TSA woes

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May 31, 2016

I’ll admit it.  I’ve been on vacation.  My husband and I took a plane and I checked my work email twice.  It was wonderful.

Before we left, a friend posted this article about long lines for security at O’Hare International Airport (Chicago).  Now, we didn’t fly out of O’Hare, but it scared us into arriving pretty darn early for our flight.  “Lines longer than the eyes can see”! and “over two hours to get through security”!!

Photo published for TSA troubles could spell a long summer for travelers. Here’s how to lessen the pain

The supposed reason behind these delays has to do with the federal contract with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the laying off of thousands of TSA workers.  This comes at the same time that “passenger numbers are approaching record numbers“, causing huge delays.  TSA had hoped the new “pre-check” system would help, but has found that fewer people than expected have signed up for it.  I haven’t.  The application process just seems clunky and long, and the nearest service center (where you are required to go for an interview) was over 30 miles away.  But when I was able to upgrade our flights to business class, it automatically pushed us into TSA PreCheck, which I found rather weird.

The New York Post states that after complaints were brought against TSA, the agency response was that the lines were the fault of unprepared travelers.  At the same time, CNN reported that the Department of Homeland Security will approve the use of overtime and additional staff to improve the situation.

Photos of long security lines made social media, egged on by the hashtag #ihatethewait.

All of this has led to some discussion of airports hiring private security firms to replace TSA screening.

If we look at national security as a whole, how does the TSA, a federal government agency, fit in?  UFR Lesson 1.3, The Economics of National Security, does not necessarily address TSA in specific, but does outline national security with the essential dilemma “How do we know if we are getting good value out of the money we spend on defense?”.  After using 1.3, have students turn to the TSA and research more about what is currently happening (hint: it’s improved in the last two weeks).  Where does public scrutiny fit in?

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Kiosks, Robots, & Housekeeping Opt-Outs (AEI)

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May 31, 2016

Sorry, I’ve been on vacation a few weeks.  Time to catch up!

I read a really interesting blog post at American Enterprise Institute, outlining what some markets are choosing to circumvent what seems like imminent minimum wage increases.  They point out that for sectors such as certain fast-food franchises, buying mechanical arms/robots or using kiosks for ordering food is much cheaper, overall, than paying $15/hour for a person to do the same work.

Even more interesting, however, is the movement by hotel chains (they mention Marriott as the leader in this) to offer extra “bonus points” to their free reward/loyalty memberships for people who opt out of housekeeping duties (Teachers College does not endorse Marriott, this is an example only).  This does a few things:

  • Cuts down on the number of housekeepers/hours worked by housekeepers, therefore limiting how much is paid in housekeeping wages,
  • Provides incentives to the people actually staying (not necessarily paying) at the hotel, as it is targeted for potentially longer-staying business travelers, and
  • In the case of business travelers, doesn’t affect the ones paying for the hotel.

Interestingly enough, Marriott is also the chain that worked with journalist Maria Shriver a few years ago to add housekeeper tipping envelopes to guest rooms to encourage tipping (due to low wages).

I like tying the minimum wage debate to UFR Lesson 2.4 on political beliefs. What do your students think?

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Sanders and Taxes

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May 11, 2016

Note: Discussion and blog posts on presidential candidates does not equate to endorsement of any candidate by Teacher’s College or Columbia University.

Continuing the look at the major candidates for president in the 2016 election and their tax plans, we focus today on Bernie Sanders. On his website, Sanders outlines pretty clearly that he plans to increase taxes on corporations, Wall Street speculators, and those who inherit more than $3.5 million.   Under his Medicare plan, he outlines the revenue raised from a new progressive income tax plan for the highest earners in the country:

  • 37% on income between $250k & $500k
  • 43% on income between $500k & $2m
  • 48% on income between $2m and $10m
  • 52% on income above $10m

He also suggests increasing the capital gains tax, and limiting tax deductions for the rich.

CNN Money points out that Sanders’ tax proposals will increase taxes for only 5% of households, but when adding in the combined proposals that he has for Medicare, college costs, and long term care support, it could add to more than $18 trillion in deficits, since the programs would outpace the increased revenue proposed.

Taxation directly relates to UFR Lesson 1.4on Taxation and the National Debt.  Have students consider the essential dilemma “Is there a fair and efficient way to fund and maintain the public services we want?” while considering Mr. Sanders’ tax plan.

 

 

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Clinton and Taxes

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May 10, 2016

Note: Discussion and blog posts on presidential candidates does not equate to endorsement of any candidate by Teacher’s College or Columbia University.

My previous post on candidate Donald Trump and his stance on taxes got me thinking about the other major candidates for president, as well.  This one will focus on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s tax plan.

On Clinton’s campaign website, there’s no single place that outlines her stance on income taxes.  However, under “Plan to Raise American Incomes“, she does outline tax relief for families, a tax cut for families with college students, and a tax cut for businesses who use a profit-sharing model with employees.  Clinton also focuses on cutting taxes for small businesses.  In addition, although there is a section on “Reforming our tax code so the wealthiest pay their fair share”, there is little information on what that means other than closing various tax loopholes such as the “Buffett Rule“, hinting at the story that Warren Buffett has related that he actually pays a lower effective tax rate than his own secretary.

The media has also focused on Clinton’s tax plans.  The Tax Policy Center has a succinct outline of effects of Clinton’s proposed plans: revenue would increase by $1.1 trillion, with the majority of those increases on the top 1% of wage earners.

(Chart from OyeTimes:  http://www.oyetimes.com/news/america/93293-the-clinton-tax-plan-what-we-know-so-far )

As with the post on Mr. Trump, taxation directly relates to UFR Lesson 1.4 on Taxation and the National Debt.  Have students consider the essential dilemma “Is there a fair and efficient way to fund and maintain the public services we want?” while considering Ms. Clinton’s tax plan.

 

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Trump and Taxes

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May 4, 2016

Note: Discussion and blog posts on presidential candidates does not equate to endorsement of any candidate by Teacher’s College or Columbia University.

Donald J. Trump, a candidate for the 2016 presidential election, has come under fire recently for his tax proposals, so I thought I’d take some time to gather some information.  On his website, he outlines four major changes in the tax code: tax relief for the middle class, simplifying the tax code, growing the economy through changes in corporate income taxes, and not adding to the debt and deficit.  This sounds pretty straightforward, and aligns well with the traditional Republican platform.

In more detail, Trump outlines a few things:

  • that anyone making under $25,000 ($50,000 married filing jointly) would owe NO income tax at all,
  • there would be only four tax brackets,
  • businesses would never pay  more than 15% of business income in taxes, and
  • repeal of the so-called “death” tax (ie., the federal estate tax).

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, however, states that Trump’s tax plan would decrease taxes for the rich, but with that loss of revenue, it would affect middle- and low-income households the most, and not in a good way.  The after-tax incomes of millionaires would rise by 17.9% by 2025 (the last year of potential tax cuts), making up about 38% of all tax cuts from the proposal.  The bottom 80% of wage earners would receive about 32% of the cuts.  Tax Cuts Under Trump and Cruz Would Disproportionately Benefit Millionaires

When also considering the offsets (loss of programs from decreased tax revenue), low- and middle-class households will be the true “losers”, according to the CBPP.  US News and World Report picked up the story, pointing out that millionaires are less than 1% of the population, but receive nearly 15% of after-tax income as a whole.  HuffPost states that this plan would effectively transfer trillions of dollars from low-income households to millionaires.  The Washington Post points out that Trump has wiggled back and forth between cutting or raising income taxes on the rich.

Interestingly enough, I am unable to find a media outlet that has nicer things to say about Mr. Trump’s tax plan.  Politifact does mention that Trump’s plan would reduce the size of the federal government, but that it means either “unprecedented spending cuts or increased federal borrowing”.

Taxation directly relates to UFR Lesson 1.4 on Taxation and the National Debt.  Have students consider the essential dilemma “Is there a fair and efficient way to fund and maintain the public services we want?” while considering Mr. Trump’s tax plan.

Later this week, I’ll take a look at Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton’s tax plan.

 

 

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The $20 Bill – Political Cartoons

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May 2, 2016

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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UFR & EconEdLink

Category: Blog

April 25, 2016

We are excited to announce that the Understanding Fiscal Responsibility curriculum is migrating to EconEdLink, the searchable lesson plan database from the Council for Economic Education.  This means the lessons you are already familiar with will be linked to the CEE for thousands of teachers to discover.

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On the EconEdLink website, you can find UFR under the “Topics” bar at the top of the landing page.  You can also search through 9-12 economics lessons, or themes and topics.  Each lesson still begins with our essential question.  All resources, handouts, and links are there, and have been updated to current data and information.

We are very excited about this partnership with CEE!

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Minimum Wage in the News

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April 19, 2016

There was a really interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on California raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.  They went a step further, though, and outlined what was happening in every state, which could be a great connection – and analysis – for students.  They provide a chart showing each state, what the minimum wage is now, and what it is projected to be under current law, through 2022.

The article links to another which outlines minimum wage “by the numbers”, stating that 1.3 million people earn the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (about 3.9% of hourly employees in the country), and the laws changing state minimum wage in New York and California will affect about 9 million workers.

Have students look through the “by the numbers” before returning to the original article to find their own state’s information.  Have them analyze the information, and see if they can determine how many people it would affect in their state if the minimum wage was increased (note: this would take more research on their part).

I like tying the minimum wage debate to UFR Lesson 2.4 on political beliefs.

 

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Minimum Wage Political Cartoons

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April 14, 2016

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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Minimum Wage Fights

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April 14, 2016

There has been a lot of media coverage lately on the push to increase the minimum wage to $15 to encourage economic and wage equity.  The Economist has an article on events in Virginia, CNN Money looks at New York, and the LA Times outlines events in California.  Today (April 14) is the US Living Wage Day of Action, and protests are being documented across the country.

A CNN article, however, looks at presidential candidates and politics to guess who will ‘fight’ for minimum wage.  The author points out that the next president could technically bypass Congress by issuing an executive order that no government contracts will be given to any company offering less than a $15 per hour wage.

Have students read the article before going back to other posts about the minimum wage and how different economists view the effects of an increase in it. Tie this back to UFR Lesson 2.4 on political beliefs and the national debt.  How does this all come together?

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