State of the Union Economics Bingo 2013
Play economics bingo while watching President Obama's State of the Union speech! Click on each linked topic that he mentions to learn more about the issue or just the box to mark the space. Line up topics to win. You can refresh the page for a new card. You can also discuss on Twitter using hashtag #SOTUBingo.
Austerity Spending Cuts: Austerity — a.k.a. spending cuts — has been shown to be wrong everywhere it was applied: in the U.S., the Eurozone, and especially the U.K. And steps to immediately reduce spending would pull money out of the economy, leading to slower economic growth and higher unemployment.
Climate Change: Significant reductions in carbon emissions are possible through reducing work hours, with workers getting the benefit of productivity growth in more leisure rather than higher income.
Copyrights and Patents: A large and growing share of world output is controlled by patent and copyright monopolies that allow their owners to charge prices that hugely exceed the free market price. In the U.S. in prescription drugs alone, patent protection adds more than $250 billion a year to the cost compared with free market prices. The total cost of all forms of intellectual property is almost certainly three times this amount.
Economic Growth: Deficits are supporting the economy at present. Any steps that we take to reduce the deficit, a.k.a. austerity or the sequester, would pull money out of the economy, leading to slower economic growth and higher unemployment.
Family and Medical Leave: This month marks the 20th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. It has been used more than 100 million times to provide workers with needed, but unpaid, leave. Path-breaking state programs that support workers when they need paid leave have been shown to make a positive difference in the lives of American families.
Federal Budget/Deficits: Current federal budget deficits are mostly attributable to the collapse of the housing bubble, which sank the economy. We need deficits today to fill a huge hole in demand -- reducing deficits immediately would result in slower growth and higher unemployment. Large projected long-term deficits are the result of a broken health care system, not reckless government entitlement programs.
Foreclosures: The Great Recession was caused by the popping of the housing bubble and resulting foreclosures. Right to Rent would increase the bargaining power and security of families and communities by allowing foreclosed homeowners to remain in their homes as renters for a substantial period or time.
Good Jobs: More good jobs are a necessary condition for expanding the middle class and reducing poverty over the next decade, yet relative to 1979 the economy has lost about one-third of its capacity to generate good jobs. This deterioration reflects long-run changes in the U.S. economy, not short-run factors related to the recession or recent economic policy.
Health Care: Long-term federal budget deficits are entirely attibutable to projected skyrocketing private health care costs. If the United States had the same per person health care costs as any other developed nation, long-term projections would be for federal budget surpluses, rather than deficits.
Housing Bubble: The Great Recession was caused by the collapse of the housing bubble, which led to a gap of more than $1 trillion in lost demand due to the plunge in construction and the falloff in related consumption.
Inequality: The top one percent's share of before-tax income roughly doubled between the late 1970s and the present — from 10 percent to 20 percent. This gain came at the expense of the bottom 80 percent, who have seen little benefit from economic growth over this same period. There is a strong case to be made that we got inequality by design.
Labor Unions: The union-membership rate of wage and salary workers is 11.3 percent, continuing a long downward trend: fifty years ago, the rate was almost 30 percent. Comparisons with other countries suggest that the national political environment, not globalization or technology, is the most important factor driving the decline in unionization rates in the U.S.
Marriage: Family structure is overrated as an explanation of inequality. Most parents with below-poverty incomes are married. To increase economic security for families of all types, policy makers need to expand and strengthen labor market institutions as well as universal systems of social protection against economic risks, and make quality child care and early education a birthright for all children.
Medicare and Medicaid: Long-term federal budget deficits are entirely attibutable to projected skyrocketing private health care and since the government pays about half of those costs, through Medicare and Medicaid. Two ways to save a lot of money are allowing global free trade in Medicare and allowing the government to negotiate to lower Medicare prescription drug prices.
Minimum Wage: Currently $7.25 per hour, or about $14,500 per year, the federal minimum wage hasn't increased since 2009. It is now far below its historical level by all of the most commonly used benchmarks - inflation, average wages, and productivity.
National Debt: If the United States had the same per person health care costs as any other developed nation, all of which enjoy longer life expectancies than the U.S., the long-term future national debt would flatline or even decrease.
Poverty: The current poverty threshold — about $22,000 for a family of four in 2010 — is much too low to serve as a measure of a minimally decent living standard in today's economy.
Private Equity: Private equity can play a valuable role in the U.S. economy. Too often, however, the behavior of private equity firms is governed by a set of perverse incentives that tend to reduce productive investment and increase risk taking. In addition, much of the sector's profits come from gaming the tax code.
Retirement Age: Raising Social Security's normal retirement age would be a cut in benefits, with the effect of increasing economic inequality and placing a greater burden on the over 6 million older workers — especially the least educated, the lowest wage earners, and Latinos — who have physically demanding jobs.
Skills and Technology: Rather than technological change, other factors — overwhelmingly related to policy issues — are actually driving inequality. There is a strong case to be made that we got inequality by design. We shouldn't blame the robots.
Social Security: Social Security doesn't affect federal budget deficits, as it is separately funded by workers' payroll tax contributions. It faces a long-term shortfall that, if not addressed, would mean being able to pay only about 75 percent of promised benefits. Raising the payroll tax cap is one option that could easily eliminate a substantial portion of that shortfall.
Taxes: The corporate profit share of national income is near a post-World War II high. The share of income of going to the richest one percent is almost at its pre-Depression peak. Since 2011, Congress and the President have agreed to over $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade — about $2.50 in cuts for every $1 in taxes.
Unemployment and Job Creation: A lack of demand in the economy, caused by the collapse of the housing bubble, is at the root of U.S. unemployment. In this context, measures that focus on improving skills — a remedy for structural unemployment — will have little effect on overall employment.
Wall Street: A very small tax on Wall Street transactions — just fractions of a percent — would raise tens of billions of dollars per year, while also curbing dangerous high-speed speculative financial trading. It would also reduce the amount of resources wasted in the financial sector.
Work Hours: Work sharing — keeping workers on the payrolls but working fewer hours and receiving partial unemployment benefits, instead of workers being laid off — slows job destruction and improves chances for all workers seeking employment.
Designed by Matt Sedlar, Center for Economic and Policy Research.