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Act Three: Washington, D.C.

Ira asks Washington-insider Norman Ornstein if we actually need to be paying attention to all of the Fiscal Cliff political news. Or can it wait until next week? Ornstein is the author of the book It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.

Act Four: Pre K-O

Producer Alex Blumberg tells the story of how Oklahoma, against huge odds,came to have the first and best publicly-funded pre-school system in thecountry, and how one businessman joined the fight because a cardboard boxfull of evidence convinced him that pre-school was the smartest businessdecision the state could make.

Act One: The Hamster Wheel

Planet Money's Alex Blumberg and NPR Congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook take a tour through the world of money and politics, discovering just how much time members of Congress spend raising money and which committee assignments yield the biggest campaign donations. They also try to figure out what all this money is actually buying.For an interactive map of Washington DC fundraiser locations, charts of the best and worst types of fundraisers, and other online extras, visit Planet Money's website.

Act Two: PAC Men

Everything about political fundraising is changing right now, because of the2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal ElectionCommission.

Act Three: The O.G.s

Ten years ago, Congress voted to reform campaign finance, after Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold took up the cause. Here they reunite on the radio, to reminisce and lament how that reform failed.

Prologue

In the town of Nowthen, MN, residents held meetings to debate whether a police force is worth the cost. And in Springfield, IL, the state police motorcycle division has been cut, leading to an increase in highway fatalities.

Act One: The Sound of Sirens

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has led some of the most sweeping budget cuts in the country. Producer Sarah Koenig reports from Trenton, where one third of the police force has been laid off, leading to dramatically increased crime.

Act Two: Dream Come True

Perhaps the biggest proponent of smaller government in the United States is lobbyist and activist Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform. He envisions a government reduced in size by half, and has compelled scores of conservative politicians take pledges to never raise taxes.

Prologue

Ira Glass asks guest host Alex Blumberg whether we should really care about the current European debt crisis. The answer: yes, we should, and we should WANT to care too, because this story—and it's actually the story of the Euro itself—is very surprising and dramatic.