World's Biggest Companies

What is the world's biggest company by market cap (total financial value)?

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  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What surprised you about this list?

  3. Which of the top 5 companies do you use/visit?

  4. Which of the top 5 companies have you never heard of?

  5. What questions do you have?

  6. How many of the top 5 companies are American (hint: look at the names)?

  7. Would it be more accurate to describe this chart as business globalization or business Americanization?

  8. What kind of businesses are the most powerful companies (manufacturing, tech, financial, energy)?

  9. If you wanted to advise someone how to get rich. What would you tell them to sell?

  10. The Market cap (financial value) of Facebook is greater than the GDP (financial value) of Finland. Share your thoughts about the relative power of corporations in the comments section below:

Learning Extension

Learn more about the world's most valuable businesses in this PWC report.

Action Extension

Ask ten people to name the world's ten biggest companies and share the results in class or on social media.

Bonus Visual from 2012*

As of 2012

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Federal Government Spending as share of GDP

AP US Government and Politics

What portion of the GDP did the federal government spend in 2016?

Pew Research Center

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your silly prediction?

  2. Would you be embarrassed to share your prediction with your most special friend?

  3. How surprised are you by the overall portion of the GDP that the federal government spends?

  4. You do know what GDP means, don’t you?

  5. Spending by what other levels of government are not included in this chart?

  6. How do you think this spending level compares to other advanced post-industrial countries like Switzerland, Japan, or New Zealand?

  7. What are two trends in spending you see in the chart?

  8. Explain the cause of one of those trends.

  9. What is a consequence of one of these trends?

  10. Based on the trends in the chart, what portion of GDP do you think the US government will be spending by 2028?

  11. How familiar are most Americans with the data from this chart?

  12. Currently, what is the biggest single expenditure from the US government?

  13. Why do you think that is?

  14. Donald Trump, in his budget outline, has proposed increases in defense spending (very light blue section of chart) and decreases in "other" spending (darkest blue section of chart) for things like the NEA, NASA, and the CPB. Do you support that idea?

  15. If you had to cut any one area of spending in this chart, explain which area it would be.

  16. Which areas in this chart are entitlement or mandatory spending, and cannot be simply cut by a new budget?

  17. Overall, is this chart good or bad news?

  18. What would the framers of the Constitution think about this chart, besides “what the heck is a social security?”

  19. Former Treasury official Peter Fisher once said, the federal government is basically “a gigantic insurance company,” albeit one with “a sideline business in national defense and homeland security.” Based on the data from the chart, does Fisher's assessment seem correct?

Learning Extension

Read this swell new Pew Report putting federal spending in perspective.

Action Extension

Contact the POTUS, or if you're not at Mar-a-Lago, go to his website to share your opinion of US federal spending and what he should do about it!

Visual Extension (at absolutely no additional cost to the federal government)!!!


Aw, that's adorable.

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothes Extension

Changes in Spending

AP US Government & Politics

By 2040, what portion of U.S. Federal budget spending will be discretionary

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is the difference between mandatory and discretionary spending?

  3. List two examples of mandatory spending:

  4. List two examples of discretionary spending:

  5. What story do these charts tell?

  6. What is one reason for the changing nature of U.S. federal spending?

  7. What are two consequences of the changing nature of U.S. federal spending?

  8. As discretionary spending gets squeezed, what are some specific discretionary U.S. government programs that you think might get cut?

  9. Describe the general trend in overall (discretionary + mandatory)U.S. government spending?

  10. What specific parts of the government play a major role in creating the budget?

  11. Describe the U.S. Government’s budgetary process.

  12. Let's say that you felt the government was spending too much money on mandatory spending. Is there anything the federal government could do about this?

  13. Overall, is this good news or bad?

  14. Why doesn't the U.S. save money and just stop paying the interest on the debt?

  15. What questions do you have about all this?

  16. In the comments section below, list one program or expenditure that you wouldn't mind seeing cut from the US federal budget.

Visual Extension


Learning Extension

Learn more about the changes in discretionary spending at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Action Extension

Plug in your family information to the tax receipt calculator to see where the federal government spent your family's taxes.

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothes Extension

Rich Congress, Poor Democracy

AP U.S. Government and Politics

How does the Net Worth of the Average member of the U.S. Congress compare to the Net Worth of the Average American?

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  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is the big story this data tells?

  3. Is this good news?

  4. What is one consequence of such a Disparity in wealth between congress and the average American?

  5. What are three hurdles to winning a congressional election for candidates who are poor?

  6. How do you think the wealth of Congress impacts the policy that Congress makes? 

  7. Explain how The current president’s wealth (billionaire) impacts how he governs?

  8. The net worth of the average American is $68,828. Why do you think that is so much lower than Congress?

  9. What has happened to the net worth of Congress since 2007?

  10. What has happened to the net worth of the Average American since 2007?

  11. What do you think the net worth of the average Congressperson and of the average American was 50 years ago?

  12. Why do you think the Senate is so much wealthier than the house?*

  13. What do you think the Framers (all white, all male, almost all rich) would have thought about the disparity between the wealth of Americans and their congress?

  14. What opinions would the typical American liberal and conservative have about this data?

  15. Are you surprised that Democratic House members are richer than Republican House members?*

  16. How do your Senators and Representatives stack up on the wealth list?

  17. What most surprises you about this data?

  18. What would you wish that this data looked like?

  19. Here is an argument: The american dream is to be wealthy. Congress is made up of people who have fulfilled the American dream. The winners should be the leaders. Why would we elect poor people (the ones who have lost)? React to this argument:

  20. Make one counterclaim to this argument.

Learning Extension

Watch this video on the richest members of the 115th Congress. And here are some cool charts from Congressional Quarterly about Congressional wealth, including this one where the members of Congress are ranked by wealth.

Action Extension

Share the congressional wealth chart on social media asking friends to comment. Share the best comments in class or online.

Visual Extension

AP US Government and Politics

AP US Government and Politics

Quokka Extension

Yes they are real!

Yes they are real!


GDP you later!

AP Government and Politics

What country's GDP or Gross Domestic Product - the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country's borders in a specific time period - is the same as your state's?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Which state-country GDP comparison most surprised you?

  3. What does this map tell you about the relative wealth of the US?

  4. Should Arkansas be embarrassed?

  5. If California were its own country, what rank would it's GDP be?*

  6. According to this map, what country's GDP was the same as your state?

  7. Does that make you state-proud?

  8. Based on this map, what adjective would you use to describe our nation's wealth?

  9. Explain the effect of the Trump presidency on the U.S. GDP now and in the future.

  10. What country's GDP is closest to that of the U.S. of A.?*

  11. What questions do you have about all this?

  12. In the comments section below, explain why you think the US is so crazy rich?:

*Answer: California would have the world's 11th biggest economy, right behind India and just before Canada, eh.

Learning Extension

Read the Business Insider story about different countries' GDPs relative to US States'.

Action Extension

Contact President Trump and advise him on two things he should do to increase US GDP:

Bonus Chart*

State Income Tax

How high are income tax rates in your state?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this map?

  3. What questions do you have about this information?

  4. Why aren't all state tax rates the same?

  5. Since we are all Americans, shouldn't all tax rates be the same regardless of state?

  6. What is the state income tax rate in your state?

  7. Some states don't have an income tax. How do they raise revenue to pay for programs and expenditures?

  8. Income tax rates are 10% higher in California than in Indiana. Why don't all the Californians move to Indiana?

  9. Describe any geographical patterns you see in levels of state income tax rates?

  10. List one pro and one con of a state having no income tax rate?

  11. Explain the connection between this map and Federalism.

  12. In the comments section, list the top five programs and expenditures that your state funds. For example, my beautiful state, North Carolina, spends most of its money on: 1-health services, 2-education, 3-natural resources, 4-transportation, and 5-public safety.

Action Extension

Research the marginal income tax rate in your state and the top state expenditures then contact your state governor explaining whether they should raise or lower the income tax rate and/or cut or increase spending:

Learning Extension

The following video will help you better understand state budgeting.

Taxation Nation

Are U.S. taxes high compared to other countries?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How surprised were you by the data?

  3. Based on the chart how would you describe the level of taxation in the US?

  4. How do you think the average American would describe the level of taxation in the US?

  5. What percent of U.S. GDP is taken in tax revenue?

  6. Why do you think US tax levels are so low compared to other countries?

  7. What is one consequence of having such relatively low tax rates?

  8. Is this good news for the US?

  9. What has happened to our tax rate under a Trump administration?

  10. What parts of the US government set tax rates and policy?

  11. What would be the most politically efficacious way to advocate for a different tax rate in America?

  12. How does federalism impact US tax rates?

  13. List one question you have about this chart:

  14. Why do you think people in Denmark allow their country to tax them at over 50% of their GDP?

  15. In the comments section, explain whether you think we are too heavily taxed in the U.S.:

Learning Extension

Check out this great Vox interactive - 11 chart that explain taxes in America:

Action Extension

Choose your favorite Vox chart and share it on social media, post it in the school hallway, or print it out and share it with class.

Total Government Spending

AP U$ Government and Politics

What does the U.S. federal government spend the most money on? 

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What was the biggest surprise in this chart?

  3. What do you think would be the biggest surprise about this chart to the average American?

  4. Explain whether this chart is good or bad news for America.

  5. If you were king or queen for a day (you aren’t), in which area would you most want to increase spending?

  6. If you were king or queen for a day, in which area would you most want to decrease spending?

  7. In what way does Donald Trump's budget most differ from the 2015 budget pictured above?

  8. Is it easy to lower mandatory spending on things like social security and interest on the debt?

  9. Do you think that questions about the US federal budget and spending will be a big factor in the next presidential election?

  10. Why do you think the federal government spends almost eight times as much on the military as on transportation?

  11. We know that the federal budget is officially an agreement between the President and Congress, but what people and groups do you think have the most power in determining the federal budget?

  12. In the comments section explain what was most unhappily surprising to you about the information in the chart:

Learning Extension

Learn more about the budgetary process from the National Priorities Project.

Action Extension

Download the Sunlight Foundation's Congress app and contact your congressional representatives to let them know how you'd like the budget to look in the future. Share your budget with class or online.

The U.S. and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Deficit

AP U.S. Government and Politics

Under the recent spending bill passed by congress and signed by the president, what will happen to the U.S. budget deficit over the next two years?

AP U.S. Government and Politics

AP U.S. Government and Politics

Critical Questions

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What does budget deficit mean?

  3. What is the difference between deficit and debt?

  4. What is the big story this chart tells?

  5. Explain whether you think this is good news.

  6. What is one major cause for the expanding budget deficit?

  7. What is one major consequence of an increasing budget deficit?

  8. If the budget deficit continues to grow, what will happen to the overall U.S. debt?*

  9. How does military spending versus non-military spending compare in the current spending bill the president just signed into law?**

  10. On Thursday, February 8 the U.S. government shut down because one U.S. senator held the floor and would not allow the Senate to vote on a funding plan that would have kept the government open. Is this a good way to run a government?

  11. What role does Congress play in spending and funding the government?

  12. What role does the President play in creating budgets?

  13. What does the brief government shutdown tell us about checks and balances?

  14. What do you think the framers of the Constitution would think about our current debt?

Visual Extension


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Learning Extension

Check out the U.S. national debt clock in real time!!!!

Action Extension

Contact your congressional representative, share a link to the U.S. debt clock and tell them what you think about the deficit that we are adding to the U.S. debt.