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Economists On Screen, Episode 3: Aaron Sorkin

Cast members of the NBC drama The West Wing.
James Sorenson
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NBC/Newsmakers via Getty Images

The Indicator is in Atlanta this week, at the American Economic Association annual conference. So you, dear listener, get a little extra screen time. All this week, we're looking at the ways in which economists are portrayed in television series and in the movies.

Today, we look at shows developed by producer and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. In the TV show The West Wing, President Jed Bartlet is a Nobel Prize-winning economist. In one memorable rapid-fire exchange between the president and his staff, Bartlet and his staff debate the ups and downs of free trade.

A few years later, Sorkin's show The Newsroom took on the Glass-Steagall Act. In the show, economist-turned-reporter Sloan Sabbith gives a thumbnail history of Glass-Steagall and argues that its repeal played a pivotal role in the financial crisis.

Today Cardiff and Stacey discuss these shows and the way they deal with these economic concepts.

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Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; she's traveled to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and she's spoken with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.
Cardiff Garcia is a co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money podcast, along with Stacey Vanek Smith. He joined NPR in November 2017.