Alex Keaton talks to pre-schoolers about starting a business and taxes. It is a fun clip to show when introducing a discussion about taxes. To avoid any issues with political differences, I usually note beforehand that Michael J. Fox, who plays Alex, was a Democrat in real life but played a Republican on the show.
Thanks to Matt Rousu for the clip and description!
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
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 Inflation 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.”
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.
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.
Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour informational comedy were host, Adam Conover, debunks popular myths. Each episode is divided into 3 segments with some common theme. In the Spring of 2018, James Tierney and I sat down to go through all three seasons of Adam Ruins Everything to pick out examples in each episode that could be used in an economics course. If you’re curious about the paper, you can read about it here.
In this segment, Adam reports on the frustrations of taxes and why we don’t see return-free filing in the United States. Because of lobbying efforts by major tax software companies, the tax system is kept just complicated enough that consumers will purchase their products.
The Last Leg is a British comedy and late night television talk show similar to the Late Show or The Tonight Show in the United States. The economist David Mitchell was a guest one night and opted to talk about taxes, tax evasion, and tax avoidance. He notes that people who have a conscious and try to pay their “fair share” of taxes are actually being taxed at a higher rate than those who are trying to avoid paying taxes. This is backwards from the traditional notion that governments should use taxes to discourage bad behavior.
It’s not often that you can learn about the Laffer Curve from Art Laffer himself. While relatively controversial, Art Laffer popularized, but did not create, the notion that tax revenues could increase by lowering taxes. In this clip, he does a good job distinguishing between the two sections of the curve and focusing on the pedagogical side of the curve.
Christian Finnegan knows he isn’t in the best shape so he’s decided to join a gym. He figures that at least if he never goes to the gym then he can consider the gym membership a form of fat tax. This framing adjustment could still have the same impact as working out since he now has to internalize his decision to eat unhealthy foods.
Cold War cartoon defending the profit motive against anti-capitalist critics. The second of seven smart-looking animated shorts in the “fun and facts about American business” series. Its subject is “the profit motive,” and it stars “Freddie Fudsie,” a lazy soap maker who just wants to go fishing. He invents bar soap, makes some money, and is about to retire in peace and quiet when a sexy lady (the Profit Motive) walks by and Freddie — who suddenly needs more money to win her affection — never sees a fishing hole again. But that’s okay, because “the profit motive has been the driving force behind the growth of American industry” and “will make a better life for the children of tomorrow.”