David Kestenbaum

David Kestenbaum is a correspondent for NPR, covering science, energy issues and, most recently, the global economy for NPR's multimedia project Planet Money. David has been a science correspondent for NPR since 1999. He came to journalism the usual way — by getting a Ph.D. in physics first.

In his years at NPR, David has covered science's discoveries and its darker side, including the Northeast blackout, the anthrax attacks and the collapse of the New Orleans levees. He has also reported on energy issues, particularly nuclear and climate change.

David has won awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

David worked briefly on the show This American Life, and set up a radio journalism program in Cambodia on a Fulbright fellowship. He also teaches a journalism class at Johns Hopkins University.

David holds a bachelor's of science degree in physics from Yale University and a doctorate in physics from Harvard University.

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Planet Money
2:06 am
Thu July 5, 2012

The Farmer And The Commerce Clause

The U.S. Supreme Court, 70 years after rejecting Roscoe Filburn's bid to limit the federal government's power to regulate commerce.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 9:25 pm

Last week's Supreme Court ruling on the health care law might have made Roscoe Filburn a little happier.

Filburn was an Ohio dairy farmer who had a beef with the federal government, one he took to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1942. He lost.

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Planet Money
2:16 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Toxie's In a Museum

courtesy Museum of the City of New York

Originally published on Tue May 22, 2012 2:56 pm

Toxie, Planet Money's toxic asset, has a new home. She used to sit in my desk drawer — 300 some worn pages, marked with post-its. But a few weeks ago, a curator from the Museum of the City of New York came to take custody of her. She's now on display as part of an exhibit about banking in New York.

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Planet Money
12:30 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Nobel Laureate: 'I've Been Wrong So Often, I Don't Find It Extraordinary At All'

"I'm 101 at the moment," Ronald Coase said.
University of Chicago

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 6:07 pm

I recently had a brief conversation with Ronald Coase.

"I'm 101 at the moment," he told me. "I get older by the minute."

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Planet Money
1:49 am
Fri April 27, 2012

When Should A Country Abandon Its Own Money?

Enough already with the krona?
Jesse Garrison Flickr

Originally published on Mon May 7, 2012 11:16 am

Iceland is a tiny nation in a big financial mess. It's still recovering from the aftermath of the 2008 global economic crisis, which caused a domestic banking collapse.

Its currency, the krona, is also in really bad shape. That's led Icelanders to pose an existential currency question: Should they abandon the krona?

One key problem is size. Iceland has about as many people as Staten Island, so there just aren't that many people on the planet who need to use the krona.

"There are more people using Disney dollars," says Arsaell Valfells, an Icelandic economist.

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Planet Money
3:56 am
Thu March 22, 2012

From Abe Lincoln To Donald Duck: History Of The Income Tax

U.S. Treasury Department/Walt Disney

Originally published on Fri March 23, 2012 8:02 am

The story of how the U.S. wound up with the income tax is the story of two wars, a Supreme Court justice on his death bed, and Donald Duck.

It's also the story of how the government overcame three obstacles.

Obstacle No. 1: Logistics

How do you make sure people pay?

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Planet Money
11:01 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

China's Giant Pool Of Dollars

There is an advantage to strengthening the currency for people in China: It makes their imports cheaper. A clerk counts bank notes in a bank in Nantong, east China's Jiangsu Province.
Xinhua /Landov

Originally published on Thu March 15, 2012 10:08 am

China's central bank is sitting on a giant pool of U.S. dollars. It's the world's biggest holder of foreign reserves, worth over $3 trillion at last count.

All that money has piled up because every year, China exports more than it imports; it runs a trade surplus.

There are lots of reasons for China's trade surplus. In the past few decades, China has built an amazing manufacturing ecosystem. It's become the factory to the world.

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Planet Money
2:38 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

From Cell Phones To Cigarettes: The Long Arm Of The Chinese Government

How many government-owned businesses do you see in this picture?
Ed Jones AFP/Getty Images

The streets of Beijing and Shanghai feel like an entrepreneurial free-for-all, full of mom-and-pop stores and street vendors selling snacks and cheap toys.

But when you pull back the curtain, you see a different picture: a country where the government still controls huge swaths of the economy.

When you're in China, there's a good chance you're doing business with the government every time you:

  • make a call on your cellphone (the government owns the country's biggest cellphone network)
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Planet Money
11:00 am
Thu February 16, 2012

Is China An Economic Miracle, Or A Bubble Waiting To Pop?

This can't go on forever.
Jacob Goldstein NPR

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 11:18 am

China's economy sailed through the financial crisis unscathed — at least in the short run.

When the global crisis hit, the country's government-owned banks started lending out lots more money. The money came largely from the savings accounts of ordinary Chinese people. It went largely to finance big construction projects, which helped keep China's economy growing.

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Planet Money
10:55 am
Fri January 20, 2012

The Secret Document That Transformed China

Yen Jingchang was one of the signers of the secret document.
Jacob Goldstein NPR

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 8:03 pm

In 1978, the farmers in a small Chinese village called Xiaogang gathered in a mud hut to sign a secret contract. They thought it might get them executed. Instead, it wound up transforming China's economy in ways that are still reverberating today.

The contract was so risky — and such a big deal — because it was created at the height of communism in China. Everyone worked on the village's collective farm; there was no personal property.

"Back then, even one straw belonged to the group," says Yen Jingchang, who was a farmer in Xiaogang in 1978. "No one owned anything."

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