Discussion Guides

Economy Questions: Be Informed, Speak Up, Act Lesson Plan (Grades 6–8)

  • Grades: 6–8

This article is part of the "Be Informed, Speak Up, Act" lesson plan.

As president, Barack Obama will have to make important economic decisions to deal with the economic decline gripping the United States and the world. There are different ideas about how to address this historic challenge.

1. Most people who purchase homes borrow money from banks in order to pay for their new house. A home foreclosure occurs when an owner of a house is unable to repay a bank for his or her home loan. At this point the bank claims ownership of the house. The people who had lived in the home must move out. Home foreclosures in the United States have reached record highs. Furthermore, many people owe the bank more on their home than the home is worth. This means that when they bought the house, they paid more than they could make now if they sold their home. The president and Congress will have to act to address the foreclosure crisis, which is helping to fuel the nation's economic downturn.

How should President Obama work with members of Congress to prevent more home foreclosures?

  • What types of actions can the president and Congress take?

  • List benefits of the actions you propose.

  • List drawbacks of the actions you propose.

  • What can individuals in your community do to try and reduce the high rate of home foreclosures?

  • How is the home foreclosure crisis affecting your community?

2. The current economic crisis is bringing a lot of attention to the issue of government regulation of the financial industry. The financial industry includes banks, stock markets, financial investment firms, and insurance companies. Policymakers must decide how much or how little government should be involved in overseeing or restricting these types of businesses. Some say that government regulations should be tightened. These people argue that the fact that the government did not regulate these businesses enough contributed to the current crisis. Others insist that too much government regulation has a negative affect on industry. These people insist that regulatory efforts will not necessarily help to improve the economy.

Should the government regulate the country's financial industry (e.g., banks and investment firms) more, less, or the same amount as it is now regulating it?

  • Describe different views on regulation.

  • How do supporters of each view support their arguments?

  • What are the benefits of a government that has many departments keeping tabs on the financial investment market? What are the drawbacks?

  • How is the financial industry crisis affecting your local community? What can be done within your community to ease this crisis? (Do you know anybody who has lost their job or lost their home?) 

3. Did you know that people must pay the government money, called taxes, when they earn money? Businesses that make money must also pay taxes to the government. Elected officials often have different ideas about tax policies regulating how much individual people and businesses must pay. These elected officials, or policymakers, also disagree as to how taxes should be used to support government operations and programs. Who and what to tax and what rate to tax are subjects of policy debates. Some say that people with high incomes and businesses should have a higher tax rate. Others believe that tax cuts for such individuals and corporations help fuel the economy.

Is it fair to have different tax rates for different levels of income?

  • What should government's priority be when considering tax cuts: allowing people to keep more of their salary or funding government programs (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, education)? Explain your position.

  • Should businesses be given tax cuts? Explain your position.

  • How would tax cuts for businesses or high income people affect government spending?

  • Subjects:
    Social Studies, Economics, Politics
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