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!

Big Bang Theory — An (Un)Permitted Deck

 

Howard and Bernadette are bothered by their neighbor’s (Andy) new flood lights, which appears to look out over their backyard and right into the hot tub they have built. Andy doesn’t see the problem because his flood lights are in his backyard and provide him some sense of security, but they are a nuisance to Howard and Bernadette.

Instead of talking to their neighbors directly, like the Coase Theory would suggest, they head to the city zoning office to try and report the issue in the hopes that he has violated some city zoning ordinance. When they realize that will take too much time, they try to get Sheldon’s help, but Sheldon is cautious because Bernadette and Howard didn’t get permission to build their backyard deck, nor renovate their shower.

In Howard and Bernadette’s mind, government regulation should only be used for externalities. Their deck and bathroom aren’t affecting third parties so they don’t see the need to have them approved.

 

John Stossel — Blue Laws

Blue Laws in the United States date back to Puritanical times when local governments wanted to ensure that people were in church on Sunday and observing the sabbath. Today, Blue Laws are a form of prohibition that limits the amount of time that businesses can sell profits. While most states have removed their blue laws, some still remain, like the inability to sell cars on Sundays or more extreme limitations like those in Bergen, NJ. This Stossel clips argues that the prohibition is a restriction of freedom for businesses that want to sell products.

30 for 30: Broke — Unexpected Expenses

 

One reason why so many athletes become broke after retirement is overspending, but a secondary issue is the unexpected costs associated with earning millions of dollars each year. This segment of the ESPN 30 for 30 special looks at the taxes and unexpected costs associated with earning millions of dollars per year. For many athletes, this may be the first real job they have held, which means they are unaware that they are now part of the highest tax bracket, so approximately 40% of their millions is withheld. A secondary issue is that athletes play in multiple states and countries, which means that they owe state and federal taxes in more than one jurisdiction. Because of the complicated tax situations, many athletes need a financial advisor in addition to their agents, who also take a percentage of the total income.

Abdullah Al-Bahrani and Darshak Patel have a great paper in the Southern Economic Journal that looks at using ESPN 30 for 30 to teach economics.

The Beatles — The Taxman

I reached out on Twitter to solicit advice for great music videos associated with different lessons, and my former teaching assistant responded with this great song from the Beatles. One of the great lines from the song goes like this:

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

This is a great opener for a lesson on taxes and tax policy.

Thanks to Marissa Reuther for the song suggestion

South Park — Medicinal Fried Chicken (NFSW)

 

Cartman and the gang head to KFC after soccer practice only to find out it’s been converted into a new medicinal marijuana shop. Cartman convinces his mom to drive him to a nearby town for KFC, but that show has closed as well. Cartman learns that Colorado has recently passed a bill that bans fast food in low-income areas, but it turns out KFCs were only built in low-income cities, so there are effectively no more KFCs in the state. The state government has essentially set a price ceiling for KFC in low-income areas at zero dollars. One of the predictable side effects of these price controls is a black market for the item. Items with price ceilings also tend to have inefficiently low quality. The banning of fast food causes Cartman to enter the black market to feed his KFC addiction. In later scenes, Cartman is upset because he catches a dealer cutting the KFC gravy with Boston Market gravy. When the dealer suggests he can take the gravy back, Cartman notes that no one wants fried chicken without gravy, implying the two items are complements.

Thanks to Thomas Jandora for the clip reference

Friends — Rent Control

 

This is a classic example of a price ceiling, where the government comes in and sets a maximum price on what can be changed to consumers. One of the most prolific examples of price ceilings is rent control. In this episode of Friends, Chandler brags about how because the apartment was rent controlled, it was a ‘freaking steal!’

Thanks to James Tierney for the clip and description.

John Stossel — The Fight Against Food Trucks

John Stossel, through ReasonTV, looks at the regulations behind the food truck industry. From a competitive market standpoint, food trucks have the ability to respond to high demand areas by relocating at any given moment. For brick-and-mortar businesses, however, food trucks enter the market as a low-cost competitor and steal customers from permanent restaurants. Many cities in the United States have setup regulation limiting the location of food trucks or the hours they may operate. This rent seeking behavior, however, limits the amount of options available to consumers in the name of “fairness.”

The Daily Show — Wage Against the Machine

This video does a nice job of describing many of the economic arguments for and against raising the minimum wage in a comical way. The clip is a few years old, but it still does a nice job of discussing many of the common arguments. Note: the clip does include a supply and demand graph, but it labels supply and demand incorrectly! This is a good opportunity to discuss economic misconceptions, as well as the labor supply and labor demand curves.

Thanks to Rebecca Chambers for the clip and description!

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