With a federal budget of $3.6 trillion, a deficit of $1 trillion and a total debt of $16 trillion, it can be difficult to fully comprehend where all this money comes from and what the U.S. government spends it on. Paul Solman talks to The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel about his new book "Red Ink," a primer to the budget.

This video is from the Making Sen$e with Paul Solman video series from PBS. Learn more about these videos and view a listing of the most recent videos we have available.

Key Concepts

Budget Deficit, Government Revenues, National Debt, Federal Budget, Government Spending


Taxation without Representation?

This lesson will take students through the series of tax acts that were enacted by the British government and disputed by the original 13 colonies of America prior to the American Revolution. Students will discuss the concept of government-provided services in exchange for taxes. Students w...

Grades 3-5, 6-8

Understanding the Debt Ceiling Debate and the Budget Control Act of 2011

This lesson provides an introduction and an overview of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Students will be given information about the legislation and presented with different proposals for dealing with the long-term deficit problem of the United States.

Grades 9-12

The Role of Government: The Federal Government and Fiscal Policy

Students will visit “A Citizen’s Guide to the Federal Budget,” and use the federal government web site to obtain information which will help them understand basic information about the budget of the United States Government for the current fiscal year.

Grades 9-12

The Role of Government: The National Debt vs. The Deficit

This lesson defines and compares the National Debt with the National Deficit. Students will discover the differences between the two and look at current trends. Students will examine the amount of per-capita debt and be exposed to the reality of the amount the national debt is increasing every d...

Grades 9-12

Jesse 'The Body' Wants to Give Money Away!

During his campaign for governor of the State of Minnesota, former professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura, promised to return to the taxpayers of Minnesota the budget surpluses that had been accumulating in the state. Upon assuming office, Ventura revealed that the budget surplus had been...

Grades 9-12


  • “This video is a very good overview of the deficit and debt issues - I like this genre better than the animated ones, as my high school students sense this is more "real world". Thanks!”

    M. Conley, Mountain View, CA   POSTED ON November 25, 2012

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