Posts Tagged ‘Economics’

U.S.-China Relations…Soundbites Do No Justice

Flag of China

Flag of China
(courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, via SIRS Discoverer) (Public Domain)


China surpassed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy in 2010. To the United States, that fact makes engagement with this Asian nation very, very, very important. To the world, that fact makes the stability of this Asian nation pivotal to international economies and diplomacy.

What do we understand about the United States’ relationship with China? How do we gauge the significance of the goings-on between these two countries?


International cooperation is vital if we are to defeat international terrorism. Here U.S. and Chinese officials sign an agreement permitting pre-screening of containers from China destined for U.S. ports.
(Credit: K. L. Wong/U.S. Customs and Border Protection, via SIRS Knowledge Source) (Public Domain)


We hear the Obama administration explain U.S. relations with China. We hear U.S. presidential candidates assert their plans for future engagement with China. We hear political pundits’ opinions and warnings about China. We hear investors’ anxieties about China. We hear authorities discuss the dangers of eating food from China. We hear analysts speculate how the U.S. economy and employment has suffered from purchasing many manufactured goods from China.

We hear. And then perception, perspectives, beliefs, and interpretation come into play. Who is “right”? Who is telling the “truth”? What is the “reality” of these situations and their talking points?

I certainly don’t know the answers to those questions. But one thing I am certain of–nothing can be boiled down to a soundbite.

It’s up to us–the receivers of this information–to listen to the dialogue and then engage in our own research in order to form our own opinions.

The National High School Debate policy topic for 2016-2017 requires just that. The topic is this: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic and/or diplomatic engagement with the People’s Republic of China. In other words, students, probe China’s evolving economic and diplomatic status in the world and consider whether it is in the United States’ best interests to increase areas of engagement with this nation. Find the issues. Consider solutions. Decide for yourselves.

China is a nation culturally and historically rich, filled with beautiful customs and traditions, magnificent cities and countrysides, unique landforms, and diverse ways of living. Its history is complicated–scholars spend a lifetime tracing centuries of events, transformations, and the reasons behind them. Its relationship with the United States is complex, and the outcomes of this relationship potentially impact the world.

President Nixon Visits China

President Richard Nixon and Chinese Premier Chou Enlai toast each other during Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing in 1972, which ended 22 years of hostility between the two nations.
(Credit: Nixon Presidential Library, via SIRS Knowledge Source) (Public Domain)


The SKS Spotlight of the Month for July can help anyone–students participating in the National High School Debate, students researching for history class, teachers looking to educate themselves–get started on their long road of research about China. Explore China’s beauty and diversity, scratch the surface of this country’s history and consider its relationship with the United States. These two nations have navigated economic and political transformations, wars, increasing populations, industrialization, rivalries, and partnerships. What is to come? Should the U.S. federal government increase its economic and diplomatic engagement with China? Would an intensification of ties strengthen or threaten the United States’ national interests and international influence? And are those the only questions we should be asking?

Go beyond the soundbites. Listen, read, ponder, speculate, conclude…decide for yourself.


Five ProQuest Resources on Economic Inequality

Last week, the AFL-CIO released its annual “CEO-to-worker pay” ratio, which showed that the average S&P 500 company CEO made 373 times the salary of the average production and non-supervisory worker in 2014. And a research paper published earlier in the year by Oxfam shows that by next year, the richest 1% will own more than all of the rest of the world’s population.

“During periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income–as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977–the nation as a whole grew faster and median wages surged.”–Robert B. Reich, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor

For both Republicans and Democrats, one of the key issues emerging in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is economic inequality.  Economists, politicians and others have proposed a wide range of public policy solutions for addressing income inequality. In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed raising the national minimum wage, and shortly after signed an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for people working on new federal service contracts. Other solutions include reforming the tax system; strengthening social safety provisions, such as welfare; increasing access to education and healthcare; and strengthening the power of labor unions. Some, such as Economist David Malpass, argue for downsizing the government and suggest that we should aim to raise incomes for all as opposed to trying to reduce the disparity between incomes.

“Americans in the top 1 percent are convenient scapegoats….There’s a backlash and a tendency to see less economic inequality as a solution to all manner of problems. We create simplistic narratives and imagine that punishing the rich will miraculously uplift the poor. This vents popular resentments, even as it encourages self-deception.”–Robert J Samuelson, Columnist, The Washington Post

ProQuest Resources

Economic inequality is a heated issue, promising to be one of the most significant socioeconomic trends of our time. Below I highlight five ProQuest resources to help students understand its possible impact on our societies and economies.

1ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher Leading Issues contain an Economic Policy, U.S. issue, which includes a sub issue on Economic Inequality. Related issues include, but are not limited to, Business Ethics, Federal Government and Economic Policy, Global Financial Crisis, and Minimum Wage. Inside every Leading Issue, students can find an overview on the issue, key definitions, an editorial cartoon or multimedia piece, articles on multiple perspectives to support their research, and more. The Economic Inequality essential question, with supporting pro con questions, asks students the following question: 

Economic Inequality

Screenshot of Economic Inequality Leading Issue, ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

2. eLibrary Research Topics offer an assortment of  editorially-created Research Topic pages on Economic Inequality and related issues, including Executive Pay, Global Economic Crisis, Minimum Wage, Poverty, and the Occupy Movement, a protest movement begun in 2011 which brought attention to the growing divide between the 1% and the rest of the population. These pages include links to carefully selected articles, websites, primary source documents, videos and images. Students can find these pages via keyword search or by clicking on the following link on the search page:

eLibrary link

Economic Inequality in the U.S. (see below) is one such Research Topic page:

eLibrary Research Topic Page

Screenshot of an eLibrary Research Topic Page on Economic Inequality in the U.S.

3. CultureGrams  offers reliable, up-to-date daily life and cultural content, including primary source interviews, videos and more. Students researching  Economic Inequality can use it to compare and contrast the economy in different countries. Each country profiled in CultureGrams contains a section on the country’s economy as well as an Average Person infographic that depicts GDP (PPP) per capita and other demographic characteristics of a hypothetical average person of the country. Below is an example of an Average Person infographic for the United States:

Average Person USA Infographic

Screenshot of CultureGram’s Average Person Infographic for the USA.

4. History Study Center,  with its in-depth study units with historical reference material, is an excellent resource for students who want to dig into earlier periods of extreme economic inequality, such as the start of the Great Depression in the late 1920’s, in order to compare with the situation in the world today. Each unit includes both primary and secondary sources, including biographies, maps and video clips.

history study center

Screenshot of a History Study Center Study Unit on The Great Depression, 1929-1939

5. Historical Newspapers (Graphical) enables students to delve into a trove of full-text historical newspaper articles to see how the level of concentration of income has fluctuated throughout its history and examine its impact on societies. Students can access newspaper articles via keyword search or through the timeline or topics tab. Below is an example of a newspaper article from the Great Depression:

newspaper article 1933

Screenshot of Dec. 3, 1933, New York Times article from ProQuest’s Historical Newspapers

We are constantly adding new material to our products. If you have suggestions for new Economic Inequality topics for consideration for our products, feel free to let us know in the comments section below or tweet us at #ProQuest.

It’s Tax Day … Yay.

It’s April 15–Tax Day–the most dreaded Tax Formsday of the year for many Americans, especially those who have waited until the last minute. But, how did it all start?

The first federal income tax came in the form of the Revenue Act of 1861, which sought to pay the Union’s massive debt resulting from the Civil War. The legislation was repealed, replaced and declared unconstitutional. The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act was passed in 1894. While it had its supporters and opponents, it also was stricken down as a violation of the Constitution’s ban on direct taxation. The income tax was here for good with the 1913 ratification of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which removed apportionment requirements on taxation.

Tax Day was originally March 1, then March 15 and was moved back to April 15 in 1955. And, on this day every year, Americans turn in their forms and wonder where all the money goes.

Dig into eLibrary to find out more about taxes and just about any other topic. Here are some other eLibrary resources devoted to taxation:

For a good overview of taxation, see our Research Topic page: Taxation

This is a general article on tax day history.

See these Research Topics for information on other tax topics: Tax Evasion, Capital Gains Tax, Flat tax