This school costs money to run. Roads also cost money. Most schools and roads are paid for by the government.
Where does the government find money for schools and roads? Every person who works in our country pays a part of his or her income to the government. This payment is called a tax. Then the people who make up the government have to make decisions about how to spend that money. These decisions eventually are expressed in a written plan that tells how the tax payments, or revenue, will be spent. This plan is called a budget.
Today you will pretend that you are the President of the United States. The President is one person who helps to make the federal budget. In this activity, you will decide how the federal government should spend tax revenue for our country.
With your class, decide what kinds of things we need to pay for in our country. Remember that you are not focusing here on things that people use privately--movie tickets or tires for their cars, for example. These are things people usually pay for themselves. Instead, you are trying to identify things that lots of people will use, as a member of the public--schools and roads, for example. These are things that are usually provided by the government and paid for out of tax revenue. Can you think of other things that the government might include in its budget?
Now, discuss these questions with your class:
1. Why do we need schools?
2. What would happen if there were no schools?
1. Why do we need hospitals?
2. What would happen if there were no hospitals?
1. Is there a need to build new roads and fix the old ones?
2. What do you think would happen if the roads were in poor repair?
1. How do you think the area we live in would look without trees and grass?
2. What would happen if all the water around us was polluted?
1. Why do we need armed forces?
2. What would happen if there were no armed forces?
Now, in the following interactive activity, "If I Were President..." you will decide how to budget money for the government by spending tax revenue. Work in pairs or small groups to complete the following activity.
By this point, you should be able to articulate that governments, like families, need to budget money. The government "earns" it's money through taxes and needs to make choices when determining how to spend that money.
In the Flash activity, you helped to make important choices about how to spend our tax revenue. Now think about the following:
- Why did you spend the money the way you did?
- Was it easy or hard to plan the budget?
- What would happen if you only had $100 to spend? What would get less money?
You will each be given $1,000 to spend on local community expenses. Find out the following:
- How many schools, hospitals, highways, parks and military bases are in your community?
- Are any of these more important to your community than others?
- Are there other things which your community uses that should be included in your budget?
Decide how much of the $1,000 to spend on each area.
Explain why you spent more money for some resources than for others in your community.