Tony Dokoupil takes an interesting approach to ask Americans if they understand what their “share of the pie” looks like. While trying to ask directly, many mall goers avoid the topic, but when asked to distribute pie to plates representing various bins, Americans learn how wealth is distributed currently. This is similar to work done by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely who fond that Americans have a hard to defining the distribution of wealth in the United States.
In this scene, Homer and Bart are loading construction materials into their car at Builder’s Barn (a Home Depot-type store). Bart isn’t sure his dad is capable of handling the word himself when a group of immigrant day laborers offer their services. The day laborers have come from nearby Barleyville due to a recent “Barley Bust.” Homer accepts their offer and welcomes them to his home. He now feels superior because he’s able to hire workers to do jobs “we don’t want to do,” but then a hoard of laborers rushes the town of Springfield.
For a deeper look at economics and The Simpsons, check out Josh Hall’s book Homer Economicus.
“America” compares life in America versus life in Puerto Rico. While the men favor the lifestyle of their homeland, the women prefer the mainland. This is a fun introduction to a discussion on mobility and migration in a labor economics or even to discuss standards of living and preferences in a macroeconomics course.
Assessment idea: Have students list things things they would miss if they were asked to move to another country.
Looking for more: Do you want to see more economics in Broadway shows? Check out BroadwayEconomics.com
Thanks to Mark Sammons from the University of Arizona for sending this clip in!
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!
In this animated short from the Walt Disney Company, Uncle Scrooge discusses the history or money and the importance of money in the overall economy. There are A LOT of great teaching opportunities in this clip and would make a great summary of a money supply lesson or a required video to be watched before the lesson.
Opening to 7:15
History of Money
Huey, Dewie, and Louie visit Scrooge McDuck and request that he help them save the money they had earned. Scrooge goes through the history of money and discusses the role of salt as the original salary that Roman soldiers received. He then goes on to describe money from other societies and why money was important following original barter economies. The characters even discuss the role of money as a medium of exchange!
7:15 to 9:59
After learning of the importance of money in the economy, the brothers question why central banks don’t just print more money if everyone wants it. Uncle Scrooge discusses the role of fiat money and why it’s important for the money to be backed by something or someone who can promise to pay the notes that are printed.
10:00 to 13:20
Financial Planning and Taxes
Uncle Scrooge teaches the brothers about the importance of budgeting. People need to make sure that they allocate a portion of their income toward rent, food, and other necessities. He also teaches them about the role of taxes and how important it is for governments to have a budget and make sure that they collect taxes to pay debt.
13:20 to End
Velocity of Money & Investment
The boys are curious why Scrooge keeps so much money in his vault if he tells them that it’s important to put money “to work.” He teaches them that the money in his vault is just his petty cash and then goes on to discuss the importance of money circulating through the economy. The ending portion discusses the role of corporations issuing stocks and shareholders collecting dividends. At the end, he signs the boys up to manage their funds, but charges them a fee. The boys aren’t happy, but he laments that “nothing is ever free.”
Nick, Kurt, and Dale finish production on their new product, the Shower Buddy. After being asked to produce 100,000 units to be sold to Bert Hanson and his son Rex. The three take our a half million dollar loan and start production, but since they have never done this before, they don’t have the Hansons commit to paying for a portion of their order. Hanson cancels his order with a week before the loan is due in an attempt to buy their company in foreclosure. One line is especially poignant as Hanson notes that hard work doesn’t create wealth, wealth creates wealth. One of the issues with wealth inequality is that it’s not a reward for hard work, but rather a reward for previous work. Vox covered the difference between wealth and income inequality in a nicely illustrated video.
Relative values of wealth are often difficult for students to analyze, primarily given our focus on income. Income is the flow of money while wealth is an accumulation of assets. Different generations perceive the concept of “wealthy” differently, but this video includes nonpecuniary aspects like spending time with family or being able to vacations as markers of wealthy. It would be interesting to survey students what they feel is a level of wealth that they would identify as being “wealthy.” I suspect it could also be a good opportunity to talk about the differences between means and medians.
The Cooper family is on their way to get a computer unbeknownst to the children. Sheldon’s sister Missy is in love with her pony, even if some of is derived from the fact that Sheldon doesn’t have a toy (known as a positional good). This all changes when their mother announces that Sheldon will be getting his computer. Missy is now upset because she has a “lousy toy” that she loved minutes ago. This scene is a good representation of the issues of inequality despite both parties gaining, the relative gain is unbalanced. The two siblings experience a Pareto improvements in their lives (both gain), but one is happier about the situation than the other.
Colorful stickers have become de facto currency on the playground. TJ can’t buy things because he doesn’t have any stickers even though his friends have them. Because of the increase in demand, the local shop owner doesn’t even have any stickers left.
TJ decides to start working in order to earn more stickers to buy things. When he gets tired of doing labor for stickers, he turns into a managerial role and begins delegating tasks to other kids who needs stickers. When TJ collects nearly all of the Monstickers on the playground, the kids aren’t able to actually purchase anythings. Eventually, Monstickers become obsolete and the playground converts to Lick ‘n’ Stick Alien Stamps and the Monstickers become useless.