SNAP Benefits Expire

Tagged: , . | Category: Blog

April 7, 2016

Changes to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, usually known as food stamps) requirements means that some 500,000+ Americans are facing a decrease in state and federal aid this year.  The federal government reinstated a work requirement and three-month limit to unemployed adults between the ages of 18-49 who arStates Newly Implementing SNAP Time Limits in 2016e not raising minor children or disabled.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that about 40% of those affected are women, and about 33% are over age 40.

Media around the country are looking at these changes and how it will affect local areas.  The News Courier (AL) states that food banks are preparing for an increase in need, with an estimate of over 44,000 people being affected in their state.  WYFF Channel 4 in South Carolina estimates about 60,000 residents in their state will be affected.

This change in the federal budget ties well to UFR Lesson 2.4 on Political Beliefs and the Federal Budget.  How are such decisions made in the federal budget?  How much is dependent on political beliefs?

 

Posted by: | Post a Comment

FY 2016 Federal Budget Deficit to Reach $534B (CBO)

Tagged: , , . | Category: Blog

March 30, 2016

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released a new report stating that the federal budget deficit will reach $534 billion if the president’s suggested budget goes through.  This is about $100 billion higher than previously thought.  They also estimate that public debt would rise to 86% of GDP by 2026.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article tied to this report.  Author David Wessel states that the report gives a good reason to be concerned over the federal debt, as the deficit continues to rise to a larger proportion of the GDP.  The debt will continue to rise, but the real concern, to him, is the interest.  Today, interest on the national debt is about 6% of the budget; the CBO estimates that if Obama’s budget is passed, that number will increase to about 12% of the budget by 2026.

This offers a great opportunity to discuss UFR Lesson 1.5 (Balancing the Federal Budget) with students.  When, if ever, should the nation prioritize balancing the federal budget?

Posted by: | Post a Comment

House Budget Cut Suggestions

Tagged: , . | Category: Blog

March 28, 2016

The suggested Republican budget out of the House of Representatives slashes especially deep on low- to moderate-income programs.  This has created a lot of controversy in Congress, and even among Republicans.

House Budget Plan Gets 62% of Its Non-Defense Cuts from Programs for People with Low or Modest Incomes

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states that 62% of the proposed budget cuts are based on non-defense spending, including the mandatory health care requirement under the Affordable Care Act.  Other cuts include SNAP benefits and higher education affordability programs.  Government Executive online says that this is an attempt to decrease the federal debt.

Have students review UFR Lesson 1.5 on balancing the federal budget.  What challenges does the Republican proposal cause?  What results?

Posted by: | Post a Comment

Apple & National Security – Political Cartoons

Tagged: . | Category: Blog

March 22, 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.

iPhone Security, Bob Englehart,CagleCartoons.com,iPhone Security,apple,fbi,password,phone,backdoor,san bernardino,terror,federal bureau investigation

FBI Puts Bite Out of Apple, Martin Kozlowski,inxart.com,apple,fbi,bite,privacy,apple-and-fbi

FBI vs Apple, Mike Keefe,Cagle Cartoons,FBI; justice; department; iPhone; encryption; back; door; terrorism; privacy; san; bernadino; digital

Apple and FBI, John Cole,The Scranton Times-Tribune,Apple, iPhone, FBI, terrorist, terror, San Bernardino, privacy, federal court

Apple against FBI, Tom Janssen,The Netherlands,Apple privacy, backdoor software,FBI Apple

 

Bite at the Apple, Steve Benson,Arizona Republic,apple,fbi,bite,privacy,personal,apple-and-fbi

 

Posted by: | Post a Comment

iPhones and National Security

Tagged: , . | Category: Blog

March 22, 2016

The advent of the iPhone and the San Bernardino shooter in regards to national security has been in the news for months now.  Does Apple have a duty to unlock the shooters’ phone so that the authorities can learn more about their motives, intent, and movements?

Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in December

I tie this to the National Security lesson of UFR Lesson 1.3, the Economics of National Security, because the media, private industry, and federal government have turned it into an issue of so-called national security.   Although the lesson focuses on expenses, it also looks at opportunity cost, which I think fits in really well here.  What is given up at the federal courts requirement for Apple to unlock the device?

Posted by: | Post a Comment

Obama in Cuba – Political Cartoons

Tagged: , . | Category: Blog

March 22, 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.

CubaUS diplomatic ties, Dave Granlund,Politicalcartoons.com,Cuba, US, diplomacy, thaw, handshake, Obama, castro, relations

Cuba Shade, Steve Nease,Freelance,obama,ontario,canada,shade,cuba,obama-in-cuba

 

Obama en Cuba, Arcadio Esquivel,Costa Rica, Caglecartoons.com,Obama, Cuba, Castro, Comunismo, Capitalismo, Imperialismo, Visita

 

Cuba Cola, Emad Hajjaj,Jordan,Obama in Cuba,Cuba Cola,Cigar,embargo,big business,Guantanamo,economy,coke,shakehand,visit,Emad hajjaj,

 

Obama in Cuba, Hassan Bleibel,Al-Mastakbal, Beirut Lebanon,obama,cuba,obama in cuba

 

Selfie in Cuba, Osmani Simanca,Brazil, www.caglecartoons.com,obama,fidel,raul,castro,cuba

 

Troya in Cuba, Nani Mosquera,Cagle.com,coca cola,mcdonalds,cuba,obama,obama in cuba

 

 

 

Posted by: | Post a Comment

US-Cuba Relations

Tagged: , . | Category: Blog

March 22, 2016

This week, President Obama is visiting Cuba.  This is the first presidential visit to the communist country in 88 years (the last visit was Calvin Coolidge in 1928).  Declaring his visit to be an end of the Cold War, there is a lot of media coverage of this historic event.

I find this a very interesting tie to UFR Lesson 2.3 on National Security.  How do we move through time with different “enemies”?  how safe is the United States?  Where does Cuba fall into all of this?  If about 20% of the national budget is spent on defense, of which defense against Cuba and protection of Guantanamo Bay was at least part in the past, what happens now?  And…where does this leave the 54 year old Cuban embargo?

Posted by: | Post a Comment

Balanced Budget Amendment back in front of Congress

Tagged: , . | Category: Blog

March 2016

In the past few weeks, the issue of the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment has reared its head in Congress again.  In fact, the United States is only 6 states short of calling a constitutional convention to write a new amendment to the constitution.

A number of economists, including four Nobel laureates, wrote an open letter to President Obama and Congress, explaining why they feel this would be a bad decision.  The general concern is that during economic downturns, it ties the hands of the federal government and the Federal Reserve, potentially making recessions worse than they’d have to be.

Supporters, however, feel that the federal budget should balance, similar to a household budget.  The deficit is out of control, which of course, is increasing the national debt.

UFR Lesson 1.5 looks at this issue, and it’s a great opportunity to point out to students how the amendment process works, as well as that the issue is still very much alive today.  Have them research pros and cons, and make their own decision of support or not, backed, of course, by the evidence they find.

 

Posted by: | Post a Comment

Medical Costs + Cosmetic Procedures

Tagged: , , , , . | Category: Blog

March 2016

I found an interesting post from the American Enterprise Institute about the cost of cosmetic (optional) procedures, and what we can learn from this in terms of overall medical costs.

The last few months, we’ve been working hard on this side of UFR to update the information and data you find in the curriculum.  One thing that keeps coming up, especially in UFR lessons on medical costs and Medicare, is the extreme rise in average health care costs over the last 50 years.  AEI brings up a really interesting point – what if people had to pay for all  procedures out of pocket?  Would there still be so many procedures being done, and would costs still be rising so much?

They use cosmetic surgery numbers as a “case study” of sorts.  The table at left shows the top 5 most popular surgical cosmetic procedures, and the top 5 most popular non-surgical.  Remember, these are procedures insurance does not cover, so it is all paid out of pocket.  They provide prices in 1998 dollars and 2015 prices, and show the general increase in prices.  However, what must be taken into account is the 45.4% change in inflation over those years – meaning that many of these procedures have actually dropped in real prices.

Compare this to average health care prices, which have continued to rise exponentially over the last twenty years – AEI estimates a 98% increase in general health care costs over this same time period?

What’s the difference?  The article points out the decrease in out of pocket expenses, and the increase in third party payers, among other things.

Check out UFR Lesson 1.2 on Medicare and the National Debt, Lesson 2.2 on Medicare, Governance, and the National Debt, and Lesson 3.2 on The History of Medicare, and ask students to consider the trade-offs made in the last 20 years between out of pocket expenses and general cost of health care.

 

Posted by: | Post a Comment

Bernanke: Negative Interest Rates have potential

Tagged: , , . | Category: Blog

March 2016

Former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke posted a blog entry on the potential of negative interest rates.  It’s a great explanation written in language that students could easily understand.

He starts with an overview of other possible directions for the Fed to take (so-called “forward guidance” (communicate that interest rates will stay low for quite awhile), or resuming quantitative easing/QE).  Bernanke points out, however, that QE is rather difficult to monitor and calibrate, and the Fed may want to consider negative interest rates.

What does this mean?  How is it possible?

In general, negative interest rates would mean that a bank would pay fees on excess reserves, instead of receiving interest for them.  This would encourage banks to lend out those reserves instead of paying that fee.

Obviously, there is a lot more to it, but Bernanke outlines the reasons he thinks it would work.

This could be a great connection to UFR Lesson 3.3, the Overview of the Federal Reserve.  Many times, teachers stick to the “big 3” of Fed tools (interest rates, open market operations, reserve requirement), but there is so much more that the Fed can do to manipulate the money supply.  What happens when the interest rate is at 0.5%?  Well, let’s learn about negative interest rates.

Posted by: | Post a Comment