J. Cole — Brackets

J Cole discusses the impact of tax brackets on his earnings. As J Cole continues to increase his earnings, he moves into new tax brackets, which requires an increasing amount of tax liability to the government. This song could be used as a good pre-class video before discussing tax policy. The Tax Policy Foundation provides the country’s tax brackets since the inception income taxes as part of the 16th Amendment.

J Cole notes in the song that the money is supposed to support schools and roads, but he doesn’t believe the money is being used efficiently by politicians. He argues that because he pays so much, he should be able to have some say in how the money is used, but that’s part of the explanation for pork spending already in that companies rent seek and convince politicians to vote in favor of their interests:

I pay taxes, so much taxes, shit don’t make sense
Where do my dollars go? You see lately, I ain’t been convinced
I guess they say my dollars supposed to build roads and schools
But my niggas barely graduate, they ain’t got the tools
Maybe ’cause the tax dollars that I make sure I send
Get spent hirin’ some teachers that don’t look like them
And the curriculum be tricking them, them dollars I spend

Thanks to Kim Holder for the song suggestion!

Trading a Paperclip for a House

 

Kyle MacDonald started with a red paperclip and ended up with a house. Trade and barter requires a double coincidence of wants, but Kyle was able to find people willing to give up something he valued more than his holdings. Mutually beneficial exchange makes both parties better off. This is a great clip to start the process of discussing why trading can grow an economy and why centrally planned economies are harder to coordinate.

Thanks to @AlcovyEconomics on Twitter for the clip!

Zelle — Birthday Gifts

From an economic perspective, giving the wrong gift makes society poorer. If you spend money on chocolates and give it to someone who happens to think it is worth less (due to an allergy!), you’ve lost value. Whenever you receive an outfit that is the wrong size or style, a candy you won’t eat, or something that is worth less to you than what the gift giver spent on it, an economic inefficiency has occurred. Thus, from an economic perspective, the most efficient gift is always cash. The person will maximize their own utility by spending (or saving) the money according to their preferences.

Submission and description from Erin Yetter!

Superstore — Handheld Automation

 

Corporate has created new devices for customers to use that will allow them to look up where items are located in the store, scan the items, and pay for their total. The employees quickly point out that the device essentially replaces the workers and they are left wondering what that means for them. Dina tries to point out the relationship between ATMs and bank tellers, although she doesn’t have it exactly right.

At the end of the clip, Amy points out that corporate has also asked the stores to cut back employee hours, which implies that the new machines are replacing some of the labor in the store.

Life in Pieces — Discounts & Sunk Costs

 

Tim tries to host a guys night and things don’t seem to be going his way. Beyond the awkwardness of just the two of them, the big pay per view fight lasts only a couple of seconds. While the two did get to watch the fight, which had a knockout, it wasn’t quite worth the hundred dollars they paid. Tim notes that he may be able to turn it off and get his money back. With a lot of experience goods, it’s not necessarily the actual outcome of the action that people care about. Tim and Matt did see a fight, so why is he so focused on getting his money back?

A second quick econ line occurs later when they sit down for dinner. Even though Tim isn’t eating any tacos, he notes that the cook is cheaper since he expects Matt to eat 25 or 26 tacos. This form of bulk discounting represents second degree price discrimination. With this pricing mechanism, the hope is to induce customers to purchase more than they would have (law of demand) even though making an additional taco doesn’t have the added cost of another cook.

Blackish — Castle Neighbors

 

This opening cartoon depicts Dre dutifully maintaining his castle and describing the lengths men go to in order to protect their castle. Unfortunately, we can’t always control what neighbor’s do with their castle and their decision to throw parties and disturb us is (seemingly) out of our control. The Coase Theorem would argue that so long as transaction costs are low, people should be able to bargain and sort out external costs imposed by private actions. The insinuation by Dre in this scene is that the transaction costs may be just a bit too high.

Clip recommended by James Tierney:

 

T-Mobile — Ariana or Maps?

The driver of the car faces scarcity (limited data). The driver is forced into a decision between streaming music and using maps with her data. At the end of the commercial she chooses maps, leaving Arianna as her opportunity cost.

Thanks to Brian Devitt for the clip and description!

Brooklyn 99 — Boyle Can’t Quit

 

Boyle’s new food truck isn’t going well at all. He’s losing a lot of money and he can’t seem to change things around. Jake suggests Boyle does what he’s good at and just quits, suggesting that Boyle’s the average price Boyle charges for food is below even his average variable costs. Boyle took out a huge loan and he needs to help pay it back, which may mean that his prices are between the average fixed and average variable costs, in which case he should keep producing even though he’s losing money.

Agents of SHIELD — She Wanted Gold!

 

Loralei is seeking to take over the world and she wants money, but Rooster shows up with a bag full of paper money instead of gold. Rooster explains to her that on Earth, paper money is just like gold although he mistakenly says that Ben Franklin was a US president. While dollars used to be based on gold, they have since been converted to fiat money is backed on faith of the US government.

 

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