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We learn (some of) what Jerome Powell is thinking
May 12, 2022
Episode 662

We learn (some of) what Jerome Powell is thinking

Plus, recent discoveries show the power of science.

Today, instead of guessing what Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is thinking, we asked. Our hosts talk about the newsiest and funniest parts of Kai’s interview with the head of the Fed. Plus, a scientific revelation about sudden infant death syndrome may provide some peace for parents. And, speaking of incredible science, we marvel at mind-blowing new pictures of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

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Join us Friday for Economics on Tap. We’ll be livestreaming on YouTube starting at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time, 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

Make Me Smart May 12, 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: Wait, seriously, did you just say here we go?

Kimberly Adams: We were supposed to start at 6:15.

Kai Ryssdal: Oh my god. Alright, fine. Fine. Go ahead.

Kimberly Adams: Move that mic to the side. You’re gonna get plosives. Hey, I’m Kimberly Adams, and welcome back to Make Me Smart where we make today make sense

Kai Ryssdal: I’m Kai Ryssdal, not p-popping into my microphone. Thanks for joining us on this Thursday, we’re gonna do the news we’ll wrap things up with some make me smiles, move briskly on. There is a beer in my future, about which I’ll explain more later. Anyway. Anyway, here we are.

Kimberly Adams: Well, you had a busy day, Mr. Ryssdal.

Kai Ryssdal: I did. Indeed I did. Indeed. And I think for the first time ever, actually, I’m quoting myself as my news fix.

Kimberly Adams: Ooh, go for it.

Kai Ryssdal: We did it a couple of weeks ago with with the interview that Molly and I did with the professor at Middlebury about reproductive health and economic rights. This is much more, I don’t even know, I will just say straight ahead. I sat down with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jay Powell today, four years almost to the day after the first time I interviewed him. And, number one, that was an interesting experience, because he was brand new in his job last time and a little more relaxed and free flowing. This time, he’s very much more aware that he is the chairman of the Federal Reserve. But also and this is the part that made the interview worthwhile. And I am p-popping into the microphone. Sorry, I know, whatever they’ll you know, let’s invest in some windscreens here at Marketplace East, shall we? The thing that made the interview worthwhile today is that this is a much trickier time in the economy. And Powell is trying to do that thing that Paul Volcker did but with some economic pain, which is get inflation down without cratering the economy, I should tell you that Paul Volcker did, in fact, crater the economy with recessions in 81 and 82, when Powell was trying really hard not to do that. Anyway, so had an interview with Powell. today. We are almost all of it on marketplace this afternoon. I just want to point out the newsiest item out of it, which is that in in their prior meeting last week, the most recent Federal Reserve meeting, Powell in his press conference said, “Look, we’re gonna raise half a percentage point twice this year. And we’re not going to raise it three quarters of a percentage point.” And everybody went, “Wait, really, you’re not?” And I said to him today, “look, are you really not raising three quarters of percentage points?” And he said, “Well, you know, maybe we will.” So.

Kimberly Adams: He was like, “I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that.”

Kai Ryssdal: He tried to do that. Thankfully I had the transcript at my fingertips because I was like, oh “yes you did, it’s right here.” The news is that look, if Powell has to raise rates, three quarters of a percentage point, he will and that’s that’s a big deal. And we’ll see how the markets react tomorrow. It’s it’s a big deal. I think.

Kimberly Adams: I think everybody thinks that. So that’s what everyone was tweeting about after, after the interview aired or the transcript came out. You didn’t talk about the fun moment, though.

Kai Ryssdal: Oh. You- you explain the moment.

Kimberly Adams: The fun moment is at the end of the interview. So in, on Marketplace, Kai often says, you know, to the weekly wrap guests, “What is Jay Powell thinking and five words or less?” So in this context, he asked Jay Powell, “What is Jay Powell thinking in five words or less?”

Kai Ryssdal: I thought it was kind of genius myself. Might I just say,

Kimberly Adams: I was thinking while we were sitting out that I was listening with Nancy Farghalli, the wonderful executive producer of Marketplace of other ways he could have answered that. Like, this is a weird game. Oh, so yeah.

Kai Ryssdal:It worked out, it worked out, I asked Jay Powell what Jay Powell it thinking. So so it was good. Good day. Good day for me.

Kimberly Adams: It was a good day, long one for you, though.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, that’s alright. Yeah, so your news – this this SIDS thing is amazing.

Kimberly Adams: It’s amazing. Like, it’s it’s sad, but it’s probably such a relief to so many people. Okay, so, the Children’s Hospital Westmead in Sydney, Australia, released a study that finally gives an answer to why sometimes babies just die in sudden infant death syndrome, lots of babies have died from it. It’s so traumatizing to parents and families, especially because parents have been told over the years exactly this that SIDS could be prevented if they did the right things. You have baby bumpers in your cribs, don’t put them on their tummy. And, you know, careful with blankets and all these other things. That effectively meant that when a baby died from SIDS, the parents felt like it was their fault. And this research that just came out if it holds up to peer review, and everything else, but it was published in a very reputable journal. It’s not their fault. There’s an enzyme that babies that have, that die of SIDS have a much higher concentration of this enzyme in their blood than babies who don’t. And basically, this enzyme is the sort of primordial thing that when you are in danger, you wake up like if your body stops breathing, your body will also wake you up to make you start breathing again to cry. And the infant’s that died of SIDS have less of this enzyme. So what this means is that all of those parents can know that it’s not their fault

Kai Ryssdal: I just – the amount of time, look, it’s been a long time since I had a baby. But the amount of time we spent worrying about literally about the bumpers and the sleep thing and on their tummy and all of that it’s I can’t imagine what parents whose whose infants die go through thinking it’s their fault and now it’s not.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I hope this brings peace to so many people. And yeah, so it’s it I almost had it as it Make Me Smile because it’s such a good bit of science. But it’s it’s news news and you know, those poor poor families, but I hope this gives them some peace. So God bless science.

Kai Ryssdal: Absolutely. Well, Juan Carlos hit it alright, just for the record, what we have now I would just like to say that what we have now Molly and I had a little while I think it’s a little more a little fiercer with me and Kimberly. It’s the race to put in to Make Me Smile as soon as the rundown comes down because the other – you know, the other ones thinking of it.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah.

Kai Ryssdal: So Kimberly beat me to it today, we decided we would share.

Kimberly Adams: Yes.

Kai Ryssdal: But I’m gonna get up pretty damn early. That’s all I’m saying.

Kimberly Adams: Well, it wouldn’t have mattered because I I waited until Bridget put it in a Slack channel. And I think you were like interviewing Powell at the time, so there’s nothing you could have done. Anyway, both of us are super excited about the photo or composition image that came out of literally the black hole that is in the center of our galaxy. It’s in the center of the galaxy, and there’s an image of it, and it’s so cool. And all of these fun details are coming out about the black hole that we are all spinning around. Like for example, the angle of like the event horizon is slightly different than what scientists expected meaning that our location in the spin of the Milky Way is a little bit higher up then we thought and the press release from the had this wonderful line in it that says “because the black hole is about 27,000 light years away from Earth, it appears to us to have about the same size in the sky as a doughnut on the moon.”

Kai Ryssdal: On the moon, did you see there’s, somebody did an animation one of the one of the observation laboratories did an animation where they started you know with a picture of the moon in the sky and then zoomed in and kept zooming and kept zooming and then there’s this donut on the moon it’s crazy and it gives you a sense of how far away this thing is how tiny a donut on the moon is, it’s wild.

Kimberly Adams: I just want to know how that conversation went with the scientists like “how are we going to explain to people how far away this is and how small it is relative to other things in the sky?” And someone was like “How about a donut on the moon?”

Kai Ryssdal: Right also not to be a downer but Katie Tur on MSNBC said today at some point I saw this going by in a tweet, she said “So there’s a black hole at the center of the galaxy black holes sucking all available light how long till we get sucked into it and what’s even the purpose of anything anymore?”

Kimberly Adams: Okay.

Kai Ryssdal: I don’t know. You know.

Kimberly Adams: Way, way to steal the joy you know what? I think we’ve probably got some time.

Kai Ryssdal: Yes. I’m sure we do.

Kimberly Adams: I think we’ve got some time. And you know, if you watched what was that movie with the event horizon, it was oh, I don’t know. Oh, gosh. If only we had the YouTube chat, it was the one where the planet was dying and they had to come up with like a way to send the whole population of Earth elsewhere. And they the guy like traveled to  – “Interstellar,” there we go. “Interstellar.” Yeah, you know, it ended up being like such a long time between, you know, time flows differently the closer you get to a black hole, and therefore, we’ve got some we’ve got way more time than we thought. Okay, probably mess that up. But that is it for us for today. I will be back tomorrow for Economics on Tap with the wonderful Sabri Ben-Achour or and we’re probably going to talk about plants and have a drink about them. News and plants and play a game and it’s all going to be live streamed on YouTube. You can join us at 3:30pm Pacific or 6:30pm Eastern both Sabri and I will be on East Coast time.

Kai Ryssdal: I have to tell you one of my secret pleasures is Sabri Ben-Achour’s Instagram feed. It’s pretty great. Yes, he is a plant savant  it’s crazy what that guy knows about plants.

Kimberly Adams: Have you seen his pottery though?

Kai Ryssdal: Oh, yeah. Oh, and his pottery too, right? Yeah, absolutely. That’s a separate Instagram feed. But yeah, both of those.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, Sabri makes me feel like just not accomplished as a human sometimes.

Kai Ryssdal: Totally, totally agree. All right. I – Sabri will be here I will be on a plane back to L.A. And so you know I’ll be having a beer on the plane in the meanwhile though. Send us your thoughts your questions, your comments whatever you like our email is Make Me Smart at or leave us a message 508-U-B-SMART is the way you can do that.

Kimberly Adams: Indeed. Make Me Smart is produced by Marisa Cabrera with help from our intern Tiffany BUI. Today’s episode was engineered by Juan Carlos Torrado.

Kai Ryssdal: Bridget Bodnar is the senior producer of this podcast although I guess couldn’t be bothered to attend the taping today. I don’t know.

Kimberly Adams:  Marissa did it.

Kai Ryssdal: The director of On Demand is Donna Tam I’m sure that’ll show up in Bridget’s performance review. Inexplicably takes off.

Kimberly Adams: And so ends our in-person, Make Me Smart experience.

Kai Ryssdal: For now.

Kimberly Adams: For now.

Kai Ryssdal:  It’s not like I’m never coming back.

Kimberly Adams: Oh, Ellen’s coming.  Ellen’s coming.  I got pictures, Ellen.


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