2004 Student Congress on Economic Issues

Minneapolis Public Schools—Learning Center for Economics
Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences
University of Minnesota

St. Paul Campus Student Center
University of Minnesota
January 8, 2004

Participating High Schools

North, Henry, Roosevelt, South, Southwest and Washburn

2004 Results

(winning team from each topic):

Topic One
Team Three: Henry and Washburn

Topic Two
Team Two: Roosevelt and Southwest

Topic Three
Team Two: Henry and Southwest

2004 Topics

Topic One

What should Jamal do? Jamal has decided to go to a four-year college after high school. Unfortunately, the school he wants to attend is expensive. After scholarships, grant money, help from his parents and money he has saved, Jamal still will need $4,000.00 per year to finance his education. The best thing for Jamal to do is:

TEAM ONE: Go to school by taking out a loan. The $16,000.00 he will need can be paid back after he graduates. The interest rate is 5.9% and he will have 10 years to repay. His monthly payment will be $177.00. Southwest and North.

TEAM TWO: Work for two years at a full-time job. He can save $8,000.00 per year living at home with his parents and then he could attend college without taking out a loan.
South and Roosevelt.

TEAM THREE: Work part-time while going to school part-time. Jamal figures he could graduate in seven years by using this method. Henry and Washburn.

Note: Be sure to think about the opportunity costs that apply as you argue for your position or against another position.

Topic Two

Congress and the current administration are currently debating whether the 40-year old trade embargo on Cuba should be lifted. Travel to Cuba by American citizens is extremely limited, and so is trading or investing in Cuba by American firms. Are economic sanctions the best way to address concerns regarding Fidel Castro’s rule, or is the embargo only deepening the poverty of the Cuban people?

TEAM ONE: You are a poor Cuban artist with an art store living in Havana, a tourist destination. The lifting of the economic sanctions would help you as American tourists buy your paintings and inject money into the local economy. Construct an argument stating that these advantages for the Cuban are what will liberate the people, not a change in government. South and Henry.

TEAM TWO: You are an advisor to the President who is primarily concerned with containing, or even overturning Castro’s Communist regime. In your opinion, the best way to help the Cuban people is to force Castro out of power by denying his government the revenue it would receive from trading with America. Argue that the embargo is the best way to weaken Castro and help the Cuban people, even though it may temporarily hurt several Cubans.
Roosevelt and Southwest.

TEAM THREE: You are the owner of an American business that produces televisions, and you are upset that you are unable to sell your product in Cuba. If the embargo were lifted your company’s inexpensive televisions would be in high demand on the island. Construct an argument stating that the increased profits to American businesses, which lead to job growth, make lifting the embargo a worthwhile idea. Washburn and North.

Topic Three

While the U.S. economy has had substantial growth over the past two decades, the disparity of income between the poorest and the richest Americans has grown. How should the government address the tension between policies designed to spur economic growth and those that promote income equity? Name examples of policies that your position supports.

TEAM ONE: Free market, strong economic growth position. The free market system, which has been notably successful in providing a high standard of living for millions of Americans, is the most promising way to achieve higher wages over the next generation. The best way to increase everyone's share is to make sure that the economic pie keeps growing as rapidly as possible. Americans believe in rewarding effort, providing incentives for new economic ventures, and letting people get rich when they work at it. Government policy should reflect those values. Roosevelt and Washburn.

TEAM TWO: Fair Share Position. The fact that income for most American families stagnated until recently is due in large part from economic rules that favor affluent Americans at the expense of everyone else. Those at the top of the income scale are getting the lion's share of the benefits of economic growth. But most members of the labor force are not sharing in the gains. Sharp differences in income generate social unrest, which can lead to uncertainty, declining investment and weak economic growth. Government should enact a more progressive tax and social service system to help reduce the disparity between the poorest and richest Americans.
Henry and Southwest.

TEAM THREE: Equal Opportunity Position. The promise of America is equal opportunity. Government's task is to do everything possible to provide an equal opportunity for economic advancement. The fact that income for most Americans has not risen steadily in recent years is a result of our failure as a nation to prepare people adequately so everyone has a chance to compete for good jobs. What's needed is an expanded effort to improve America's schools, to provide equal opportunity for all youngsters regardless of their parents' occupation and income. North and South.

 
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