Kenny Malone

Kenny Malone hails from Meadville, PA where the zipper was invented, where Clark Gable’s mother is buried and where, in 2007, a wrecking ball broke free from a construction site, rolled down North Main Street and somehow wound up inside the trunk of a Ford Taurus sitting at a red light.

Malone graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH as a mathematics major and economics minor. He took an un-ironic oath to use mathematics for good not evil. Per that oath, Malone has taken on a wide array of non-evil numbers-based reporting endeavors -- everything from proving the existence of a home-field heat advantage for the Miami Dolphins to explaining South Florida’s economy in terms of automobiles on I-95 to exposing the extraordinary toll the densest cluster of assisted living facilities in the state had on both local authorities and the residents of those facilities in Lauderhill, FL.

Malone’s work has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition as well as APM’s Marketplace and The Story. His work has won national awards for religion, financial, crime and investigative reporting as well as three Best in Show Green Eyeshade Awards, the National Edward R. Murrow Award for use of sound, the National Headliner and PRNDI awards for series reporting, and the Scripps Howard Award for In-Depth Radio Reporting.

Malone lives in Miami Beach with his scruffy dog, Sir Xavier Charpentier III.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This episode originally ran in 2017.

When Stephon Marbury was eight years old, the Nike Air Jordan sneakers came out. These were basketball shoes endorsed by Michael Jordan, one of the greatest NBA players of all time. Stephon, like lots of other kids, wanted them. But the shoes were pricey. So pricey, his mother couldn't afford them. For years after this, he wondered whether there was a different way to sell quality basketball sneakers.

In the years before 1951, the Federal Reserve took orders from the Treasury, and by extension, from the President. The President would request that interest rates remain low, and the Fed would oblige.

But this became a problem. Low interest rates are great for people to borrow money to buy stuff, and for businesses to grow and hire people. But low interest rates also drive up inflation. And a big part of the Federal Reserve's job is to keep inflation low.

This is the third episode in our series on antitrust law in America. Our first episode told the story of Ida Tarbell and how her reporting on John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil changed antitrust law in the early 1900s.

This is the second episode in our series on the history of competition, big business and antitrust law in America. Quick recap:

A little more than a hundred years ago, the Supreme Court broke up the Standard Oil company. It was a turning point in the balance of power between enormous companies and the free market. We told that story in the first episode of the series.

Today on the show, we're launching a three part series on antitrust law, one of the most important but least-understood bodies of law in the United States.

Note: This episode originally ran in 2018.

Wildfires aren't like other natural disasters. You can't trace a hurricane to the first gust of wind—but you actually can trace your way back to a wildfire's first spark. And sometimes, someone has to pay.

What do silver dollars, Venmo, and Brexit have in common? They're all on the minds of our listeners.

Today on the show, we take listener questions, and hunt for answers. We try to figure out how Venmo makes money, how the tax system really works, why truckers are buying helicopters in England, and more.

People aren't just good for the economy. They are the economy. So when a place needs people, it'll do almost anything to attract them.

Today on the show, we hear from a few places doing whatever they can to get more people. There's an Italian ghost town, a $100 million scheme to save a seat in Congress, and an aging state searching for young workers.

A lot can happen after we put an episode out into the world. That's why we love The Rest Of The Story, our periodic check-in on stories we've reported.

Today on the show, we revisit some episodes from the year that was. In case you missed them, here are the original episodes featured.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The business of getting people high used to require fields of poppies or marijuana, and the farmers to farm them. Over the last two decades, a new generation of potent synthetic drugs has revolutionized the illicit drug trade. These drugs are cheap, easy to make in factories, and difficult to regulate. Now, it's possible to become a kingpin with little more than an internet connection and an email address for a chemical plant in China.

Today on the show: We look at one synthetic drug — Spice — and tell the story of how it helped unleash a revolution.

If something is going wrong in your workplace, there's probably a law that explains why. Like Goodhart's Law, which says if a company decides to measure something, workers will find a way to respond with good numbers. Or, the Peter Principle, which says that every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence.

Today on the show, we picked a few of the more famous laws and tested them out in our office. And that's where the giant trophy comes in.

Episode 873: The Seattle Experiment

Nov 2, 2018

It's no secret how elections work: A winning campaign costs a lot of money, so candidates court people who have the money to spend. Say, business interests. Then, when a politician takes office, their powerful donors have more influence than the average citizen. It's not a great system.

So Seattleites decided to tear it all up and try something radical: Fighting big money by flooding elections with even more money. The experiment... did not necessarily go as planned.

Hey everybody. This is Shane, the Planet Money intern. So, um, something odd is happening around here. I haven't seen the rest of the Planet Money team in a while. They went into this haunted house, chasing after a story, and they haven't come back. It's weird.

We did get a mysterious email with some recordings attached. And I think what I'm supposed to do is just publish them. Right? I don't know. I'm just Shane the Planet Money intern. But, um, yeah. Here's the show.

At Planet Money, we usually tackle the big questions. Not today.

This time, we relish small changes, proposed by smart people, that would make the world a bit fairer. (By the way, we've done this before.)

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When the Trump administration decided to pay subsidies to farmers hurt by trade, it reminded NPR's Planet Money podcast team about the time another president tried to help farmers. Kenny Malone has the epic tale of government cheese.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter made a campaign promise: I'm giving dairy farmers a break. And after he won, he set out to raise the price of milk. But the government couldn't just buy milk. They had to buy something storable that used a lot of milk. So the government started buying up as much cheese as people wanted to sell at the new price.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So the rise of e-commerce has allowed Americans to order things directly from sellers around the world. Kenny Malone from our Planet Money team met a New Jersey business owner who became obsessed with the mystery of how those items can ship so cheaply.

When you order stuff online, it may cost less to have it shipped across the world than across the street.

Take the Mighty Mug. It's a travel mug that's almost impossible to knock over, invented by a guy in New Jersey named Jayme Smaldone. A few months ago, Jayme realized he could order a knockoff Mighty Mug from China and get it shipped for less than it would cost him to ship his mug to a neighbor.

Tommy Noonan is a bit of a gym rat. Back when he was in college, one of his weightlifting friends complained about an energy powder he bought online. The product made him sick, and Tommy saw an opportunity. He built a website where bodybuilders could review the stuff they were putting into their bodies.

But as the website became more prominent, Tommy realized there was a big problem: Weirdly positive reviews. Tommy suspected they were being written by supplement companies themselves.

Colquitt, Georgia has a population of about 2,000 people. And like a lot of small towns in America, Colquitt had been struggling with a shrinking population, and the departure of manufacturing, and the decline of farming, and all the other economic troubles that plague small towns. And then Joy Jinks stumbled across a bizarre way for the town to try and save itself.

Today on the show, the residents of Colquitt, Georgia, stake their future on writing, directing, and starring in a musical.

Non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, are all over the news right now. You've probably heard about them in the context of the #metoo movement, and more recently, in relation to Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump.

But long before these agreements were used by powerful men to silence women, they were used for much more innocuous reasons. Primarily, to protect trade secrets.

About a month ago, President Trump walked up to a podium, and followed through on a big campaign promise. He said the U.S. was going to impose a 25-percent tariff on foreign steel, and a 10-percent tariff on foreign aluminum.

His announcement was met with a lot of face-palming from economists. Why? Because we've been down this road before.

Today on the show, we learn how the Smoot-Hawley tariff act of 1930 helped tank the world economy. And why it means that today, 90 years later, President Trump has the power to start what many people say is a trade war.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

On April 14th, 1935, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, he thought he was giving Americans some safety in retirement. What he may not have realized was that he was also inadvertently inventing a national identification number.

When it started, people didn't mind carrying around their social security number in their wallet, and blurting it out on the air. Now, it's the key to a person's retirement, finances, and identity. And it's valuable enough to steal.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Lots of industries acknowledge they have a diversity problem. Maybe it's with age or gender or race. Our Planet Money podcast wondered, how exactly does an industry begin to change itself? And reporter Kenny Malone says the answer is on your feet.

There is a huge economy surrounding the Super Bowl. And nowhere is this more visible than in one crazed market: ticket sales. Usually, the game is a bonanza for professional ticket salesmen.

But the 2015 Super Bowl was different.

Two weeks before the big game, the Super Bowl market collapsed, catastrophically. Brokers went belly up. Tickets vanished. And companies had to spend millions of dollars to reimburse a lot of angry fans. What happened? Today on the show, we try to figure it out.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As the digital currency bitcoin has skyrocketed in value, many of the early adopters have become millionaires - only if, that is, they can find their bitcoins. Kenny Malone from our Planet Money team went on a virtual treasure hunt.

Plenty of people will tell you they're getting rich off of bitcoin. They could be right. But there's another group of bitcoin owners that aren't so ecstatic. Because they might be rich, too, but they lost the passkey that would let them get at their digital fortune. Syl Turner is in that second, less glamorous group. When he got around one-and-a-half bitcoins seven or eight years ago, they were nearly worthless. So worthless he bunked the hard drive that held the key somewhere and now he can't remember where.

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