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Lesson Plan: U.S. debt reduced

May 11, 2000
Web posted at 12:01 a.m. EST (0401 GMT)

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Students will explain what is meant by national surplus and national debt.
Students will discuss the ways in which the national surplus can be used, and how those choices can impact different groups of people.


NCSS Ten Thematic Strands in Social Studies

Production, Distribution and Consumption Individuals, Groups and Institutions


CNNfyi article, "$216 billion down, $5.3 trillion to go"
Internet access

Suggested Time

Two to three 45-50 minute class periods.


1. Prepare students to read the CNNfyi article by asking the following questions: What does the term "debt" mean? How does a government get into debt? If a government does not spend its budgeted money for the year, what should it do with the surplus?

2. Have students read CNNfyi article, "$216 billion down, $5.3 trillion to go." To review the contents of the article, ask students to answer the following questions:

How much of the national debt was paid off this year? What is the current national debt? What are two areas to which President Clinton indicated the surplus should be allocated? How much did the national debt increase in the 1980's and the early 1990's? 3. Prepare a mock town meeting in your class: Divide the class into groups representing the following: the Clinton administration, Republicans, Democrats, a conservative organization, a liberal organization and a Libertarian organization. Each group is to research their position on how the national surplus should be spent. The audience will represent the following interest groups: married couples without children, senior citizens on Social Security and Medicare, parents and small business owners. Each group will research the perspective of their interest group on using the surplus regarding the following issues: paying down the national debt, lowering taxes, increasing Social Security benefits, increasing Medicare benefits and determining the potential impact of higher and lower interest rates on them.

4. Choose a facilitator for the town meeting. Each political group will be given an allotted time to give its stand on how the national surplus should be spent. This will be followed by other students giving their stand on the same issue and asking one of the panelists to respond to their comments.


1. Have students survey people in the community representing some of the various interest groups listed above and report this information at the town meeting or in a brief report to the class.

2. At the end of the town meeting have the students write letters - print or electronic - to their U.S. Senator or Representative expressing their opinions on how to use the federal surplus and how their future lives could be affected by the choices made.

The National Budget
Analyzing the economy
Budget business
Ticking debt clock

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