Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Year-Long Road to Recovery

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama in an effort to address the worst economic crisis the United States has seen since the Great Depression. Since its inception, the plan--an almost 800-billion-dollar package meant to jump-start the economy by saving and creating jobs--has been highly controversial. Proponents of the act contend that by cutting income taxes for certain individuals, giving money to states and large businesses, extending unemployment benefits, and commissioning public works projects, the act will stimulate the economy. They believe that America must spend its way out of the recession.

Opponents of the act have asserted that spending at this high level is incredibly irresponsible, as it increases the government's budget deficits and burdens future generations with a huge amount of debt. They also argue that government spending will only serve to worsen economic conditions, and that what is needed is fiscal restraint and tax relief for all individuals and businesses.

Each side seems to have conflicting data supporting its position, with the White House reporting a dramatic increase in job creation and preservation, and watchdog groups reporting that the stimulus money has not done nearly enough good to justify the cost.

Ask your students to take a look and decide for themselves. They can access the details of the Recovery Act and can also look at the website of a watchdog group. Once your students understand the basic principles of the plan, stage a deliberation in your class in which students discuss the merits and drawbacks of th Recovery Act.

Students might also compare the government's response to the current crisis with previous administrations' responses to American economic crises, such as the Great Depression. Students could also assess the success of similar large-scale government spending programs like the New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society programs of the 1960s.

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