Alex Blumberg

Alex Blumberg is a contributing editor for NPR's Planet Money. He is also a producer for the public radio program This American Life, and an adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia University. He has done radio documentaries on the U.S. Navy, people who do impersonations of their mothers and teenage Steve Forbes supporters. He won first place at the 2002 Third Coast International Audio Festival for his story "Yes, There is a Baby." His story on clinical medical ethicists won the 1999 Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI) award for best radio documentary.

In 2008, Blumberg collaborated with NPR economics correspondent Adam Davidson on a special This American Life episode about the housing crisis. Called "the greatest explainer ever heard" by noted journalism professor Jay Rosen, the Giant Pool of Money became the inspiration for NPR's Planet Money.

Blumberg has a B.A. from Oberlin College.

3:32am

Mon December 31, 2012
Planet Money

The Fiscal Cliff: A Love Story

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 5:46 am

America, if you're scared by all the talk you've been hearing about the fiscal cliff, take heart: There are reasons for people across the political spectrum to love the cliff.

There's a lot for liberals to like in the fiscal cliff, says Matthew Yglesias, who writes wonky articles about economics for Slate.

Read more

2:54am

Fri December 7, 2012
Planet Money

Why The Falling Birthrate Is Bad News For My 2-Year-Old Son

Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 7:26 am

Please don't make me pay for your retirement.
Alex Blumberg NPR

The U.S. birthrate just fell to its lowest point since we've been keeping track. Here's why that may be a problem for my 2-year-old son.

Read more

5:59pm

Tue July 3, 2012
Planet Money

Does Medicaid Make People Healthier?

Originally published on Wed July 11, 2012 5:08 pm

Karen Roach iStockphoto.com

A while back, Robin Boros lost her job, and she and her husband couldn't afford health insurance.

One time, Boros passed out, and her husband called an ambulance.

"The hospital bill, it was atrocious," she says. "We couldn't pay it."

They never figured out why Boros passed out. But after that, she and her husband avoided going to the doctor. At times, she says, she even bought blood pressure medication on the street.

"That was awful," Boros says. "But you do what you got to do."

Read more

2:56am

Wed June 6, 2012
Planet Money

Why Does The Mortgage-Interest Tax Deduction Still Exist?

Originally published on Thu June 14, 2012 12:07 pm

Alex Brandon AP

This is the latest story in our series on money in politics.

If you have a mortgage on your home, you can deduct the interest from your taxes. It's a popular, well-entrenched policy. But according to one policy adviser to a U.S. senator, "the mortgage-interest deduction, from a purely policy perspective ... makes no sense."

Read more

3:26am

Fri April 20, 2012
Planet Money

When Lobbyists Pay To Meet With Congressmen

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 5:49 pm

Charles Dharapak AP

Yesterday, we reported on the fundraisers that lobbyists hold for Congressmen every day in Washington. Today, we hear what happens inside those events. The stories are part of our series on money in politics.

Read more

3:48am

Fri March 30, 2012
Planet Money

Senator By Day, Telemarketer By Night

"I think most Americans would be shocked..." - Sen. Dick Durbin.
Brendan Smialowski Getty Images

This is the first story in a Planet Money series on money in politics. We'll have more this afternoon on All Things Considered, and this weekend on This American Life.

We think of lawmakers having one job: making laws. But there's a second job most lawmakers have to do. And it's a big job.

Read more

12:01am

Fri January 27, 2012
Planet Money

Jack Abramoff Explains The 'Lobbyist Safecracker Method'

Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 10:39 am

Jack Abramoff in 2004. He's the one on the right.
Dennis Cook AP

Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been making the rounds lately. He's out of prison. He has a new book. He's in a talkative mood. So I figured it was a good time to ask him about the business of lobbying — not about what he did that was illegal, but about the ordinary, legal stuff.

The firm he worked for was called Greenberg Traurig. I chose a year at random when Abramoff was working there, and picked a client I hoped would be fairly typical. I chose Tyco International, a multinational corporation that in 2003 gave Abramoff's firm $1.3 million.

Read more

12:01am

Fri January 6, 2012
Planet Money

Forget Stocks Or Bonds, Invest In A Lobbyist

Originally published on Fri January 6, 2012 12:17 pm

Money goes in. More money comes out.
Brendan Smialowski Getty Images

Corporations don't lobby Congress for fun. They lobby because it helps their bottom line. Getting a regulation gutted or a tax loophole created means extra cash for the corporation. But getting laws changed can be very expensive. How much money does a corporation get back from investing in a good lobbyist?

It's a messy, secretive system so it was always hard to study. But in 2004, economists found a bill so simple, so lucrative, that they could finally track the return on lobbying investment.

Read more

4:17pm

Tue November 22, 2011
Planet Money

The National Debt: What The Left And Right Agree On

Originally published on Mon November 28, 2011 11:15 am

Supercommittee members, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

The congressional supercommittee announced Monday that it failed to come to an agreement on reducing the deficit. After three months of negotiating, the Democrats and Republicans just couldn't agree on how much spending to cut or how high to raise taxes.

But this is not a story about how the left and right disagree with each other. In fact, they actually largely agree.

Read more

4:10pm

Tue September 6, 2011
Planet Money

How To Avoid The Oil Curse

One of the biggest problems any new government in Libya will face is something that doesn't seem like a problem: The massive amount of oil wealth the country possesses

Economists call it the natural-resource curse. Resource-rich countries often end up being ruled by dictators and autocrats. And the massive amount of money that floods into a country after oil discovery often has the perverse effect of putting existing industries out of business.

Read more

3:36pm

Fri August 12, 2011
Planet Money

Preschool: The Best Job-Training Program

Job training.
The Co-Op School

When economist James Heckman was studying the effects of job training programs on unskilled young workers, he found a mystery.

He was comparing a group of workers that had gone through a job training program with a group that hadn't. And he found that, at best, the training program did nothing to help the workers get better jobs. In some cases, the training program even made the workers worse off.

Read more

1:59pm

Fri May 13, 2011
Planet Money

An Internet Rock Star Tells All

Jonathan Coulton's songs almost never get played on the radio. He doesn't have a contract with a music label. Yet he's a one man counterargument to the idea that musicians can't make money making music.

In 2010, Coulton's music brought in about $500,000 in revenue. And since his overhead costs are very low, most of that money went straight to him.

Did he ever expect to make that kind of money as a musician?

"Of course not," he says. "This is absurd."

Read more

3:53pm

Wed May 4, 2011
Planet Money

A Former Crack Kingpin On The Economics Of Illegal Drugs

The academic argument against drug criminalization goes like this.

When you make a drug illegal, you make it harder and riskier to produce. That makes it more expensive.

But demand for many drugs is what economists call inelastic: No matter what drugs cost, people will still pay. So making drugs more expensive through criminalization just sends more money to drug dealers.

That's the theory, anyway.

Read more