DiscoverThe Indicator from Planet MoneyCommon economic myths, debunked
Common economic myths, debunked

Common economic myths, debunked

Update: 2024-06-041
Share

Digest

This episode of Planet Money tackles three prevalent economic myths. First, it challenges the notion that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, citing data that shows the median household has a net worth of $193,000 and a significant portion of that wealth is tied up in assets like retirement accounts and housing. The episode then delves into the trade deficit, arguing that it's not always a problem and can be a sign of a healthy economy. The episode explains that the US borrows from overseas to invest and spend, leading to economic growth and wealth creation. Finally, the episode examines the myth that taxing the top 1% can solve the federal budget deficit. While acknowledging that taxing the wealthy can contribute to a solution, the episode emphasizes that it's not a complete solution and that other measures, such as spending cuts or broader tax increases, are necessary to address the deficit.

Outlines

00:00:00
Economic Myth Busting

This Chapter introduces the concept of economic myth busting and sets the stage for the episode's exploration of three common economic misconceptions.

00:01:30
Myth 1: Most Americans Live Paycheck to Paycheck

This Chapter examines the claim that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. It presents evidence that contradicts this notion, highlighting the median household's net worth and savings. The chapter also discusses the limitations of surveys often used to support this claim and emphasizes the importance of considering the poverty rate as a more accurate indicator of financial hardship.

00:03:21
Myth 2: Trade Deficits Are Always Bad

This Chapter focuses on the trade deficit, the gap between what the US buys from the rest of the world and what it sells. It challenges the idea that trade deficits are inherently harmful, arguing that they can be a sign of a healthy economy. The chapter explains how the US uses debt for both consumption and investment, and how investment can lead to future economic growth and wealth creation.

00:05:54
Myth 3: Taxing the Top 1% Can Solve the Federal Budget Deficit

This Chapter addresses the myth that taxing the top 1% of earners can solve the federal budget deficit. While acknowledging that taxing the wealthy can contribute to a solution, the chapter emphasizes that it's not a complete solution. It highlights the limitations of relying solely on taxing the wealthy and emphasizes the need for other measures, such as spending cuts or broader tax increases, to address the deficit.

Keywords

Trade Deficit
The difference between the value of a country's exports and imports. A trade deficit occurs when a country imports more goods and services than it exports. It can be a sign of a healthy economy if the deficit is used for investment, but it can also be a sign of economic weakness if it's used for consumption.

Federal Budget Deficit
The difference between the amount of money the US government spends and the amount it collects in taxes. A budget deficit occurs when the government spends more than it takes in. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including economic downturns, wars, and government spending programs.

Paycheck to Paycheck
A phrase used to describe people who have little or no savings and live on the edge of financial instability, often struggling to make ends meet. It's often used to describe people who are living in poverty or who are struggling to make ends meet.

Planet Money
A popular economics podcast produced by NPR that explores a wide range of economic topics, from personal finance to global trade. The podcast is known for its engaging storytelling and its ability to make complex economic concepts accessible to a broad audience.

Robert Reich
An American economist and political commentator who served as the US Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton. He is a prominent voice on issues of income inequality and economic justice.

Robert Lighthizer
An American lawyer and businessman who served as the US Trade Representative under President Donald Trump. He is known for his tough stance on trade and his efforts to renegotiate trade deals with China and other countries.

Mary Lovely
A senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a nonpartisan think tank that focuses on global economics. She is an expert on international trade and economic development.

Brian Riedel
A fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank that focuses on public policy. He is an expert on the federal budget and has advised Republican senators Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio on their presidential campaigns.

Niskeden Center
A think tank that focuses on economic policy and research. It is known for its work on issues such as poverty, inequality, and the labor market.

Q&A

  • What are some common economic myths that are often repeated in the media?

    Three common economic myths are that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, that trade deficits are always bad, and that taxing the top 1% can solve the federal budget deficit.

  • Is it true that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck?

    No, it's not true. Data shows that the median American household has a net worth of $193,000, and many have savings in checking and savings accounts. While it's not a lot of money, it's enough to help them survive until their next paycheck.

  • What is the trade deficit and is it always a problem?

    The trade deficit is the difference between what the US buys from the rest of the world and what it sells. It's not always a problem, and can be a sign of a healthy economy if the deficit is used for investment.

  • Can taxing the top 1% solve the federal budget deficit?

    While taxing the wealthy can contribute to a solution, it's not a complete solution. Other measures, such as spending cuts or broader tax increases, are necessary to address the deficit.

  • What are some of the other measures that could be taken to address the federal budget deficit?

    Other measures that could be taken to address the federal budget deficit include spending cuts, raising taxes on more Americans, or a combination of both.

  • What is the role of the government in addressing economic issues?

    The government plays a crucial role in addressing economic issues, such as poverty, inequality, and the budget deficit. It can use a variety of tools, such as taxes, spending, and regulation, to influence the economy.

  • What are some of the challenges facing the US economy?

    The US economy faces a number of challenges, including income inequality, rising healthcare costs, and a growing national debt.

  • What are some of the potential solutions to these challenges?

    Potential solutions to these challenges include policies that promote economic growth, reduce income inequality, and control healthcare costs.

  • What is the role of the Federal Reserve in the US economy?

    The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States. It is responsible for setting interest rates, controlling the money supply, and overseeing the banking system.

  • What is the relationship between the trade deficit and the federal budget deficit?

    The government deficit contributes a lot to the trade deficit. The US borrows from overseas to finance its budget deficit, which increases the trade deficit.

Show Notes

Maybe you've heard these things on social media, in the news, and take them as fact: More than half of the adults in the US live paycheck to paycheck, the trade deficit is always bad, and making the super wealthy pay their fair share will fix everything.
Well, the truth isn't so simple. Today on the show: economic mythbusting. We take three factoids about the American economy and run them through the fact checkers.
Related episodes:
Is the federal debt REALLY that bad? (Apple/Spotify)
Is the financial media making us miserable about the economy? (Apple/Spotify)
ICYMI, preorder our new Indicator t-shirt at the NPR shop. For more ways to support our show, sign up for Planet Money+ where you'll get sponsor-free listening, bonus episodes, and access to even more Indicator merch!
For sponsor-free episodes of The Indicator from Planet Money, subscribe to Planet Money+ via Apple Podcasts or at
plus.npr.org.
Music by
Drop Electric. Find us: TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Newsletter.

Learn more about sponsor message choices: podcastchoices.com/adchoices

NPR Privacy Policy
Comments 
loading
00:00
00:00
x

0.5x

0.8x

1.0x

1.25x

1.5x

2.0x

3.0x

Sleep Timer

Off

End of Episode

5 Minutes

10 Minutes

15 Minutes

30 Minutes

45 Minutes

60 Minutes

120 Minutes

Common economic myths, debunked

Common economic myths, debunked