Tuesday, June 30, 2009

July 1, 1943: Pay-As-You-Go Income Tax Begins

1943: Tops songs like “Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer” by the Song Spinners and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Bing Crosby filled the airwaves. World War II was beginning to turn in America’s favor as the Japanese and German expansion in the Pacific and Africa were stopped, then thrown back through such costly victories at Tarawa in the Pacific and defeat of the Afrika Corps in North Africa, followed by the Allied invasion of Sicily - then Italy - in Europe. Millions were eligible for the draft in the United States, women were holding traditionally men’s jobs, and we were committed that the men and women in the military were to be supported in any way possible.

It was the year of the steel penny (copper was to valuable to put in pennies – it was needed for the war industries), rent control, and rationing – which now included canned goods, meat, fat, cheese, and shoes. Bread had to be sliced at home, meat was rationed at 28 ounces per person per week, and the government ordered minimum forty-eight hour work weeks at key defense industry plants.

And it was the year that the pay-as-you-go income tax was incorporated into the American scene.

While it had been tried before – during the Civil War and after – Income Tax achieved constitutional legality with the passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913. March 15th became the traditional due date for the last of yearly tax payments made quarterly by corporations and upper income groups. The lower income groups did not have to pay income tax at this time. However, the tremendous expenditures of monies by the United States at home and abroad during World War II created a fiscal nightmare. Henry Morgenthau, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, advocated a pay-as-you-go format on an increased base of income levels so that there would be a constant flow of monies into the government coffers to meet the emergency expenses of war as well as to combat inflation.

On July 1, 1943 – after much debate and compromise - Congress passed the Current Tax Payment Act, placing a withholding tax on wages and salaries in order to allow workers to stay current with their tax liabilities, and to provide continuous and regular funding for the war effort. It was the result of efforts by Beardsley Ruml, Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and treasures of Macy and Company, who was championing the new form of collecting taxes. He asked in his pamphlet what would happen if American “just started paying income tax, but on this year instead of last year?” He proposed to “forgive” the 1942 tax bill in order to avoid double taxing. The end result of compromise and the wording of the new law forgave taxes on lower incomes, maintained them on high incomes, and began collecting through withholding on all incomes. The withholding rate during this financial crisis caused by the huge expenditures of World War II: 19% on an annual income of $2000, with up to 80% on incomes over $200,000.

A strong advertising campaign was organized in print and radio. Walt Disney was recruited to create a film showing that paying ‘taxes to beat the Axis’ was patriotic – a task that cartoon character Donald Duck did in The Spirit of '43. Noted composer Irving Berlin included lyrics in a song titled “I Paid My Taxes Today” that supported the income tax: "You see those bombers in the sky, Rockefeller helped to build them, so did I, I paid my income tax today."

The American public liked the idea, and by year’s end 74% of Americans were paying income tax – through withholding – financing the war effort. The idea of pay-as-you-go through withholding is still with us 64 years after war’s end.

Essential Question: How could students best investigate and analyze the advocacy used by the Federal Government to promote the concept of pay-as-you-go taxation?


Income Taxes are Cartoon Images of the Law
Kilroy was Here
Income Taxes, War, and the Mennonites
Randolph Paul Address, 1943
Revenue Objectives of the 1943 bill
Sixteenth Amendment
The Dirty Truth About Income Taxes
The Plan That Slogans Built



Sunday, June 28, 2009

How the FBI Broke Saddam

An interesting article in the New York Daily News "Mouth of the Potomac" blog by James Gordon Meek on the FBI's tactics in getting Saddam Hussein's confessions and comments over a period of several months. It makes interesting reading, and provides insight to the events of late 2003 and 2004.

If you have the chance, read How the FBI Broke Saddam - Part 1. I'll post the other articles as they come available.

These articles could be a powerful tool in teaching this period of time.

Essential Question: What type of classroom discussions could you foresee based on this (and the future 'to be published') articles?

Photo Resource:
Saddam Hussein, Wikipedia


Friday, June 26, 2009

World Drugs in Graphics

I really like my online BBC News. It presents a view of the world, events, and issues in a manner that is often different from our home-grown talking heads.

A June 24th 'Special Report' focused on World Drugs in Graphics and presented a good summary of the current drug-usage nation-states that has a number of excellent graphs showing the data. This could be a good source for use in current events in the social studies classroom.
It is of no surprise that the US is #1 in both use of cocaine among young people and use of cannabis among young people.

A companion article titled UN shows scale of UK cocaine use took a look at the use of cocaine - and the increasing dilution of the products being illegally sold. Again, good information for a conversation with the students.
Essential Question: How can the data provided by articles be effectively used in the classroom?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

60 Second Civics

A great tool for all Social Studies classes just came into my work-email. From the Center for Civics Education ’60-Second Civics” webpage:

“60-Second Civics is a daily podcast that provides a quick and convenient way for listeners to learn about our nation’s government, the Constitution, and our history. The podcast explores themes related to civics and government, the constitutional issues behind the headlines, and the people and ideas that formed our nation’s history and government.

60-Second Civics is produced by the Center for Civic Education. The show's content is primarily derived from the Center’s education for democracy curricula, including We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Project Citizen, Foundations of Democracy, and Elements of Democracy.”

The site also provides a short daily quiz, dealing with a topic discussed in the daily podcast. There are also links to past podcasts, as well as downloading capability so you can utilize the podcasts in the classroom – or if you are really dedicated, on your iPod! The first episode, “What is 60-Second Civics? [Play] In this episode, host Kaci Patterson introduces 60-Second Civics, the Center for Civic Education's new daily podcast about civics and government” is located here.

So, plug in the speakers, turn up the volume, and listen to this daily.

Essential Question: How could a daily podcast be best utilized on a regular basis in the Social Studies Classroom.


George Washington: Father of Our Country


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Failed States: 2009 Report Released

I was reading one of the blogs I subscribe to - Matt Rosenberg's ABOUT.Geography blog - and saw this article of interest. Foreign Policy Magazine has released its fifth annual Failed States Index.

I'd recommend that all interested parties take the time to read through the report. Some interesting - and perhaps unexpected - information is presented in the report

The number 1 failed state? Somalia. Pakistan is number 10. The United States is rated as 'stable' in a ranking system that goes up to 'most stable' - the latter rank includes countries like New Zealand and Norway.

Be sure to check out the interactive map and the criteria for the rankings.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interpreting Operation Barbarossa

Politics makes strange bedfellows – and what can be classified as perhaps the strangest international bedfellow mix was that of Nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union.

Hitler, a rabid anti-Communist, agreed with the Soviet Union to partition Poland in 1939. He had planned all along to destroy the country, but needed to secure one border while he waged war in the West against France, Britain, Belgium, and the Low Countries.

Hitler had the plans for attacking the Soviet Union drawn up in in the fall of 1940, but the stubbornness of Great Britain in withstanding the attacks of the German air force and naval units at home and abroad, postponed the plans for a year. In 1941 – despite the continued resistance of Britain at home and in North Africa, Hitler decided he had to destroy his ideological enemy, the Soviet Union. Actually, Josef Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union, had foreseen an upcoming war with Germany – but on his terms and his plans, which involved plans for an attack against Germany in July of 1941.

While Operation Barbarossa was scheduled to start on May 15, 1941, but difficulties in the Balkans – where German forces rushed in to assist the Italians in Greece and Crete – and the sending of the Afrika Corps to North Africa temporarily drained some of the troops and equipment needed

At 3:15 a.m. on Sunday, June 22, 1941, the largest invasion in history began – some 3.9 million German and allied soldiers, 3580 tanks, 7184 artillery guns, 1830 planes and 750,000 horses. The delay in launching the attack was costly – Hitler made the same mistakes as Napoleon did in 1812, seeking to conquer territory and cities and placing a priority on complete destruction of the enemy’s military machine. His troops were stopped at the gates of Moscow, and the next four years would be long, bloody, and epic in their suffering and destruction.

While arguably Hitler made many blunders during World War II, this was perhaps the biggest one, setting up a two-front war, leaving a defiant England behind, draining troops and equipment that was needed on other fronts (most specifically North Africa), and repeating the mistakes of Napoleon from almost a hundred and thirty years before.

Overextended supply lines, underestimating the resiliency of their opponents, faulty intelligence, overextension of German forces involved in a two (actually three, including North Africa at the time) front war would cause a catastrophic failure that in the end would result in the destruction of Germany.

I can’t help but wonder if historians will look back and lay an ‘Operation Barbarossa’ at America’s feet – and what that act will be. Is such an event in our near or distant future – or has it already occurred and we don’t realize it.

Essential Question: How can we best utilize events of the past in an engaging and interactive way to create an understanding of the wider scope of history to our students?

Photo Resources:

01. German infantry: Discovery Channel
02. Invasion map: Century of Flight
03. Soviet poster during WW II: Soviet Library


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Library of Congress, Flicker, and Historic Newspapers

I was doing my (apparently) weekly catch-up on blogs when I read the one from the folks at the Library of Congress. They have set up a new series – which will be growing continually – on Flickr which deals with historic newspapers. From their blog:

“Today the Library launched a new photostream on our Flickr page to celebrate this visual heritage. It is a series of 52 weekly supplements in the New-York Tribune, beginning 100 years ago in 1909. About 50 new pages will be added to the stream every month.”
TIP: Be sure to click on the ‘all sizes’ button on the Flickr site in order to enlarge the picture – all of the way to ‘original’ size.

Earlier this year in my blog I had written about some statistics from a hundred years ago. I know when I was in the classroom one could build an entire unit around the ‘hundred years ago’ concept – of course, when I started teaching was the hundredth year since Grant defeated Greeley – and the kids always enjoyed ‘looking back’.

I’d encourage teachers to take a look at the new Library of Congress initiative and see (and share) how they could use this in the classroom!

Essential Question: What classroom strategies could be used for teaching by using this Library of Congress material?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Historic Vacations?

Summer vacations are here, and I have to admit that I am curious if my vacation time with the family is the same or different from other Social Studies teachers.

My children didn’t really know what a theme park was as far as the ‘vacation concept’ was involved. We would – when we could travel – visit battlefields, President’s homes, museums, historic sites. Places like Williamsburg, Kings Mountain, Plymouth Plantation, Gettysburg, Washington DC, Smithsonian, Antietam, the Natchez Trace, National Air Museum, etc., fill our log book of places seen. Fortunately, I married a woman of similar interests....

That process continues today. In my current position, I have a five-day ‘vacation’ during the summer. I’ve already had mine, although I have to admit I’ve gotten a little more flexible in my old age – we actually visited a theme park of sorts - Rock City.

Of course, the kids add their own twists to the visits. We are now (and have been for several years) accompanied by Rebecca the pet rock. She's in the pictures... see if you can find her.

Rock City, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Point Park, atop Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, Tennessee
The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, Nashville, Tennessee.

What kind of vacation are you planning?

Essential Question: How does visiting historic sites enhance the ability of the teacher to better understand and present the historicity of the locale/event?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Longest Day

This Saturday is June 6th – the 65th anniversary of the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy, perhaps the greatest invasion landing force ever launched. Precious few of those who were there survive today to tell their story to this generation.

Do we encourage our students to commemorate this event? Or realize its significance? There are a variety of ways to learn more about D-Day. For instance, the students could be directed to websites with veteran interviews:

-Veterans History Project
-National D-Day Memorial
-American Experience

Or, some interesting and readable books that would pique the interest of the students. While many books on this subject are available, some of my favorites are:

-D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climatic Battle of World War II, by Stephen Ambrose
-True Stories of D-Day, by Henry Brook
-D-Day Survivor, by Harold Baumgarten
and my personal favorite:
-The Longest Day, by Cornelius Ryan

There are also a lot of films available concerning D-Day. The History Channel will undoubtedly be running some shows, and some of the many movies available are:

-Saving Private Ryan
-Band of Brothers

and, The Longest Day DVD

I usually listen to segments of the 24-hour radio broadcast to get the idea of the excitement over the invasion caused by the news releases of the day. The collection is located through a link near the bottom of the page on our Social Studies website.

For primary resources on D-Day, visit NARA where they have lessons and materials on the invasion, including Eisenhower’s letter that he wrote ‘in case of failure’.

What does my June 6th look like? Some radio, and watching The Longest Day with my family – pretty much an annual event in our household.

Essential Question: What could our teachers and students do to personally recognize D-Day?

Photo Resources:

Dday 01. Landing Craft: NARA
Dday 01. The Longest Day book by Cornelius Ryan
Dday 03. Eisenhower Note: NARA