The Simpsons — Day Laborers

 

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.

West Side Story — America

“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 — 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!

Horrible Bosses 2 — Wealth Creates Wealth (NSFC)

 

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.

Bloomberg — How Much Money Do You Need to Be Wealthy in America?

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.

Young Sheldon — Relative Gifts

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.

Vox — Homer Simpson: An Economic Analysis

Homer has had about 100 jobs during his many years on television and Vox writers have analyzed his work life. If you plan on using a lot of Simpsons clips throughout your course, they may be a good introduction for students unfamiliar with the show.

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