Content Tagged: gang of six

Differentiating Instruction on the Deficit Panel: A Timeline and Graphics

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November 16, 2011

The New York Times has put together an interactive timeline of the significant events related to the federal budget talks preceding and succeeding the creation of the deficit panel.  This timeline gives a short summary of what happened on the day marked, a link to a complete article published on that day, and a chart or other visual representation of that particular day’s events or proposals.  This timeline lends itself to a number of lessons and in-class activities that will engage different types of learners.

Explaining the Timeline

The timeline begins at the bottom of the website on July 21 and then progresses to the deficit panel’s deadline: November 23.  Below is a short summary of the first and last point on the timeline. These summaries are provided in order to demonstrate how the timeline provides information:

On July 21, President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner were working to complete a budget plan that would reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over ten years.  The graphic below the date details three alternative plans proposed to Congress: the McConnell-Reid Outline, the ‘Gang of 6’ Plan, and the Cut, Cap, and Balance Plan.  This chart provides a short summary and comparison of the three plans.

On November 23, the committee must present its plan to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.  If the committee does not agree on a plan, automatic cuts will begin. Below the short explanation is a visual representation of the automatic cuts by area of the budget (defense, non-defense discretionary, nonexempt mandatory, Medicare, and exempt entitlements).  Each of these areas of the budget is explained further under its respective image.

Bringing the Timeline into Your Classroom

This timeline could be incorporated into your classroom in a number of ways.  One way would be to provide students with both the image presented on the day of the timeline and the complete article linked to that day.  While both provide similar information, each caters to a different type of learner.

As an activity, students can create a physical timeline on the ground of the classroom. On each point, there will be both a short summary and a visual/graphic summary.  Students may be split up into groups and asked to work on one date of the timeline using the information provided for that date.  Once the students have completed their own parts, they can put the timeline on the ground in order and take turns walking through it, engaging the students physically as well as intellectually.  As they walk through the timeline, they should read each summary and observe the image or chart connected to that day.

For homework, students may be asked to consider the part of the timeline they worked on relative to the entire chart: why did the New York Times believe that the day on which you worked was so important for understanding the progression of the government’s dealings on the deficit?  Would you have presented the information in the same way? Why or why not?


“Gang of Six” Seeks Compromise on Federal Budget

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March 22, 2011

Writing for National Public Radio, Scott Horsley outlines the efforts of a bipartisan group of senators that has been meeting “to focus on the longer term and how to deal with the government’s mounting debt.”  The senators (dubbed the “Gang of Six”) believe that the current focus on non-defense discretionary spending — only 12% of the federal budget — is not going to solve our nation’s fiscal problems.

The six senators contend that the government must begin “looking at defense, entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, and a wide variety of tax incentives.”  From the article:

[Senator] Chambliss (R-GA) says that to get a long-term handle on the government’s budget, those are the areas Congress needs to look at.

“For a Republican to put revenues on the table is significant. For a Democrat to put entitlements on the table is significant,” Chambliss says. “The only way we’re going to solve this problem is to have a dialogue about all these issues, because there is no silver bullet.”

The “Gang of Six” is working on building trust between the parties and attempting to bring both sides to the negotiating table.  Horsley writes, “Republicans will be more willing to raise tax revenue, and Democrats more willing to tinker with Social Security if there’s a sense that sacrifice is being shared.”  The willingness of their fellow party members to share in that sacrifice, however, remains to be seen.

Teachers could use this article to demonstrate the process of political compromise and the role of bipartisanship in complex fiscal decisions.  Students could be asked to research the progress of the “Gang of Six” and other bipartisan groups like the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, to see if they gain or lose influence as the 2012 elections approach.  Students should be encouraged to develop their own opinions about which group or party (or combination thereof) has the best plan for reducing the federal budget deficit and the national debt.