Democratic and Republican Party Platforms

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August 3, 2010

In a recent New York Times blog, John Harwood writes that the economic fight raging on Capitol Hill is less about the economy and more about dogma, ultimately keeping “both parties from the goals they claim to be fighting for.”  As economic improvement slows and the jobless rate hovers around 9.5%, Democrats and Republicans alike are focused on the Bush tax cuts in preparation for the November Congressional elections.  From the article:

…leading Democrats rule out a short-term, across-the-board extension of the expiring Bush tax cuts, even though a temporary extension might stimulate the economy…

…Republicans insist that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent, even though eliminating them could substantially reduce deficits over the long term…

In an earlier Understanding Fiscal Responsibility blog, I wrote that teachers could use the upcoming Congressional elections to study the candidates’ approaches toward fiscal responsibility and their plans for addressing the national debt.  Teachers could use this article to help students understand the parties’ traditional views about taxes and government spending.

House Race Ratings
, Source: New York Times, 08/03/2010

Students could research the Democratic Party platform and the Republican Party platform to determine their economic policy priorities.  Teachers should encourage students to answer the following questions:  Where do the parties agree?  Where do they disagree?  Is Harwood’s description of each party’s platform correct?  Do you agree with Harwood’s assertion that “for now… Republicans and Democrats prefer a skirmish” in order to motivate their supporters?  Why or why not?  What implications might the November elections have on the federal budget deficit and national debt?

As students better understand the traditional beliefs of each party, they can begin to research individual candidates and determine whether they agree or disagree with their party’s platform.  This will help students better understand the various sides of the economic debate and help them follow the national conversation in the upcoming elections.

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