Revisiting Obamacare

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February 26, 2014

The LA Times reported today that “another attempt at Obamacare ‘reform’ blows up”.  I hadn’t read up on the Affordable Care Act in a few days, so I went searching, and found some interesting information.  If you’ve been having your students follow along on the ACA debates in Congress, here’s another chapter.

The quick and dirty story is that the Save American Workers Act introduced in late 2013 was shot down by a budget analysis by our friends at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  Two items of note in the CBO analysis:  the bill would increase the number of uninsured people, and would cost the federal government a lot of money in the process.  Fox Business confirms the information the LA Times reported, as does MSNBC.  Having students read articles from different newspapers about the same topic could be a great lesson in bias and sourcing, by the way.

Economist Paul Krugman is talking about the ACA on his blog at the New York Times website, and on February 14, economist Greg Mankiw posted his comparison between the ACA and Romneycare on his blog.

Fox News reports that there are now 4 million people enrolled in the ACA,  but the Huffington Post says that there is a growing number of the uninsured who are mistrusting of the ACA and are not enrolling because of the “hype”.

This sparks another great opportunity to look at rhetoric, politics, and decisions that are made that affect the national budget.  Have students look at all of the data – what is rhetoric and what is truth?  How can you tell?

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Friday Cartoon Roundup

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Friday, February 21, 2014

It’s time for political cartoons!  Rob had posted a great way to bring political cartoon analysis into the classroom back on October 13.  How can understanding political cartoons help students gain deeper understanding of difficult topics and concepts?

144747 600 Democrats face reality cartoons

Eric Alle, Pioneer Press, 2014


144732 600 Job Killers cartoons

Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer, 2014


144414 600 Obama golf vacation cartoons

Jimmy Margulies, The Record, 2014



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CBO weighs in on Minimum Wage

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February 18, 2014

Last week, President Obama expressed his support for a bill that would raise the minimum wage for companies with federal contracts, as he called for in his State of the Union address last month.  Not that I’m overly obsessed with the Congressional Budget Office, but they have posted an analysis of the Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income (Feb 18).


The CBO states that there are two main effects:  (1) some workers would be raised out of the federal poverty threshold, and (2) some jobs for low-wage workers would be eliminated.  However, when taking all increases and decreases into account, they estimate overall real income would rise by $2 billion.

However, the effect on the federal budget is what is really interesting in terms of applying UFR principles and concepts.  The wages that the federal government would have to pay to select hourly employees would increase, and at this moment, that cost would be absorbed into discretionary appropriations, which are capped right now by current law.  And, of course, there would be changes in collected federal income tax with the changes in real income (increases for some, decreases for others).

Tying this to UFR Lesson 1.4 on Taxation and the National Debt as well as Lesson 1.5 on Balancing the Federal Budget is a good way for students to gain clear understanding on how decisions are made at the federal level and what trade offs are required.  However, what about using this ongoing debate on minimum wage, income inequality, and “the 1%”  to look more closely at political rhetoric (Lesson 2.5)?  How much of what we see is rhetoric, and how much is fact?  How do we determine the difference, and how in the world do we teach that to students?


Remember also that Rob posted a UFR blog post on Jan 29 entitled “Minimum Wage as Minimal Government Intervention?

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Friday Roundup – CBO (redux) and Cartoons!

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After the last few posts on the CBO report on the Affordable Care Act, I thought I’d stay away from it in this post, but then found this blog post in the New York Times Economix section from Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt with a fascinating overview of how the report uses Obamacare as a negative income tax.  I thought it would be an interesting addition to the “sides” being played and outlined in the February 7 and February 11 UFR blog posts.

Daniel Kurtzman, 2014


Scott Stantis, 2014


John Trevor, 2014


aca job loss

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Revisiting the CBO report on Affordable Care

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February 11, 2014

The economic and policy blogosphere has exploded over the weekend and I thought I’d take some time to provide some links about the “debate.”

First, the Congressional Budget Office has offered an FAQ on their report from last week about Obamacare.

Economist Paul Krugman has two blog updates, one entitled “Why do you care how much other people work?“, and one addressing Representative Paul Ryan’s comment on the dignity of work in regards to the CBO report and the Affordable Care Act.   On the other hand, economist Greg Mankiw looks at wages and labor supply (great lesson on labor supply in there!).  Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post says it’s all been taken out of context.  An op-ed piece for the Chicago Tribune agrees.  Nicholas Wapshott at Reuters says people should not pay attention to the rhetoric around the CBO report.  The LA Times agrees.

So, who is right?  Is all of this politics or rhetoric?  It’s a great opportunity to take opposing viewpoints such as the blogs and opinion pieces above and let students determine who is “right”, who is “overreacting”, who is “taking things out of context”, and what is rhetoric.

By the way, it’s very difficult to find news pieces that do not have rampant overriding opinions.  What does that tell students?


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Obamacare and Jobs and the CBO – oh my!

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February 7, 2014

This week a lot of conversation has turned to Obamacare and the January jobs report.  How do these come together?  I thought this political cartoon handled that question admirably:

144072 600 OBAMACARE AND JOBS cartoons

Randy Bish, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 2014


On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office released the February 2014 baseline projections for the Affordable Care Act.  The entire report can be found online.  Have students dive into the data – what does this mean?  Is this good news or bad news for the president?  How can you tell?  Backing up statements with facts is a fantastic learning tool, not to mention a skill that comes in handy in the future.

Almost immediately, the responses to the CBO report started being shown on different news outlets.  The Washington Post has a blog called “The Fact Checker” that tries to go behind the rhetoric to the facts.  This week, blogger Glenn Kessler does a great job outlining economists’ reactions to the report.  Have students compare how the Post blog compares to the blogs of economist Greg Mankiw and economist Paul Krugman on the topic of the CBO report.  Can they determine who is the conservative economist and who is the liberal economist?  What clues did they use?

UFR Lesson 2.5 gives an overview of rhetoric and what affects it has on the political landscape as well as economics and the federal budget.  How could all of this come together – the primary source of the CBO report, the three different blogs and opinions on that report, and the UFR lesson on rhetoric?

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State of the Union cartoon roundup

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January 31, 2014

Of course, many political cartoons have shown up after the president’s State of the Union address earlier this week.  Consider adding political cartoons to the analysis you have students do on a regular basis.  In addition to helping understand satire and “both sides of the aisle”, it also helps students learn to apply critical thinking skills to political issues.

Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle, 2014


R.J. Matson, St. Louis Post Dispatch, 2014


Dave Granlund, New York Times, 2014


Michael Ramirez, Investors Business Daily, 2014


Jeff Kortorba, Omaha World-Herald, 2014

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Minimum Wage as Minimal Government Intervention?

Category: Blog

January 29, 2014
























As these two cartoons, by Henry Payne of the Detroit News and Milt Prigee, respectively, illustrate, the issue of the minimum wage continues to be hotly debated.  President Obama, in his annual State of the Union address on January 28, 2014, made several proposals regarding the minimum wage.  These include an executive order to require that businesses with contracts with the federal government pay their employees at least $10.10 per hour, a request to Congress that they pass legislation raising the federal minimum wage for all employers across the country, and an entreaty to private business owners to voluntarily raise the wages of their lowest-paid employees to reduce poverty, promote equality, and boost economic growth.

These proposals raise deep and important questions about the proper role and scope of government overall, the federal government in the United States in particular, and the role of the presidency in the context of a system of separation of powers.  In addition, economists and policymakers have debated the policy implications of minimum wage laws for decades: some argue that the minimum wage offers a way to promote equality and reduce poverty with no direct cost to the government and no impact on the deficit and debt, while others argue that the indirect costs are high in that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment and can hurt the very people it purports to help.

Several articles offer a range of interesting perspectives on the minimum wage, both on the political questions (questions of governance and power) and the policy questions (empirical questions about the economic effects of the policy).  Encourage students to examine these perspectives and, rather than taking a firm position on the issue, consider the various questions and issues raised and the extent to which those questions are fundamentally questions about governance.

Five Reasons We Should Raise the Minimum Wage, according to Salon’s Marhall Auerback

Marc Adams argues that Raising the Minimum Wage Hurts the Poor at U.S. News and World Report

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Income Inequality, revisited

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January 28, 2014

President Obama is expected to talk about income inequality in tonight’s State of the Union address.  Both Greg Mankiw and Paul Krugman have new blog posts about inequality, in very different contexts.

Mankiw looks at information that ties income inequality to how children are raised – in other words, children with more well-to-do parents have different opportunities than children from middle-class or poor parents.  He makes a very interesting point that given the correlations found in current research, policy that works to limit the gap between rich and poor would only truly have an effect on 2.5% of the population.

On the other side of the political aisle, Krugman talks about defining middle class, opportunity, and security, and how these terms apply to income inequality in the United States.  He also makes a very interesting point using Pew Research that 91% of people in the United States declare themselves as middle class.  Krugman also points out in an earlier blog that the “myth” of middle class is starting to crack.  Where is the cutoff between socioeconomic classes?

This could be an interesting discussion for students as an open question, or something to allow them time to research.

A recent Gallup Poll shows that 67% of Americans are concerned with income inequality, and contrary to popular opinion, over half of Republicans agree that there is a significant, worrisome gap between rich and poor.  AP has reported that mainstream economists are agreeing that income inequality is bad for the economy.

The December 5 blog has ways to tie the issue of income inequality to the UFR curriculum, and the follow-up on December 20 adds more current events.

How does income distribution affect the economy?


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Political Cartoon Roundup

Tagged: . | Category: Blog

January 24, 2014

I was just poking around looking at new political cartoons and found a few that illustrate recent blog topics nicely.  Take a look!

Fares Garabet, 2014


Pavel Constantin, 2014


Gary Varvel, 2013


RJ Matson, 2014


Jen Sorenson, 2014

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