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May 5, 2014

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.

 

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Reforming Social Security – the Graham way

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South Carolina Representative Lindsey Graham has not yet announced his intended run for president in 2016, but he has outlined Social Security reform which will ask everyone to “give up a little bit to make sure the system doesn’t fail.”  In general, Republicans oppose anything that would cause taxes to rise, and Democrats oppose anything that would cause benefits to fall.  This has created a DC stalemate for years.

Borrowing heavily from the Simpson-Bowles commission (2010), provisions would include having wealthier Social Security recipients pay more, raising the benefits age for both Medicare and Social Security, raise the amount withheld from workers’ paychecks for Social Security, and elimination of certain personal and corporate tax breaks.

UFR Lesson 2.1 outlines the essential dilemma of Social Security:  What responsibility does the federal government have to ensure the elderly a secure and stable standard of living? Begin with the lessons for the unit, and bring Graham’s suggestions to students.  What is the feasibility of the proposal?  Would Congress vote for it?  Would the President?  What evidence do they have to support their opinion?

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A different look at income inequality

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NY Times blogger and Princeton Economist Paul Krugman looks at the Freddie Gray incident and the Baltimore riots in a new post.  He builds on a comparison of inner city Baltimore to Third World countries.

Have students compare this analysis to previous “newsworthy” information on income inequality, such as this post, or this one to respond to the question:  Are issues related to income inequality a priority for the United States?  Students could then return to information on the federal budget to analyze if their answer to that question is shown in the budget.  Finally, return to UFR Lesson 2.4 on Political Beliefs and the Federal Budget, to have students compare these issues.

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CBO Analysis of President Obama’s Budget Proposal

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Comparison of Projected Revenues, Outlays, and Deficits in CBO's March 2015 Baseline and in CBO's Estimate of the President's BudgetLast month, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the president’s budget proposal.  The CBO projects the budget deficit from 2016-2025 (cumulative) at about $7.2 trillion, and estimates that the federal debt will rise to 77% of GDP by 2025.  The president’s suggestions are outlined by the CBO, and in their analysis, they feel that they would reduce deficits in future years (based on current projections).

The news from the CBO offers many opportunities for students to analyze information as well as charts and graphs.  The chart to the left shows the CBO’s estimates of revenues, outlays and deficits and compares them to the information in the president’s budget.

Students could compare the president’s budget to the current (April 29) agreed combined Senate/House budget.  What similarities and differences can be found?  What compromises were made?  What are potential effects of each?

Use UFR Lesson 1.5 on Balancing the Federal Budget to bring attention to the federal budget agreements being made.  What evidence, if any, can students find that those writing the budgets are working to balance the budget?

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Political Cartoons – Greece

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April 23, 2015

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.

 

grc

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Who carries the income tax burden? A different look at “inequality”.

Tagged: , . | Category: Blog

April 19, 2015

mark_perry_tax_day_2015_chart_1

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the top 20% of earners in the United States pay 84% of the federal income tax revenues while earning 51% of the national income.  The information comes from the Tax Policy Center out of Washington DC, but the American Enterprise Institute has a nice analysis of the article, too.

Most of the article can be summed up by the chart to the right, showing the federal tax burden by quintile.  It’s a great visual for students to analyze, especially if studying the tax system and the definition of “progressive tax”.  Use Lesson 1.4 on Taxation and the National Debt as a primer, but ask students to explain the negative tax burden for the bottom 40% of earners in the US.  What could that possibly mean?

 

 

 

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House of Representatives votes to repeal the estate tax

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This week, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution to repeal the estate tax (240-179).  Although this doesn’t mean the tax is actually appealed, Forbes points out that it “sets the stage” for repeal in 2017.  They also note that there are not enough votes for it to pass in the Senate, and the president has already said he would veto the measure.

So what’s the point?  The so-called “death tax” affects a small percentage of estates – approximately 0.2% of all estates actually face having to pay the tax.  Reuters, though, states that it would increase the federal deficit by almost $270 billion over 10 years.

There are a number of interesting ways to bring this into the classroom.   The first could be to use UFR Lesson 1.4 on Taxation and the National Debt to analyze the pros and cons to repealing the estate tax.  A second could be to use UFR Lesson 1.5 on Balancing the Federal Budget to determine what a $270 billion influx to the deficit would do to the budet and national debt.

Another is to observe and research the political rhetoric surrounding the issue.  Have students read how MSNBC reports the event, versus the Wall Street Journal. What differences do they see?  Use UFR Lesson 2.5 on rhetoric to support the current issues, or use Lesson 2.4 on Political Beliefs and the Federal Budget.  All of these tie in very well with the issue of the estate tax.

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Brad DeLong, Paul Krugman, and the Fiscal Future

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Princeton economist and New York Times blogger Paul Krugman has an interesting analysis of UC Berkeley professor Brad DeLong’s posts about fiscal policy.  In two separate blog posts, Krugman looks at DeLong’s suggestions regarding the case for bigger government and the argument for a larger level of public debt, not a lower one.

Recently, on his blog (Equitablog at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth), DeLong released a draft of his comments for a panel presentation for  the “Rethinking Macroeconomics” conference.  In it, he looks at the “proper size” of the public sector and public debt in the 21st century, most specifically for countries in the North Atlantic.  He suggests that the proper size of both today should be significantly larger than in the past.  DeLong argues that the public sector is more involved in such aspects of life as education and pensions, and that the overall lack of public debt in the 20th century actually led to inefficiencies which could be remedied in the 21st century with higher public debt loads.

Krugman analyzes DeLong’s suggestions in two separate blog posts: one on the public sector and one on public debt.  In general, he agrees with DeLong and suggests this is a critical turning point of sorts  in macroeconomic theory.

For students, analyzing a new suggestion on fiscal policy can be an interesting and helpful.  Both of the posts (DeLong’s and Krugman’s) offer a great explanation of public goods and the definitions of rival and excludable.

This could also be a great current issue or suggestion to use with at least two different UFR lessons.  Lesson 1.5 looks at balancing the federal budget, and Lesson 2.4 looks at political beliefs and the federal budget.

 

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Affordable Care and the Supreme Court…revisited.

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April 4, 2015

Bob Semro of the Bell Policy Center has an interesting overview of the Supreme Court’s history with the Affordable Care Act on HuffPost.  The current challenge up in front of the Supreme Court (King v. Burwell), looks not at the constitutionality of the law, but at the wording, especially the phrase “established by the state” (used multiple times in the law).

The argument coming forward is that this language was intended to force states into setting up their own marketplace for insurance, providing subsidies as an incentive.  SCOTUSblog provides an excellent overview of the case itself, and FactCheck looks at how many people may lose coverage depending on the Supreme Court’s ruling.

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Bernanke Blogs

Category: Blog

There’s a new economics blog on the block – former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has entered the blogosphere.  His blog rests with The Brookings Institute, a centrist think-tank in Washington DC.  It will be interesting to see what Dr. Bernanke has to say about current economic policies in the US and around the world!

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