listen to the original Planet Money podcast episode here. Subscribe to our video series here — and, while you're at it, subscribe to our podcast.

How Everything Became Plastic

A century ago, stuff was expensive. Back then, people relied on nature to make things: Toothbrushes were made of silver, combs were made of tortoiseshell, and clothes were made of cotton (well, they still use a lot of cotton, but you get the point.)

Then, in 1907, a chemist named Leo Baekeland found a way to take the useless gunk leftover from making kerosene and turn it into plastic. It opened up a whole world of affordable products. Suddenly, everyone could get one of everything.

This is the story of how plastic was first made and how maybe we went too far with it.

Listen to the original Planet Money podcast episode here. Subscribe to our video series here — and, while you're at it, subscribe to our podcast.

How Much Money Should The Tooth Fairy Leave?

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How much money should the tooth fairy leave? It's an eternal struggle of parenting, but it's also an overlooked economic indicator. For the past two decades, the price of a tooth has been going up much faster than you'd expect with inflation.

We know that because Delta Dental, the insurance company and tongue twister, has been conducting the Tooth Fairy Poll, a nationally representative survey of how much kids are getting for their teeth, for two decades. Roughly 20 years ago, a tooth payout was hovering around $1.30. As of 2018, a tooth was pulling in $4.13. These kids are making out like gap-toothed bandits.

That's good news for baby teeth-losers everywhere, but it's a bit more complicated if you're a tooth fairy concerned about the bottom line. In this video, we imagine a fantasy world where the tooth fairy is a mid-level executive just trying to keep his department in the black and his head above water. Please enjoy this extremely relatable semi-fictional content.

Listen to the original podcast episode here! Subscribe to our video series here — and, while you're at it, subscribe to our podcast.

There's No Such Thing As Fancy Vodka

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Our video series is back with a very serious inquiry into one of Philosophy's Big Questions: What's the deal with fancy vodka?

Vodka is, by definition, colorless, odorless and tasteless. But some vodkas cost much more than others. Why? The answer begins with the story of Sidney Frank, the man who basically created modern liquor marketing with his brand new vodka. Like any good Planet Money Shorts episode, this one's got a few fake mustaches and one extremely scratchy suit. From Jägermeister to top-shelf vodka, witness the birth of a brave new world in liquor marketing.

This episode is based on a podcast originally produced in collaboration with the Sporkful food podcast. Listen to the original episode here.

The Apple That Changed The World

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The mid-20th century was a bad time to be an apple lover. The produce section of supermarkets only had a few apples, and one stood tall above the rest: mealy, and tough-skinned, it was the Red Delicious.

Back in those days, apples were a commodity, and the race to provide apples at the lowest price suppressed prices for all apple growers and discouraged apple innovation. A few things helped change that world for the better — and chief among them was the discovery of the Honeycrisp.

This is the story of that miracle apple and the innovation that made the business of better apples sustainable — all while hastening the downfall of the Red Delicious.

Listen to the original Planet Money podcast episode here!

How American Cemeteries Promise To Keep Your Grave Forever

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If you die in America, chances are the cemetery is going to promise to maintain your grave forever. Americans take this for granted, but it is a whacky, wild promise that we maybe should not be making.

In a lot of other countries, you basically rent a grave until they dig up your bones to make room for the next guy. And yet, in America, this forever-grave thing is actually in most states' law. With the exception of religious cemeteries (which often do this anyways), the state regulates how cemeteries save to ensure, theoretically, that they can maintain a grave forever.

It's a weird country to die in. So, we made a weirder video about it.

Listen to the original Planet Money podcast episode here!

The Price Of Coke Stayed The Same For 70 Years — Why?

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The thing about prices is they tend to change. But for 70 years, between 1886 and the late 1950s, the price of a Coca-Cola was a shiny nickel.

Think about how crazy that is: Between 1886 and the late '50s, you had two world wars, Prohibition and the Great Depression. But through it all, one constant in life was the nickel Coke.

This is the story of how two lawyers from Chattanooga struck a deal with the president of Coca-Cola that led to the company's pricing lockdown. With re-enactments from our very own Robert Smith & Nick Fountain, it's the fourth episode of Planet Money Shorts.

Listen to the original Planet Money podcast episode here!

A Quick History Of Slow Credit Cards

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In the mid-'60s, the airline industry had a problem. The 747, the first real jumbo jet, had just been introduced. There were more passengers at the airport than before. More passengers meant longer lines. And that was especially bad because this was the era when customers paid for their tickets right there at the airport — often by credit card.

Back then, paying by credit cards was a whole ordeal. The airlines had to call up the bank manually in order to confirm the card. With lines growing, the airlines needed a faster process. So they called IBM to ask for help, and that's where our story (which also features some French fraudsters and a hippie inventor) begins.

Listen to the original Planet Money podcast episode here!

The Price Tag Hasn't Always Existed, It Had To Be Invented

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Most people are used to prices that don't change from one customer to the next. You go into a store to buy some Quaker Oats, and they're going to cost the same for you as they will for whoever tries to buy them next.

But for a long time, that's not how it worked at all.

For most of human history, you had to haggle over prices before you could buy something. The Quakers were among the first people to commit to fixed prices — and they did it because it was good morals. Turned out, it was also good business. This is the strange story of the long journey of that little piece of paper.

Listen to the original Planet Money podcast episode here!

Which Came First, The Frozen Chicken Or The Tax On Foreign Trucks?

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In the 1960s, there was a new fad in Germany: cheap, frozen American chicken. German families couldn't get enough of the stuff — it was great for the German consumer, but not so great for the German chicken farmer. So the farmers went to the government, and, lo, a trade war was born.

In this first episode of Planet Money Shorts, witness the making of an automotive juggernaut — the story of how a tax on frozen chicken wound up defining the U.S. market for trucks. With some acting help from various NPR employees (read: definitely not professional actors), it's the story of "The Chicken Tax!"

Listen to the original Planet Money podcast episode here!


That's all we've made so far, but you can subscribe to our video series here — and, while you're at it, subscribe to our podcast.