The UK’s got a pound problem
Sep 2, 2022
Episode 745

The UK’s got a pound problem

and energy ... and inflation.

There’s another problem to add to the list of issues piling up in the UK right now: The pound sterling took a dive. We’ll discuss the economic situation there and how it compares to what’s happening on this side of the pond. Plus, could Alaska’s voting system help our polarized politics? Then, we play a round of Half Full/Half Empty.

Here is everything we talked about:

We can’t make this show without you. If you’ve got a question, comment or suggestion, email us at or leave a voice message at 508-U-B-SMART. 

Make Me Smart September 2, 2022 transcript


Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.


Kai Ryssdal: That’s, that’s why we have producers.


Kimberly Adams: Indeed, just to save us from ourselves.


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, you weren’t kidding just before we go live.


Kimberly Adams: No I wasn’t, we were like –


Kai Ryssdal: Good grief.


Kimberly Adams: I think you would’ve learned by now.


Kai Ryssdal: You think I would’ve learned by now. Hey everybody, I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense, cursing sometimes along the way.


Kimberly Adams: Just, you know, think about the range of the words and what’s allowed and what’s not, so we don’t get a little language warnings on our podcast. I’m Kimberly Adams.


Kai Ryssdal: Sorry to interrupt. Unbeknownst to me, Bridget’s been bleeping us the whole time.


Kimberly Adams: What?


Kai Ryssdal: Yes, I know. Now you think I would listen to my own podcast, but I really don’t because that’s a whole different kind of –


Kimberly Adams: No, because who wants to hear their own voice?


Kai Ryssdal: Exactly! But yeah, Bridget the other day when I said, oh, we’re gonna get the E for this. She said, oh, that’s okay. I beep you guys all the time. I’m like, dude, man, what?


Kimberly Adams: Well, I suppose that should open all doors for things that we can say. All right. Well, thank you for everyone who is joining us live on the YouTube live stream, where I don’t think they can beep us in real time. And those who are listening later to the podcast, and they can. This is economics on tap, where we do the news fix, we play some half full half empty, we drink. And what are you drinking? It looks like you’re drinking water.


Kai Ryssdal: I’m drinking water again, because I have to drive later. By which I mean like at four o’clock my time. So you know, prudence being the better part of driving while you’ve had a beer. I’m having water.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, don’t want to do that. And it’s a healthy choice, especially when it’s like ungodly hot out there, right?


Kai Ryssdal: It’s crazy. It’s crazy. But look, beer hydrates you. Come on, it’s mostly water. Is that not right?


Kimberly Adams: I mean I’m sure it is, but I don’t think it’s the hydration that you’re hoping for there. I’m not even attempting it. I’m having a Manhattan, which I haven’t made in a while. So I was a little out of practice. I had like my fancy cherries and they were like way in the back of the fridge and the juice around them all coagulated and stuff. But nevertheless, it’s delicious.


Kai Ryssdal: All right. Shall we do some little news and then we’ll do the Friday thing? All right.


Kimberly Adams: Yes, let’s do it. Okay. Well, mine is about the election in Alaska, which was very fascinating for a variety of reasons. One is that we saw the return of Sarah Palin, where I guess she never truly disappeared, but this was going to sort of be her attempt to return to national politics. And this was running for the single house seat representing Alaska in the House of Representatives. And she lost in a special election to Mary Peltola. And it’s very fascinating because Alaska did ranked choice voting, which just a few other places do. I think New York City does it. Is it Maine also that does some rank choice voting?


Kai Ryssdal: I don’t know. I should but –


Kimberly Adams: So a couple of other places do rank choice voting, and the fact that it happened here, it’s on state level vote in more than one place. I think it’s just interesting to keep an eye on this as a strategy to address some of the political polarization in this country, because one of the reasons that we are entrenched in the two party system is because, you know, if you know that one of the members in the two parties is most likely going to win, it gives less of an opportunity for people in the middle or third parties or any other candidates to really get a shot, because people will think they’re wasting their vote if they vote for those people. Christine on the YouTube chat says Massachusetts also has some rank choice voting. And a lot of people don’t like it, because they think that it, you know, basically takes power away from the two parties, which some folks don’t like. But I think it’s a very interesting experiment and the fact that it’s being rolled out, it’s standing up in court, and lots of places are pushing for the ballot initiatives. And I wonder if this strategy is going to start addressing that part of the political polarization. It’s just fascinating.


Kai Ryssdal: Which would be cool, which would be cool, because any way we can get out of the political polarization in which we find ourselves trapped, and which is destructive, would be good. That would be good.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Yeah.


Kai Ryssdal: All right. I’ve got a couple of quickies. Number one, and the real news actually, is how bad things are over in the UK, and I don’t want people to sleep on the situation in Europe writ large, right. They have winters coming, they’re having gas problems, the Russians have closed down Nord Stream 1. But here’s what I want to talk about. And it’s inflation over in the UK is at 10.1%, they’re gonna have a new prime minister within a number of days, there are strikes and people not paying their power bills and energy bills, right, because it’s natural gas, and all kinds of things are going bad. Also, the pound sterling is down to $1.15. When Brexit went through it was like $1.36. It’s lost so much of its value, not great for exports out of that country. It’s just, really just, you know, just not good over there. And I think we should keep an eye on the UK. There’s a recession coming, there’s a recession coming in Europe, they’re having – their inflation is going up while ours is going down. People should just be keeping an eye on that. And it’s a global economy. And you just got to, you got to know what’s going on. So that’s item number one.


Kimberly Adams: Can I stop for just a moment and sort of rewind, because I realized that I didn’t actually explain what rank choice voting was?


Kai Ryssdal: That’s so funny, I just kind of assumed knowledge. Yeah, that’s fair. That’s good point.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah. And now I was thinking not everybody knows that. So this is where instead of just voting in an election, and whoever gets the most votes wins, in the way that rank choice voting or instant runoff is lots of folks are talking about in the chat, instant runoff or rank choice voting works is that if nobody gets to 50%, or more than 50%, in the first round of voting, they basically knock off the bottom candidates, the people who got so few votes there’s really no chance. And the people who voted for those folks get their votes distributed amongst the candidates that remain. And if still, nobody reaches more than 50%, they knock off the other bottom candidates. And they keep doing that until somebody gets over the threshold of 50%. And that is rank choice voting. And so maybe they’ll take that and move it into the beginning part of the podcast in post production. Sorry about that. Okay.


Kai Ryssdal: Or, or they can just kind of leave where it was. Because things happen, you know, naturally.


Kimberly Adams: I forget.


Kai Ryssdal: Bridget gets to decide. But anyway. Anyway, yeah. So that’s my substantive news item of the day, that the British economy is deep in serious trouble and the pound is crashing. Number two. I heard something on the Marketplace Morning Report this morning that I just want to distribute to a wider audience. It was David Brancaccio, the host of that program, talking to Julia Coronado, who’s one of their Friday regulars, about the jobs report. And she said something that I think is really important. People feel lousy in this economy because inflation is very high, and things are challenging, and interest rates are going to keep going up. But Julia said this morning that the economy is cooling in an orderly way. And that’s really important. Nothing is crashing, the markets are going down, yes, interest rates are going up, yes, but it’s happening in a planned way. It’s happening not in a chaotic way, the Dow drops a percent a day, that’s fine. Don’t check your 401(k)s every day. It’s not dropping 10% a day. It’s not dropping 5% a day. There’s not crazy volatility. It’s all happening in an orderly way. And that’s really key for people to keep in mind. Okay, I just want everybody to feel better about that.


Kimberly Adams: … in the chat seem to disagree with you on the orderly thing. Or disagree with Julia Coronado.


Kai Ryssdal: Where are they? Where are they? I’m waiting. I’m waiting. The stock market is not the economy. That’s totally true. That’s totally true. The stock market is not the economy. But here’s one way that the economy is cooling in an orderly way. So we had first quarter GDP growth coming in at a negative 1.6%. We had second quarter GDP growth coming in at negative 0.9%, later revised to negative 0.6%. That is to say it’s slowing less. The Atlanta Fed runs a thing called GDPNow, and that has third quarter GDP coming in at a positive 1.6% growth rate. So we’re not growing at the five six seven percent that we were growing late last year. We had a tough first half of the year, and now the second half is bouncing back a little bit. We’re growing but more slowly. What are the other objections?


Kimberly Adams: I love that you have all those numbers off the top of your head. That’s so…


Kai Ryssdal: It’s just literally my job. I just, I’m steeped in this stuff and I hate it. Sometimes I hate it. All right. Anyway, so there we go. And then finally, and most importantly, and fun, Artemis. The Artemis window for tomorrow is 2:17pm Eastern Daylight Time to 4:17pm Eastern Daylight Time. So if you want to see a really big rocket launch, and if they figure out that motor problem, two o’clock in the afternoon, East Coast time.


Kimberly Adams: Shameless plug for the interview we had on Marketplace Tech with Peter Garretson, who’s a space defense commercial, space economy guy, and he – I literally met this dude at a cocktail party, a defense think tank in like 2009, and like I’ve been following his work ever since. And he had so many interesting things to say about, you know, the point of going to the moon, the type of economy that we might set up on the moon, what that means for going to Mars. It was super fascinating.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah. Totally a good shout out.


Kimberly Adams: All right. Game time! People love being able to see him last week, like, over my shoulder in the studio.


Kai Ryssdal: That’s great. So half full half empty is the game, Drew Jostad is in charge. Ready? Go.


Drew Jostad: Okay, are you half full or half empty on being able to tell if you got a phone call from your boss, but it was a deep fake.


Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna let you go first. Because I have things to say.


Kai Ryssdal: In theory that my boss may listen to this podcast, I welcome any phone call from my boss. Fake or not. How about that? Was that cowardly enough? I think it works. So this is based on a story that we did on Tech earlier in the week about – an interview this reporter from Protocol, who had written about the rise in deep fake audio scams, where basically the technology, you know, a deep fake video is still kind of easy to recognize, but a deep fake audio voice is – the technology has gotten so good that you can mimic someone’s voice with like as little as three seconds of their voice. And it doesn’t sound real when you hear it in high quality. But if someone leaves you a voicemail, you can definitely make it sound like someone. So somebody was saying that – we did one and I gave them a little bit of my voice and they tried to deep fake it. But the audio file came back like really, like distorted. And so when we tried to play it, it didn’t quite sound as realistic as I think it would have otherwise. But again, if you’re talking about leaving somebody a voicemail, you might actually – yeah, or on the phone, you might actually call somebody. And so there have been, companies are getting targeted. So there’s already phishing attacks, and you know, all these other things. And companies have lost significant money already doing this. And it’s like, if you got a voicemail from someone who sounded just like your boss, telling you to do something that sounded a little weird, and it was urgent. And they were like, and you couldn’t reach them, what are you going to do? I am half full that this is happening and the technology is getting better. Half empty on what it means for, you know, verification of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. I don’t know. It’s all weird.  That’s fair. That’s fair.


Drew Jostad: Next topic, in the heatwave this week, Californians are being asked to conserve energy, including maybe avoiding charging their cars. Are you half full or half empty?


Kai Ryssdal: Well, so the reason this came up is because 10 days ago, the California Resources Board put out a new regulation that said all new cars sold in the state of California by 2035 have to be non-fossil fuel, right, no emissions. And it’s just a lovely little irony that we’re trying to move, but our power grid can’t handle the move. And by irony, I mean small tragedy because we really got to get moving on this stuff. So I’m half full on the attempt to move, and I’m half empty on the current state of our power grid. How about that?


Kimberly Adams: What Kai said.


Drew Jostad: All right. Easy enough. Little did you know this whole half full half empty is me being a deep fake, but.


Kai Ryssdal: That would have been really funny actually.


Kimberly Adams: Oh gosh. Well, you know everybody thinks that I’m Siri voice, Siri American voice number two anyway, so it’s not like you have to work that hard.


Drew Jostad: Are you half full or half empty on creating oxygen on Mars?


Kimberly Adams: All the way full.


Kai Ryssdal: I’ll be half full. All the way… I mean, yes, of course.


Kimberly Adams: It’s such a small device. So this is the story. I saw it in passing, but I didn’t get all the details on it. Did you? Oh, they gave me a link. Thank you, Marketplace APM in the YouTube chat. Okay, so the Perseverance can make as much oxygen on Mars as a small tree. So, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, better known as MOXIE, has been successfully making oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere in a series of tests as part of NASA’s Perseverance rover mission, which landed on Mars in February of 2021. Which is great because that’s going to help eventually humans and p – yes, plants too. Yeah. Plants on Mars.


Kai Ryssdal: Well, eventually I mean, you know. It will be, we’re gonna get there. We’re gonna have to.


Kimberly Adams: Man, Sharif went to the dark place right away. It could wake something up that should have stayed asleep. Come on, dude.


Kai Ryssdal: Well, did you read the thing – I mean Bridget put this in the chat, I gave her a little bit of a hard time. They’re building a special like, like bio lab to handle all the Mars samples, in case there’s something in there that should be asleep.


Kimberly Adams: Yes, yes, indeed.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, yeah. Anyway.


Drew Jostad: All right, are you half full or half empty on those gray wood panel floors?


Kai Ryssdal: I have zero idea what you’re talking about.


Drew Jostad: This is a story that Reema did on Monday, cue on Marketplace about the HGTV-ification of home decor.


Kai Ryssdal: I’m a regular conventional hardwood guy. Yeah, I mean, empty? Hard empty.


Kimberly Adams: So on the one hand, I do appreciate like the streamline, the cool look, in that it allows – because it is so mainstream, it allows a lot of people a more affordable way to get a kind of decorating that makes them feel good about their homes. So I will give it that. On the other hand, it does kind of strip the warmth out of places, I feel? I like it in lobbies, and maybe even in hotels, but not necessarily in homes. Give Kai a break. He had the day off. Gosh.


Kai Ryssdal: Just for the record, it’s documented that I have a very hard time listening to my program when I’m not on my program. I’ve never made any secret of that. Ever. It’s really hard for me to listen when I’m not doing it. It’s hard for me to listen when I am doing it, but that’s a whole different thing. It’s true. And now you know a little something about me. Drew help me! Stop. Save me.


Drew Jostad: Dolly Parton is starting a line of pet clothing and accessories called Doggy Parton. Are you half full or half empty?


Kimberly Adams: I know she’s a national treasure. I wanted to do that as my make me smile yesterday, but was totally preempted by that amazing letter that we got from our listener. My only half – so actually, I’m gonna go half full on this, because there’s nothing for cats, as far as I could tell.


Kai Ryssdal: You know why?


Kimberly Adams: So no wait for Jasper.


Kai Ryssdal: I’m gonna alienate half the audience and my co-host here. Dogs are better.


Kimberly Adams: For what? Dogs are better for what?


Kai Ryssdal: Dogs are better for everything.


Kimberly Adams: Mm hmm. Do you know what cats are better for? Ever sleeping late again.


Kai Ryssdal: That’s, that’s fair. That’s fair. Totally. Oh man goodness, we avoided the civil war. Alright, we’re –


Kimberly Adams: Put your hand in the bag and touch the warm?


Kai Ryssdal: Oh, yes, but nor do you have to empty a freaking litter box if you’ve got dogs. I mean, well, I suppose you have to pick up the poop as opposed to scooping it. Yes, I know. I know. I heard it when I said it. Nevermind.


Kimberly Adams: No, no, my uncle – my uncles when they’re both still with us, I was trying to suggest things for them that might make their lives a little bit easier while my uncle was handling full time caregiving and my other uncle was quite ill. And I suggested for them that they get one of these automatic robot litter boxes. So one less thing they have to do would be to clean the litter box for their cat, Buddy. So instead, they looked at it and they thought it was a really great idea. And they sent it to me. So I have a robot litter box because my uncles were like that’s a great idea. For you.


Kai Ryssdal: Once people reach a certain age, you can’t change them in their ways. You just, you just can’t. Old tricks things. See what I did there? Oh my goodness. Alright, we’re going. We’re going. We are off on Monday for Labor Day. If you are as well, enjoy yourself; if you’re working, thank you for working on a holiday. Join us Tuesday though. We’re going to talk artificial intelligence. Lots of talk about it these days, we will add to it. We’ll do a primer a little bit, we’ll do possibilities and challenges. And that’ll be on Tuesday.


Kimberly Adams: So I’ll have to stop because it looks like we’ve got our next fundraising item, because lots of people are suggesting econ daddy shirts. Do you understand this reference?


Kai Ryssdal: I don’t even know what you mean by econ daddy shirt. I don’t know. Who’s the econ daddy?


Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna explained that to you later.


Kai Ryssdal: No, I’m not – don’t do not. We’re not doing the econ daddy. No.


Kimberly Adams: I don’t know if you can stop it at this point Kai. In the meantime, keep sending us your thoughts and questions, we’re at Or you can leave us a message including, with your T shirt recommendations. We’re at 508-827-6278. That’s 508-U-B-SMART. Everybody says explain on camera. No, I think I need to be away with him while –


Kai Ryssdal: Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera. Today’s episode lalalalalala – today’s episode was engineered by Drew Jostad. The Senior Producer of this podcast is Bridget Bodnar.


Kimberly Adams: The team behind the YouTube live stream and our Friday game is Mel Rosenberg and Emily Macune, and with theme music by the always wonderful Drew Jostad. And our Director of On Demand is Donna Tam. And shout out to Mel Rosenberg and Emily Macune for struggling with this without our wonderful Steven. And I know it’s a little bit of a struggle, but we’re getting there.

None of us is as smart as all of us.

No matter how bananapants your day is, “Make Me Smart” is here to help you through it all— 5 days a week.

It’s never just a one-way conversation. Your questions, reactions, and donations are a vital part of the show. And we’re grateful for every single one.

Donate any amount to become a Marketplace Investor and help make us smarter (and make us smile!) every day.

The team

Marissa Cabrera Senior Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer