Critical Thinking Questions


Why is government spending typically measured as a percentage of GDP rather than in nominal dollars?


Why are expenditures for such things as education and first responders typically done at the state and local levels rather than at the federal level?


Why is spending by the U.S. government on scientific research at NASA fiscal policy, while spending by the University of Illinois is not fiscal policy? Why is a cut in the payroll tax fiscal policy, whereas a cut in a state income tax is not fiscal policy?


Excise taxes on gasoline and state sales taxes are often criticized for being regressive. Although everyone pays the same rate regardless of income, why might this be so?


What is the benefit of having state and local taxes on income instead of collecting all such taxes at the federal level?


In a booming economy, is the federal government more likely to run surpluses or deficits? What are the various factors at play?


Economist Arthur Laffer famously pointed out that, in some cases, income tax revenue can actually go up when tax rates go down. Why might this be the case?


Is it possible for a nation to run budget deficits and still have its debt/GDP ratio fall? Explain your answer. Is it possible for a nation to run budget surpluses and still have its debt/GDP ratio rise? Explain your answer.


How will cuts in state budget spending affect federal expansionary policy?


Is expansionary fiscal policy more attractive to politicians who believe in larger government or to politicians who believe in smaller government? Explain your answer.


Is Medicaid—federal government aid to low-income families and individuals—an automatic stabilizer?


What is a potential problem with a temporary tax increase designed to increase aggregate demand if people know that it is temporary?


If the government gives a $300 tax cut to everyone in the country, explain the mechanism by which this will cause interest rates to rise.


Do you agree or disagree with this statement: “It is in the best interest of our economy for Congress and the president to run a balanced budget each year.” Explain your answer.


During the Great Recession of 2008–2009, what actions would have been required of Congress and the president had a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution been ratified? What impact would that have had on the unemployment rate?