Content Tagged: budget

Infographics from the Congressional Budget Office

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April 22, 2014

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released a series of infographics regarding federal spending.  I love using infographics in the classroom – artists who do them correctly have a gift for getting a LOT of information into a very small space, and students tend to love them.  It can be a great way for students to “get” a really difficult subject.

The Federal Budget in 2013 has a variety of information regarding federal spending last year.  Students could analyze spending versus revenue from the graphic rather than the long text of the actual federal budget document.  They could conduct independent research on what “other” is in both areas – after all, $467 billion dollars was spent on “other” last year!  Students could make their own infographics from information they find, or could make an infographic regarding “what is $467 billion?”.  This infographic also shows the federal deficits and debt since 1974, and gives concise definitions of terms.

A second infographic takes a closer look at 2013 revenues.  It outlines dollar amounts, but also shows revenue trends since the early 1990′s, as well as a great view of where revenues come from.

The third infographic zooms in on mandatory spending.   Each of the graphics has a bar graph in the top right corner that emphasizes what the specific infographic is about.  It could help students understand how much of the federal budget is mandatory spending and exactly what that means.  This one shows what money was spent on in the 2013 budget, and compares it to 1993  numbers.

Finally, there’s an infographic on discretionary spending.  It looks at trends over time but focuses primarily on defense spending.  What’s really helpful for the classroom with this one is that it breaks down defense spending, so the student who says “just cut defense” as a proposal to balance the budget can see exactly what would need to be cut.

 

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House passes Ryan’s budget

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April 11, 2014

Representative Paul Ryan’s proposed federal budget passed the House with a narrow margin of 215 to 209, after a week of attempted Democratic alternatives.

A question has arisen, though, of whether the passing of Ryan’s proposed budget is even necessary.  Many in Congress say that the Murray-Ryan bill passed last year supercedes a new budget plan, and stays in place for another year.  Many are seeing Ryan’s budget as more of a political stance, declaring Republican ideals, rather than a plan for a national budget.

Some coverage by the National Journal, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal (blog) and The Washington Post (blog) can help give students background information and an all-important look at how different media outlets report news.

On the House website, Ryan outlines his “Path to Prosperity” budget and uses the following graph to make his point in support of a balanced budget:  thumbnail

I found this graph to be a great tie to the UFR Lesson 5.4 on Numeracy and graphical representations.  You could take students through the numeracy lesson, but tie in the above graph and information found in current news outlets to give students a “big picture” view of Ryan’s proposed budget.  What does he want to happen, and how does he see it happening?

A great focusing question for students to consider is:  Is this economics, or is this politics?  There’s no right or wrong answer – have students look at the media information from multiple sources and analyze the data for information to support their argument.  Add in information from UFR Lesson 2.2 on Political Beliefs and the Federal Budget to help students understand where partisan politics falls – and has fallen in the past – into discussions on the national budget.  Or, you could pull the class discussion around to UFR Lesson 2.5 on Political Rhetoric.

 

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Economic Report of the President 2014

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March 11, 2014

Yesterday, the White House released the annual Economic Report of the President.  The 415-page report outlines an optimistic view of the U.S. economy for 2014-15, including a 3.1% increase in growth overall and a mild decrease in unemployment.  Why is this important for fiscal responsibility?  Well, it is based off of the estimates for the 2015 federal budget, released last week.

How are news sources reacting?  Have students take a look at Bloomberg Businessweek and compare it to PBS NewsHour.  What differences can be seen in the way different media outlets are covering the story? How is that different from the White House blog?

Students could use the outlined chapters on the White House blog to get a good idea of the content and intent of the report to look for priorities in the federal budget, tied to UFR Lesson 1.5 on balancing the budget.

 

 

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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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Priorities in National Spending

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January 14, 2014

The Senate is closer to coming to an agreement on the extension of unemployment benefit insurance.  According to the Chicago Tribune, nine Republican senators may break off from party lines to vote with Democrats to enable passage.   The proposal would extend unemployment for three months, with zero end affect on the budget with cuts elsewhere.  Although not popular with Senate Democrats or the President, it is the closest they have gotten to an agreement since the end of 2013, when benefits expired.

At the same time, Congress reached an agreement last night on a spending package to avoid another government shut down. The bill would provide funding for the national government through the fiscal year (Sept 30), with only a few things falling by the wayside.

The timing of these two events offers a great chance for discussion in the classroom on priorities in spending.  Why, potentially, would the budget agreement be voted on, but not unemployment benefits?  What political thought is seen behind either agreement?  What does it show about spending priorities – or does it really not show spending priorities at all?

There are three potential ties to the UFR curriculum, depending on where you are in the semester.  First, Balancing the Federal Budget 1.5 is a great way to bring up that question of priorities.  What are the trade-offs for the bill to avoid a federal shut-down?  What trade-offs do students witness with a potential unemployment benefit agreement?

Also, in the Civics portion of the curriculum, a view of Political Beliefs and Federal Budget (2.4) could be very helpful to help students understand how these agreements are made.  What real differences of opinion are we seeing in these agreements?  Put students in the role of a Democrat or Republican, and ask them to spend a little time researching either the potential budget agreement or the possible unemployment benefits agreement from their role’s point of view.

Or, is it all just rhetoric?  Civics lesson 2.5 offers the chance for students to learn about rhetoric – what is it, and how can we know what it is when we see it?

Finally, as always, some new political cartoons.  Remember that the October 13 blog has an outline to analyze political cartoons – or, take a look at what the Library of Congress suggests!

 

David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Star, 2014

 

Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch, 2014

 

Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer, 2014

 

John Cole, The Times-Tribune, 2014

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The Unemployment Dilemma

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January 7, 2014

Although the recession officially ended, the United States is faced with unemployment rates that are still seen as “too high” – and still have a large number of people receiving unemployment benefits.  Many of those benefits ran out at the end of 2013, and Congress and the President have been haggling ever since on what to do.

With the agreement of the Senate today to extend long term unemployment benefits, it could be another great opportunity to bring to your students the idea of balancing the budgets and policy priorities.  The full Congress still must approve, but President Obama has put his full support behind passing the bill.

UFR Lesson 1.5 is on Balancing the Federal Budget, but focusing in on Activity 3 would bring your students into the world of balancing the budget in the short term.  Have students analyze the political cartoon at the beginning of Activity 3, and compare them to the cartoons below.  What kind of policy priorities are being shown by Congress’ activity?

A few other resources:

Bill Day, 2013

 

Jimmy Marguiles, 2013

 

 

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More Murray-Ryan Budget Cartoons

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January 3, 2014

 

In the last couple of weeks, there has been a huge increase in the number of political cartoons poking at the Murray-Ryan Budget Plan.  The October 13 blog shows some great ways to bring political cartoons to students with authentic, critical analysis.

Use the Mini-Lesson on Federal Budget Basics in the UFR Economics Lesson 1.5 to help out on basic vocabulary on the federal budget and what it means to balance a budget – or if that’s even desired.

 

R.J. Matson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2013

 

Steve Breen, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2013

 

 

Joe Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette, 2013

 

Michael Ramirez, Investors Business Daily, 2013

 

 

Gary Varvel, Indianapolis Star, 2013

 

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Murray-Ryan Budget Cartoon Roundup

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December 27, 2013

 

The advent of the 2013 Murray-Ryan budget agreement has brought a great opportunity for political cartoon analysis in the classroom.  The October 13 blog outlines some great ways to bring political cartoons to students through authentic, critical analysis.  Close reading, followed by asking what students see and think is happening, and then asking about the author’s point of view leads to a thorough analysis!

Michael Ramirez, 2013

Nate Beeler, 2013

Adam Ziglis, 2013

Mike Luckovich, 2013

Steve Sack, 2013

Nate Beeler, 2013

 

 

 

 

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A deal in place!

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December 13, 2013

 

 

 

The Political Ticker blog on CNN has an outline of the budget deal reached earlier this week in Congress – in plain English and not politician-speak.  What a great opportunity to talk about priorities in the national budget process!  The deal will, among other things, decrease cost-of-living pension outlays for veterans, eliminate forced budget cuts and dramatically decrease the chances of another sequestration after January 1.

 

UFR Lesson 1.5 looks at the process of balancing the federal budget, and emphasizes those choices and priorities that must be determined.  A teacher could have students compare the political cartoon at the beginning of Lesson 1.5 (“Budget Crunch”) to political cartoons that have come out about the federal budget situation in the last year, including sequestration, the Fiscal Cliff, and the subsequent shut down of the federal government.  The National Archives has a great tool to look at analyzing and comparing political cartoons in an authentic manner.  How is the “Budget Crunch” cartoon similar to the other cartoons?  Altogether, do they tell a story, or not?

 

UFR Lesson 1.5 also has a section on evaluating budget proposals (check out page 10 of the lesson).  Use this section of the lesson to have students look at the budget agreed upon this week and evaluate the information.  Having students evaluate, support their stance with evidence, and write it down ensures access to those important economic literacy skills.

 

 

 

(The Wordle above was used with the information on the budget agreement from the Political Ticker blog link.)

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Fears of Social Security and Medicare’s Demise

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April 24, 2012

The annual report on Social Security, published Monday, stated that the retirement program “is on track to go bankrupt three years earlier than expected if reforms are not made,” reports Rachel Younglai and Glenn Somerville for Reuters.  The funding for Medicare similarly appears to be depleting quickly.  Social Security, the report projected, would begin to run out of money for retirees’ pension checks in 2033, while Medicare would run out of funding entirely by 2024.

These projections relate closely to the fact that baby boomers, 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, began retiring last year.  As they continue to do so, the strain on both Social Security and Medicare will increase.

Younglai and Somerville quote two trustees of Social Security as warning lawmakers that they must act quickly in order to prevent the demise of the program.  Because a large portion of the funding for Social Security comes from payroll taxes, a current suggestion for how to keep the program afloat is to raise payroll taxes.  Right now, the payroll tax on employers and employees is 12.4 percent.  The recommendation is to raise the percentage collected to 16.7.  This 4.3 percent increase is estimated to cover the growing costs of Social Security so that the benefits will continue to be paid in full.

Congressmen also have considered raising the retirement age or cutting certain benefits to the wealthiest citizens.  Because of the impending elections, however, it is unlikely that any decisions will be made regarding these issues, Younglai and Somerville report.  The most urgent issue, trustees of the Social Security fund reported, was the disability insurance program, whose funding likely will be depleted by 2016.

In terms of Medicare, Republicans are pushing to overhaul the entire program, while Obama and the Democratic party claim that his new health care plan has added eight more years of life to its funding.  Because both political parties strongly disagree on a solution, Younglai and Somerville explain again that it is unlikely for any changes to be made before the next election.

Bringing the Article into the Classroom

Teachers may begin by asking the students how the article relates the current U.S. economy to funding both Social Security and Medicare.  Why does the state of this country’s economy influence the funding of these two federal programs?  What other issues does the article point out as influencing the potential demise of Social Security and Medicare?  The teacher may also ask students to come up with alternative federal budgets, tax plans, or even Medicare and Social Security distribution plans that take into account the depleting funds.  Finally, the teacher may ask students how the issues raised about Medicare and Social Security relate to the federal budget and federal deficit.

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