What Do Your Taxes Actually Pay For?

Includes visualizations

2100_biz_taxforms_0713When Benjamin Franklin wrote that “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” he left out a third inevitability: fierce disagreements over tax rates and spending.

As long as our government spends a lot more than it takes in, taxation will continue to be a cause of strife between conservatives and liberals, the former fighting for lower taxes and smaller government; the latter for higher taxes on the wealthy and increased revenue for public services. It’s like a boring version of the NeverEnding Story (without cool flying animals). Continue reading

How Big Is the Wage Gap Between Women and Men?

Includes maps, videos, interactive charts
Courtesy of PBS

Courtesy of PBS

The wage gap between men and women has gradually narrowed in recent decades, but it remains significant.

According to the Obama Administration, full-time working woman in the US. make, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar that men make. At that rate, it’d take more than 60 additional days for a woman to earn what a man had made at the end of the previous year. Continue reading

Rationing the Rain: How California Distributes Its Water in Dry Times

Includes cartoon infographic

Distributing enough water to everyone has never been an easy task in perennially thirsty California. But making sure that residents, farms and the environment are all sufficiently hydrated becomes a particularly difficult balancing act during prolonged periods of drought. Simply put, there’s just not enough to go around. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner — whose last piece focused on California agriculture — explains the complicated math of water distribution in the Golden State. View below as a slideshow or full graphic.  Continue reading

Explaining the Latest Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Spending Limits

SCOTUS DecisionThe Supreme Court on Wednesday removed a 40-year-old cap on the total amount of cash  individuals can contribute to political candidates and party committees. The latest in a string of rulings chipping away at longstanding campaign finance limits, the court’s 5-to-4 decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission is expected to let new flood of money pour into America’s already cash-saturated political process.

What the decision actually does

It removes the cap on the combined amount of cash that any one person can directly give to candidates running for federal office, or to political party committees. Continue reading

Map: Abortion Rates and Restrictions by State

Includes interactive map and chart

The map below, created by web designer Lewis Lehe, shows abortion rates by state as well as the dizzying patchwork of various state abortion restrictions (note that these are just some of the many state restrictions in place). Select a category tab on the right, and then mouse over each state to see what its restrictions are. In the graph under the map, you can also see the number of abortions in each state per 1,000 women (aged 15 – 44),  To compare different states, click on one state and then mouse over (but don’t click) another. Hit the “Compare US Total” button to show the selected state against the national rate.

Note that the ‘viability’ of a fetus is generally considered to start at 24 weeks. Normal pregnancies run about 40 weeks.

(article continues below visualization)

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Parched Produce: California Agriculture in a State of Drought

Includes cartoon infographic

These are bone dry times for California. Even with the recent rains, the state is still mired in one of its worst droughts in recorded history. And that spells trouble for the vast agriculture industry here. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains. View it as a slideshow or in full-length format below. Continue reading

Time for A Raise? What You Need to Know About the Minimum Wage

Includes interactive explainer


Do America’s lowest wage earners deserve a raise?

As Congress again delves into the hotly contested perennial debate over raising the federal minimum wage, a growing number of states and cities throughout the country are forging their own paths on the issue, DoNowWagesImage resulting in an uneven national patchwork of wage laws. We dig into the debate over dollars and cents in this interactive explainer, produced by Newsbound. Scroll through the whole presentation at once, or choose specific chapters by selecting the table of contents button on the bottom left of the screen. Sources for each slide are also included at the bottom.

Common Core Connections

Relevant ELA and Social Studies CCSS Anchor Standards

• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7: Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

Social Studies Integration

Integrate this topic into the following high school social studies units:

US History
(based on:The American Vision, CA Edition (McGraw Hill/Glencoe, 2006)
• Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1933-1939
• The New Frontier and the Great Society, 1961-1968
• The Politics of Protest, 1960-1980
• Politics and Economics, 1971-1980
• Resurgence of Conservatism, 1980-1992
US Government
(based on: American Government, Prentice Hall, 2006, CA Edition)
• Unit 2 – Political Behavior: Government by the People
• Unit 3 – The Legislative Branch
• Unit 4 – The Executive Branch
• Unit 6 – Comparative Political and Economic Systems
Economics
(based on: Econ Alive! TCI, 2010)
• Unit 4 – Economics of the Public Sector
• Unit 5 – Measuring and Managing the Economy

Eight Short Videos to Help Make Some Sense of the Conflict in Ukraine

Includes videos

So much for the “spirit of international brotherhood” that the Olympics was supposed to inspire.

The crisis in Ukraine has reached a boiling point, with tensions between the United States and Russia at a level not seen since the Cold War. But in spite of the sometimes alarmist deluge of round-the-clock media coverage, it’s surprisingly challenging to sift through the noise and get a good grip on what’s actually going on. These seven short videos do a good job getting to the point and explaining specific aspects of the confrontation.

The latest developments (as of March 16)


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Map: States Where Felons Can’t Vote

Includes interactive map

The map below, created by designer/programmer Lewis Lehe, shows state-by-state felon voting laws and population impacts as reported by the The Sentencing Project, based on 2010 data. Note: among the eleven states that deny voting rights to those who have completed their full sentences (including parole), restrictions vary significantly, and often depend on the severity of the crime. A good overview of each state’s specific restrictions can be found at ProCon.org.

[See article below map]

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77 Countries Where It’s Illegal to Be Gay

Includes map
CBC_map

CBC

Because the cause of gay rights has made recent rapid progress in a growing number of Western nations, it is easy to lose sight of the bleak conditions that still exist in many corners of the world.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni offered a stark reminder of this on Monday when he signed into law a bill that significantly stiffens penalties against gays in Uganda, a country where homosexuality was already considered illegal. The new law makes some acts — labeled “aggravated homosexuality” –  subject to life in prison. It also criminalizes the “promotion” of homosexuality, a major setback to gay rights activism. The original 2009 version of the bill, included a death penalty clause, but was shelved after Western nations threatened to withdraw foreign aid. Continue reading