West Wing — CPI Increases

 

At this part in the episode, Senior Communications Director Toby Ziegler tells Press Secretary C.J. Cregg about the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting the CPI increased by 0.7% in one month (could this be info that they released on Jobs Friday?). C.J. is about to go to a press briefing and quickly practices an answer in case a reporter asks about this startling statistic. C.J. and Toby, though they don’t name these exactly, talk about New Product Bias and Quality Bias as ways of explaining why CPI is not always reliable!

Thanks to Katie Cook and Kalina Staub from UNC for getting this clip on the website!

South Park — Spending and Debt

 

Stan gets a no-limit credit card and pays the debts for the citizens of South Park so that they can go out and begin shopping again, and stimulate the economy. The entire episode is themed around the crucifixion as Stan “pays for the debts” of everyone in town. Keynesian economics argues that governments can increase spending during times of recessions in order to help lift the economy out of recessions.

Thanks to Zoe Cook-Nadel for the suggestion!

South Park — Fiat Money

 

Stan describes the economy as being both real and not real at the same time. The market works because people believe in the economy and believe that paper money and plastic can count as spending. The concept of fiat money stems from people’s belief that the currency they hold actually has true value. This differs from commodity money in that the currency is not tied to a single asset.

Thanks to Zoe Cook-Nadel for the suggestion!

South Park — Margarita Securities

 

Stan tries to return his dad’s Margarittaville machine so that his family can have a bit more money during the recession. Turns out that his dad bought it on a finance plan, which has been repackaged and sold to investors. Similar to mortgage-backed securities, loans can be issued for assets and then re-packaged to spread out risk among risky investments. If you’re looking for an easy way to teach about the MBS crisis, this scene does a great job condensing the major components.

Thanks to Zoe Cook-Nadel for the suggestion!

South Park — It’s Gone!

 

Stan heads to the local bank to put a check from his relative into a bank account, but the South Park Bank is pretty terrible with their investment strategy. Unknowingly, the economy is about to tank and depositors are finding their money is suddenly gone.

Thanks to Zoe Cook-Nadel for the suggestion!

Billy Paul — Let the Dollar Circulate

I reached out to #EconTwitter and asked what songs they like to use to teach different topics in their classes and the results did not disappoint:

Since I’m not a macroeconomist, I have very little content on the macro side from tv and movies, but apparently music covers a lot of macro topics. The first suggestion was this 1975 Billy Paul song, Let the Dollar Circulate which begs for money to start flowing through the economy and wonders why things have slowed down (Is it all because of Watergate?). Paul notes that “Things are gettin’ higher, makes it hard on the buyers”  (inflation is happening) and “Unemployment on the rise.” The song was released at the end of the 1973-1975 recession. I was curious what unemployment and inflation looked like in the 1970s leading up to the recession, so I went and put together a FRED chart for you:

Thanks to Leo for the song suggestion!

Hard Knocks — Carl Nassib Teaches Compound Interest

 

Athletes are notoriously bad at saving money and making smart financial decisions after coming into their fortunes. Carl Nassib, a defensive lineman with the Cleveland Browns, discusses the power of compound interest with other rookies. His goal is to convince his teammates not to go out and spend $10,000 on a needless purchase because that means they are giving up a lot more money later in life. While 10% may be an unlikely interest rate, the power of compounding interest is one of the key principles in financial literacy programs.

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