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October 15, 2021

Daily News Lesson: Five economic terms your students should know about the global supply chain problem

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video produced by Student Reporting Labs and answer the discussion questions. Some students may find it easier to read along with the transcript or turn on closed captions/CC.

Summary: Combating the global supply chain delays that are negatively impacting the U.S. economy topped President Joe Biden’s agenda Wednesday, as he promised new efforts to restore the supply chain and tame inflation. This lesson will explore some key economic terms including current problems in the supply chain (“a network of organizations that work collaboratively to move products and services from producers to consumers”) and how inflation may affect the prices of goods you and your family buy. 

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who are the people featured in this story?
  • What does the phrase supply chain mean?
  • When did the problems with delays in cargo shipments start?
  • Where in the world are many of the large containers coming from and which major U.S. ports are mentioned in the story?
  • How is the Biden administration assisting with the backlog (buildup of work that has not been completed in a timely fashion) of shipping containers? What leverage or power does the president have over American companies, if any?
  • Why might shipping containers getting stuck at U.S. ports lead to inflation (when goods cost more than they should) and an increase in the consumer price index (a measure of how much the prices of retail goods and services change over time for the typical consumer)?

Focus questions:

  1. How does a shortage of goods affect the economy, particularly for low-income earners and around the holiday season?
  2. How might you and your family be affected by the problems in the supply chain (use the chart below to help you)?
  3. Do you think the U.S. is too dependent on other countries for goods? Should we be manufacturing more at home as a way to increase America’s gross domestic product (total value of goods and services produced and provided in a country over the course of one year)?

Media literacy: What further information might you need to know in order to understand just how significant the current problems in the supply chain are for “everyday” Americans?  

Additional resources:

  • White House chief of staff Ronald Klain faced some criticism this week, particularly from Republican lawmakers, for retweeting a post that described the backlog in America’s supply chain and rising inflation as “high class problems,” since it appeared to disregard people’s economic situation, specifically low-income earners. Is the criticism justified? Why is it mainly coming from Republicans when these issues affect people across party lines?
  • Take a look at this chart: Are there any items or services on the list that you use which are seeing higher levels of inflation?

  • Dig deeper: Research the terms transitory inflation and sustained inflation to see if the different types of inflation are playing a role in the current situation. You may want to check out this segment of Breaking Points with Krystal and Saager to learn more about the debate and understand some of the nuances involved.

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