January 30, 2009

The New Boss

Stories about what happens when someone new takes over—someone with a vision of how things ought to be. Including international economics correspondent Adam Davidson of the Planet Money podcast on how Obama's new stimulus plan might actually be the first ever test of a very, very old theory.
John Maynard Keynes (right), meets with the Assistant Secretary to the U.S. Treasury, Harry Dexter White at the inaugural meeting of the International Monetary Fund's Board of Governors in Savannah, Georgia, March 8, 1946.


Dave Hill tells us about his job at a homeless shelter in New York. He liked the job—even the most menial parts. After about a year, he's asked to;become supervisor, which is exciting for him, because he's never been in charge of anything before. But on his very first shift, something goes terribly wrong, without Dave even knowing about it. (3 minutes)

Act One

New Guy on the Job

Dave Hill continues his story. When he talked to a co-worker the morning after his first shift as a night supervisor, he learned that the place isn’t quite what he thought it was. For one thing, most of his colleagues are crack addicts. (7 minutes)

Dave is the star of a late-night talk show called the Dave Hill Explosion, which he performs at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York.
Act Two

A Trust Without Trust

An accountant, Bruce Wisan, is hired by the state of Utah to clean up a very complicated mess in a complicated place: Short Creek, home to hundreds of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—or FLDS, which practices polygamy. The community had been run by the notorious Warren Jeffs, now in prison for rape. Jeffs had been in charge of the FLDS church, and also of the giant trust which church members paid into all their lives. But when Jeffs became a fugitive, he began to mismanage the $112 million trust, and so the Utah attorney general stepped in, giving Wisan control. Wisan had plans: He was going to modernize the town utilities, improve the roads, and most important, give people titles to their homes, which under Jeffs were owned and controlled by the church trust. But Wisan quickly ran into an enormous problem: The majority of people in Short Creek would have nothing to do with him or his ideas. Claire Hoffman reports. Claire also wrote about Wisan for Portfolio Magazine in June 2008, in an article called "Satan's Accountant." (23 minutes)

Act Three

President's Vice

This American Life Senior Producer Julie Snyder talks to Ira about her rather alarming theory regarding the new president's smoking habits. (2 minutes)
Act Four

The Fifteen Trillion Dollar Dismal Science Project

Our crack economics duo, Producer Alex Blumberg and NPR International Economics Correspondent Adam Davidson, on how a dead, slutty, elitist British man, John Maynard Keynes, is about to take over the American economy. President Obama's new stimulus plan relies on Keynes'; theory, which says that government can spend its way out of a downward economic spiral. Alex and Adam explain why this might actually be the first ever test of this very old idea. You can hear Alex and Adam's other economics stories on the Planet Money podcast. (20 minutes)