Political Cartoons – Raising the National Debt Ceiling

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August 5, 2015

The political cartoons included in this blog are selected as tools to teach about public policy issues. Their inclusion does not in any way constitute an endorsement by Teachers College, Columbia University, of their point of view.

Political cartoons can be a powerful way to teach and talk about public policy issues in the classroom. They engaging, often funny, and they teach very complex ideas in a quick and intuitive way. We are so convinced of the value of political cartoons that, in addition to including them in many of our blogs, we feature posts that are all cartoons.

Using cartoons presents an opportunity to teach students media literacy, including the ability to detect point of view or bias. As a sequence, we strongly encourage students to study the cartoon carefully, analyze the specific context of the cartoon, and determine the cartoonist’s point of view. See the blog post of October 8, 2013 for a guide to using the political cartoons we have selected. The Library of Congress also has a a very useful Cartoon Analysis Guide.

 

*Although not all of these are current, 2015 cartoons, I thought they were a great addition to the current questions regarding raising the federal debt ceiling permanently. 

 

 

 

 

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Should there be a federal debt ceiling?

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August 5, 2015

Should there be a limit on how much the federal government can borrow?

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) set forth that question in a report last month which outlined the results of the 2013 debt limit impasse and subsequent government shut down.  Presently, the federal government has been using emergency measures since March in order to avoid going over the federal debt limit.  The Wall Street Journal also points out that the 2013 impasse cost taxpayers between $38 to $70 million.

Have students research pros and cons to raising (or eliminating) the federal debt limit before drawing a conclusion based on the facts and information they find.  How does this tie to UFR Lesson 1.1 on Social Security and the national debt, and UFR Lesson 1.4 on taxation and the national debt?

 

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What should the federal minimum wage be?

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August 5, 2015

The “Fight for Fifteen” movement has been in the news outlets a lot lately; people who are protesting the federal minimum wage and insisting on an increase to at least $15 an hour.  Progressive Independent candidate for president Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supports this move.

There is a lot in the mass media lately about the topic.  Slate offers a map from Pew showing what an increase to $15 an hour would look like across the country (same map is used by the Washington Post, with different rhetoric), while Huffington Post outlines why such a move would be good for US businesses.

The Wall Street Journal, however, looks at a number of proposals on the federal minimum wage, and offers pros and cons for each level.  The question posed is “what should the (federal) pay floor be six years down the road?”.  WSJ also has a great interactive chart where students could see differences between the states, such as when individual state increase in the minimum wage last took place.

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Millenials and the Student Loan “Crisis”

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August 5, 2015

I came across a really interesting article in the Wall Street Journal blogs about how “Boomerang” millenials were not moving out of their parents’ homes in this post-Great Recession period.  The term “boomerang” is used to describe these 20-somethings who have moved back into their parents’ households after college for various reasons.  One of the key reasons, the blog mentions, is the advent of crippling student loan debt.

The WSJ article estimates that 26% of millenials live with their parents (millenials are defined as those born in 1981 or later), even as the unemployment rate for that age range has dropped dramatically from its high of 12.4% in 2010.  Student loan debt, however, has increased dramatically, to an average of $12,000 in 2014 from $5300 in 2005.  Federal Reserve economists estimate that each additional $10,000 in student loan debt makes it 4.6% more likely a millenial will move in with a parent.

This led me to look around a little bit to see what was being said in the news about this student loan “crisis”.  In the recent past, there was a movement for the federal government to forgive all outstanding student loans, but that has mostly turned into capping repayment to 10% of monthly income and forgiving the debt after a certain number of payments (usually 10 or 20 years).

Market Watch, however, argues that student loans will be a hot topic in this years presidential elections, and outlines major candidates’ stances on the issue.

This is a great opportunity for students – many of whom will face the issue of student loans sooner than they may expect – to read through the information and determine two things:  (1) is the student loan “crisis” a national priority (UFR Lesson 2.4 on political beliefs and the national debt)? and (2) How much of what is in the media actually falls under political rhetoric (UFR Lesson 2.5)?

 

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Krugman & the Disappearing Entitlements Crisis

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August 5, 2015

In a blog post from July 26, Princeton economist Paul Krugman outlines why the “entitlements crisis” of a few years ago is almost nonexistent now.  The parallels to UFR Lesson 1.1 on Social Security and the national debt were very interesting, and I think it could be a great current event piece to bring to students.

The entitlement crisis of which Krugman speaks was the constant worry of the growth of Social Security and parallel arms of Medicare and Medicaid.  He credits the disappearance of that crisis to the Affordable Care Act, and states that the reports of Social Security and Medicare trustees supports the leveling of entitlement spending (as per a different blog comparing the history of Social Security spending).

Have students analyze the data to determine how such a leveling of entitlements has occured.  It’s a great lesson in economic reasoning and supply and demand.  Do they think it is sustainable?  Have them back up their opinion with data and facts.

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Political Cartoons – Greece Bailout

Tagged: , , . | Category: Blog

August 5, 2015

The political cartoons included in this blog are selected as tools to teach about public policy issues. Their inclusion does not in any way constitute an endorsement by Teachers College, Columbia University, of their point of view.

Political cartoons can be a powerful way to teach and talk about public policy issues in the classroom. They engaging, often funny, and they teach very complex ideas in a quick and intuitive way. We are so convinced of the value of political cartoons that, in addition to including them in many of our blogs, we feature posts that are all cartoons.

Using cartoons presents an opportunity to teach students media literacy, including the ability to detect point of view or bias. As a sequence, we strongly encourage students to study the cartoon carefully, analyze the specific context of the cartoon, and determine the cartoonist’s point of view. See the blog post of October 8, 2013 for a guide to using the political cartoons we have selected. The Library of Congress also has a a very useful Cartoon Analysis Guide.

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#greekcrisis and #greekment

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August 5, 2015

Living in the 21st century, students have access to live commentary that, to be perfectly honest, was just never possible in the past.  Following #greekcrisis and #greekment (after the European Council President’s comment that the Greek bailout deal was “an agreekment”) on Twitter allow people to see more than just what the talking heads on national media would normally show.

A hashtag is a way to sort news.  No one person owns a hashtag on social media, and it allows multiple users, and therefore multiple viewpoints.

Having students use Twitter as a primary source for current events has a number of “pluses” – it is a language they understand, it gives the story of everyday life and people, and, perhaps most importantly, it teaches a great lesson on bias and learning that who information comes from is just as important (if not more important) than what is being imparted.

Just skimming through my Twitter feed for #greekcrisis, I can see a variety of different posts, ranging from “All Greeks are Satanists.” to “4 in 10 Greeks live in poverty.”  Let students loose on the Greek hashtags to see if they can find a story and follow it.  How do they choose what resources to use?  How do they determine what is not useful?  This can lead to great discussions not only on the Greek debt crisis, but on bias in media.

 

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Greece Updates

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August 5, 2015

I apologize for the absence – I thought posts were going in, and have found that I was doing something wrong and my posts were lost!  You’d think after doing this for over a year, I’d know how to continue.

So, some updates on Greece are in order.  In early July, there was a referendum in Greece regarding the debt crisis and the Eurozone.  The vote came back as a “no”, meaning that the people did not want the Greek government to accept the debt restructuring offer from the European Union.

Cut to today, where a bailout deal is almost in place, although there are some doubts whether it is enough to stop Greece from spiraling into economic depression.  Greece is hoping for new loans that will help ease the government’s austerity movement that has been in place since earlier this year.

As the world continues to watch the Greek economic and debt crisis, digging into UFR Lesson 4.2 on debt and power relations could help students look at the relationship between debtor and debtee nations.  The lesson focuses on China and the US, but have students look deeper into a comparison between that relationship and the one between Greece and the rest of the European Union.  Are there “winners” and “losers” in these power relationships?

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WSJ Discussion

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July 7, 2015

The Wall Street Journal hosted a Q&A for chief European commentator Simon Nixon today.  It has some very interesting information and forecasting in regards to the Greek debt crisis that may be of interest for students.

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Greece decides

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July 7, 2015

The Greek government was hoping for a “no” vote on the referendum they sent to their citizens last week – and they received it.  The question posed was whether Greece should accept the offer from the Eurozone on restructuring the crushing debt owed.   This decision will most probably lead to a departure from the European Union and a return to the drachma.

The Toronto Globe and Mail has an article stating that the No vote on the referendum is “a perfect example of politics trumping economics”.  The article, contributed by economist Andre Gerolymatos of Simon Fraser University, gives a very succinct and helpful outline of why European countries such as Greece, Portugal, and Italy felt they had to sell debts to third parties, to “keep the illusion of solvency”.  Time and again, restructuring the Greek debt has not solved the problem.

The Jerusalem Post offers a different look at the referendum itself, and the argument on whether this No vote automatically means a release of Greece from the Eurozone.  They point out that four out of five Greeks want to stay with the Euro, and Europe’s leaders don’t want Greece to leave the Eurozone for various reasons.

The Brookings Institute calls for a deal to be made, and there are widespread concerns that Greece did not come to the table today with a viable plan (NY Times, USA Today, and BBC).

This unfolding story is an excellent time to review UFR Lesson 4.4 and the guiding question on Greece: When is one country’s problem everyone’s problem?

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