Tax The Poor

Who pays a higher tax rate in the U.S., the lowest or the highest paid Americans?

2018

2018

The overall tax rate on the richest 400 households last year was only 23 percent, meaning that their combined tax payments equaled less than one quarter of their total income.

1950

1950

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does this chart tell about tax rates in America today?

  3. How does the tax rate for the rich and the poor compare today?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is one consequence of this?

  6. How has the tax rate for the rich changed over the past half century?

  7. Why do you think that is?

  8. What is one consequence of this tax rate change for the rich?

  9. If you were one of the 400 richest households in the U.S. would you want your tax rate lowered?

  10. Warren buffet, America’s 3rd wealthiest person (net worth: $82 billion) famously pays less in taxes than his secretary. Make a claim about the fairness of this.

  11. In what way are the following branches of government involved in making tax policy: Legislative, executive, judicial.

  12. What would the following people say about the tax rate for the richest Americans: Socialist, liberal, conservative, Libertarian, the current POTUS.

  13. By the middle of the 20th century, The United States had arguably the world’s most progressive tax code, with a top income-tax rate of 91 percent and a corporate tax rate above 50 percent. What would a government with higher tax rates have more of?

  14. In the mid-20th century the U.S. government spent a large part of their tax revenue on things like the interstate highway program, fighting WWII, landing on the moon, Medicare and other programs. Was that a good investment in our nation?

  15. The justification for lowering top income-tax rates was usually that the economy as a whole would benefit. This justification was known by various names such as supply-side economics or the trickle-down theory. The justification turned out to be wrong. The wealthy, and only the wealthy, have done fantastically well over the last several decades. G.D.P. growth has been disappointing, and middle-class income growth even worse. Explain whether you think the U.S. will reverse course and raise taxes on the richest Americans?

  16. let’s say that your crazy uncle said that the data from the chart was fake. What would be three steps you could take to find out if this data were reliable?

  17. if the overall tax rate on the richest 1 percent roughly doubled, to about 60 percent. The tax increases would bring in about $750 billion a year, or 4 percent of G.D.P. List the top three ways you would spend (or save) that revenue:

  18. Imagine that you were a candidate for president and you ran on a platform of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. How do you think the average American would like that plan?

  19. What could average Americans do to support such a plan?

  20. How do you think the wealthiest Americans would like that plan to raise taxes on them?

  21. What could wealthy Americans do to oppose a plan they did not like?

  22. Do you think a candidate in 2020 with a plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest would most likely win election?

Learning Extension

Read Pulitzer Prize winning author David Leonhardt’s op-ed about American tax rates.

Action Extension

Find out about the tax plan of any 2020 candidate for President and share the plan and your opinion of it online or in class.

Visual Extension

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Budget Me Elmo

What US Government department or agency has the largest budget for Fiscal Year 2020?

  1. How inaccurate was your crazy prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this crazy data?

  3. When you think about where the largest portion of the money goes, what is the big story this data tells?

  4. Why is that?

  5. What is one political consequence of this distribution of money?

  6. Explain whether this is good or bad news.

  7. How surprised would the average American be by this data?

  8. How much input do you personally have in the budgetary process?

  9. Let’s say that you wanted to influence the budgetary process as much as possible. What would be the most efficacious first step to take to wield the most influence?

  10. The department with the highest budget is the Department of Health and Human Services ($1.2 TRILLION!!!) What exactly is all this money going for?

  11. And what about the Social Security Agency? What does that money go for?

  12. In the budget for Fiscal Year 2020 the Department of Defense (fights wars) gets 706 BILLION dollars while the Department of State (prevents wars) gets 24 BILLION dollars. Explain whether you believe that is a good ratio of spending.

  13. I like the defense department. I do not want the U.S. to be invaded by Canada, Jamaica, or North Korea. At the same time, I like the environment, and the Defense Department budget is over 100 times larger than the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency. Explain what you would like the ratio on military protection versus environmental protection to be in the ideal world.

  14. Explain which department or agency is the most underfunded.

  15. Explain which department or agency is the most overfunded.

  16. If you could change the budgetary spending in on way, what would you change?

  17. Who decides on the budget?

  18. How is the budgetary process an example of checks and balances?

Visual Extension *

statistic_id736300_breakdown-of-the-department-of-homeland-security-budget-by-organization-2020.png

Learning Extension

Learn about the U.S. government’s budgetary process.

Action Extension

Remix the U.S. budget as you see fit. Share your new budget in class or online.

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In Debt We Trust

GoPoPro

Over the past three decades, what has happened to the U.S. government’s public debt?

Statistic: Public debt of the United States from 1990 to 2018* (in billion U.S. dollars) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista
  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is the current U.S. public debt in total dollars (top chart)?

  3. What is the current U.S. public debt as a percent of GDP (second chart)?

  4. Identify one trend in the top chart?

  5. Explain one cause of that trend.

  6. Describe one consequence of that trend?

  7. Explain whether this trend is good or bad news.

  8. Look at the second chart. Superimpose the names of the US presidents, their years in office, and their political party on this chart. Does a president’s political party impact the rate of debt during their time in office?

  9. Americans have different political ideologies, beliefs, and values. What would the typical American conservative say about a government that spends so much more than it takes in?

  10. To make the debt go down governments need to spend less (budgetary expenditures) than they take in (tax). Imagine you were a politician who wanted to eliminate our debt and advocated spending less (cutting government programs) and taxing more (increasing how much citizens pay the government in taxes). How would your economic goal impact your reelection chances?

  11. Why does American public debt keep rising?

  12. At the same time as the U.S. debt goes up, what is going down?

  13. Write the entire U.S. public debt number out (in other words, turn the trillions into zeroes):

  14. In the entire word there are 7 billion people; 6500 spoken languages, and about 400 billion birds. Name anything in the world that there are more than 22 trillion of:

  15. How does U.S. public debt compare to the rest of the world?*

  16. Who owns the U.S. public debt?*

  17. What role does the U.S. Congress have in the US debt?

  18. What role does the POTUS have in the US debt?

  19. President Trump signed the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, reducing U.S. tax revenue. 83 percent of the tax breaks from this bill go to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. How will these huge tax cuts impact the U.S. debt?

  20. Based on your knowledge of American politics, why would the President give such a large tax cut during a time of dramatically increasing American debt?

  21. How old will you be in 2050?

  22. If you were to look at the overall trend of this chart, predict what the chart will look like in 2050.*

Visual Extension*

Statistic: The 20 countries with the highest public debt in 2017 in relation to the gross domestic product (GDP) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista
statistic_id201881_us-government-debt-holders-distribution-2018.png
chartoftheday_13329_major_foreign_holders_of_us_treasury_securities_n.jpg
Statistic: Forecast of the gross federal debt of the United States for fiscal years 2018 to 2029 (in billion U.S. dollars) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Learning Extension

Freak yourself out and check out the US debt clock. You’ll love it! Check back in weekly and see how it has grown!

Action Extension

Contact the POTUS or your Congressional Representatives and let your voice be heard about the U.S. debt.

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 10.05.42 AM.png
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Reparations

¿What % of White Americans supports reparations - cash payments or education and job training programs for Black Americans who are descendants of slaves?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Are you surprised by the answer?

  3. Why do you think there is such a huge difference in opinion on reparations between Black and White Americans?

  4. List another issue that you think would have such a wide racial divide in opinion?

  5. If Black Americans were to be paid reparations for over 300 years of slavery, almost a century of Jim Crow, and decades of mass incarceration, how much do you think each person should be paid?

  6. Descendants of holocaust victims have demanded reparations from Germany for Nazi atrocities. Would you support reparations to victims of the Holocaust who had their property or wealth stolen?

  7. In the comments section, explain your own personal opinion of whether the US government should offer reparations to Black Americans?


Action Extension

Go on change.org and start or sign a petition for or against reparations.


Learning Extension

Read The Case For Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It's really provocative and interesting.