We Hear You We respond to your letters, tweets and messages: We talk Iran, yield curve and how to pronounce Hyundai.
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We Hear You

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We Hear You

We Hear You

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CARDIFF GARCIA, HOST:

Hi, everyone. It's Cardiff.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

And Stacey.

GARCIA: And it's Friday.

VANEK SMITH: Yes, it is.

GARCIA: And here at THE INDICATOR, we make a show every single day on all kinds of topics.

VANEK SMITH: Yep, everything from American flags to the collapse of the Venezuelan economy. And you guys write in quite a bit about these different shows, and you tweet at us, and you message us.

GARCIA: Yeah, which we love, by the way.

VANEK SMITH: Yeah, we really do.

GARCIA: And sometimes you've got good things to say, sometimes less good.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter).

GARCIA: Concerns, let's call them, or fact checks. And we appreciate those, too.

VANEK SMITH: Yes.

GARCIA: And today, we wanted to respond to some of those messages we were getting from you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, "WAKING UP TO THE FIRE")

VANEK SMITH: This is THE INDICATOR. I'm Stacey Vanek Smith.

GARCIA: And I'm Cardiff Garcia. Today on the show, yield curves and interest rates and Hyundais.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, my.

GARCIA: Oh, my.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

VANEK SMITH: Our first order of business, Cardiff...

GARCIA: Yeah.

VANEK SMITH: ...Potato, potahho (ph).

GARCIA: I sit here humbled.

VANEK SMITH: Oh.

GARCIA: I need to make a correction. In one of our episodes titled "A Hyundai In Iran," I pronounced Hyundai completely incorrectly throughout the entire show. And a listener named Jeremy (ph) who works at Hyundai actually tweeted me a screenshot showing me a passage from Hyundai's company handbook saying that Hyundai rhymes with Sunday or Monday. But actually...

VANEK SMITH: But wait. The fact that they had to put that in the handbook feels telling (laughter).

GARCIA: Yeah. But actually, I really should have known that because a while ago there was this great Super Bowl commercial about exactly this issue.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Hyundai (foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Hyundai.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Hyundai.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Hyundai.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: Hyundai.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Hyundai.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: Win one little award, and suddenly everyone gets your name right. It's Hyundai, like Sunday.

GARCIA: Yeah. My apologies to Hyundai and all the other owners of a Hyundai rhymes with Sunday.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter) How did you say it, Hyundie (ph)?

GARCIA: Yeah, I think so.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, that feels valid. And in fact, this show brought up something else as well. This was part of a piece that we did earlier this week called "The Price Of A Hyundai In Iran." And in the show, we spoke with a man named Amir. He's 28. He lives in Tehran. He has a good job. He's been saving up for a car. Life was good.

GARCIA: Yeah. But things changed for Amir a couple of months ago when President Donald Trump announced that the United States was going to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose economic sanctions on Iran, and also that the U.S. would consider restricting trade with any country that did business with Iran.

VANEK SMITH: Iran's currency, the rial, plummeted, and the country's already fragile economy seems like it's about to take an enormous hit. But when I talked to Amir about it, he said he kind of liked what Trump did. He said Trump was finally taking on Iran's corrupt leadership. And he hoped the resulting economic turmoil might finally force a change in his country.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

AMIR: Maybe that's going to destroy the whole economic system.

VANEK SMITH: It's amazing that you speak so calmly about, like, the whole economy could melt down. You just say that so calmly. Are you worried?

AMIR: I'm worried. But there's nothing in my control. You know, I can do nothing.

VANEK SMITH: What would you like to see happen for your country?

AMIR: A miracle, maybe. I think a miracle - maybe a war or something.

VANEK SMITH: Things are so bad that you're hoping for a war?

AMIR: War, yes.

VANEK SMITH: So after this aired, I got an email from another man living in Iran.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIAL TONE)

SINA: Hello.

VANEK SMITH: Hi, it's Stacey.

SINA: Hi, how are you? This is Sina (ph).

VANEK SMITH: Sina is 27. He is an engineer in Tehran.

And you wrote me an email after you heard the podcast on Iran. And you had...

SINA: Yes.

VANEK SMITH: ...Some concerns. So tell me about those.

SINA: Yeah. The main concern was that the person you talked with named - called Amir mentioned that he's looking for war for maybe hoping for a better situation in Iran.

VANEK SMITH: Yeah.

SINA: And I a little bit shocked because I don't think that's the situation for most of the people. I know this is it because I just want to the world know that we are not violent, like, to be honest because every time I heard it - hear that a piece of news or a podcast or something like that is about Iran, I get really excited because I say, maybe this time we will be represented in a way that we are not bad people because the...

VANEK SMITH: Yeah.

SINA: ...The TVs and the media, they usually show the aspect - I mean, the part of Iran that people are burning flags, saying death to America and stuff like that. But it's not the majority of people. Most of the Iran people are really friendly, really peaceful.

VANEK SMITH: What is your hope for your country?

SINA: I really hope for the Trump administration would accept to talk with Iranians, and Iranian leaders would be rational and do not demand a lot, and the two countries would find a peaceful solution.

GARCIA: Sina says that from his point of view, people are kind of hunkering down now, preparing for August 6. That was the deadline that President Trump gave for most companies to shut down their business with Iran.

VANEK SMITH: But, Cardiff, before I let him go, he really had a special message that he wanted me to give.

GARCIA: Oh, OK.

SINA: And also, please send my hello to Cardiff as well and say yield curve rules.

(LAUGHTER)

VANEK SMITH: Oh, my gosh, Cardiff is going to be so excited. He is going to be so excited about this.

SINA: I think yield curve is very interesting. And I don't know why you don't like it, but...

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: And Sina is right, Stacey. I like him.

VANEK SMITH: I - yeah (laughter). Next up, somebody asked us a good question about in fact our yield curve episode.

GARCIA: Yep.

VANEK SMITH: Remember; in the past, when the yield curve has inverted - in other words, when long-term interest rates on Treasurys have fallen behind short-term interest rates - that has signaled that a recession was on the way. The yield curve is not right now inverted, but it's been getting a lot closer in the last year.

GARCIA: And the question we got was if the yield curve is so great at predicting recessions, then why is everybody else so bad at it, professional forecasters and economists? Why don't they all just look at the yield curve?

VANEK SMITH: That's a good question.

GARCIA: Yeah. And the answer is that people always find a reason to think that this time is different. So for example, before the big recession started in 2007, people thought the yield curve was distorted because so many people abroad in countries abroad and foreign central banks were buying Treasurys. So they thought that was throwing things off. Well, this time a lot of people are saying that this time is different because the Fed itself, our central bank, is also now such a big buyer and seller of Treasurys. And hey, maybe it is different this time.

VANEK SMITH: Maybe it is, though.

GARCIA: Maybe it is.

VANEK SMITH: Maybe it really is.

GARCIA: All I'm saying is given its track record, we should not ignore it. That's all. Just don't ignore it.

VANEK SMITH: You and Sina...

GARCIA: Sina knows what's up.

VANEK SMITH: I know. I know.

GARCIA: Sina knows what's up.

VANEK SMITH: I know (laughter). Next up, a lot of people wrote in about our commencement speech episode, specifically about something that I said in my advice to young graduates, which was, quote, "never trust the data." And as a lot of you pointed out, you know, facts and data are sort of under assault right now. So, you know, how could we say this? So here is a very sober version of what I was saying. First, especially in economics, the methodology really matters. Numbers are revised, and even a rigorous analysis can turn out to have flaws. So what we try to do at THE INDICATOR is, you know, always scrutinize the source.

GARCIA: And more importantly, remember also that we communicate facts and statistics and the like through stories. And you should just keep in mind that there's often more than one story that you can tell with the exact same set of data and facts and statistics. So just be conscious of that. And also, try to be charitable about it when you disagree with other people.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter).

GARCIA: You can look at the exact same set of stats and facts and data and just see a different story.

VANEK SMITH: Yeah. There can often be two very valid conclusions from the same set of data.

GARCIA: Indeed.

VANEK SMITH: And finally, we would like to end this Friday with some good news. So our show spends a lot of time on the importance of a tight labor market. Well, a listener sent us this great chart from the Economic Policy Institute, and it shows that the percentage of workers who earn poverty-level wages has just hit a new all-time low of 11.4 percent. And that number tends to fall especially fast during tight labor markets. So let's hope that keeps going.

(SOUNDBITE OF DROP ELECTRIC SONG, "WAKING UP TO THE FIRE")

GARCIA: That's everything for today. And please keep the messages coming. We obviously can't respond to every single one of them, but we do see them, and we appreciate them, even the nasty ones.

VANEK SMITH: That's true.

GARCIA: Yeah. Thank you for listening and for writing in, and keep them coming. You can send us an email at indicator@npr.org, or tweet at us. We're @planetmoney. Special thanks also to Meghan Keane, who produced today's episode.

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