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Fiscal policy is how governments adjust their spending levels and tax rates so they can influence the economy. It touches many parts of society, including businesses, households and infrastructure.

Explore how fiscal policy is developed in the United States, and discover some definitions of what this policy is as well as the different approaches that have been taken historically. We’ll also discuss where the country is now, and how you can get involved and make a difference.

What is fiscal policy?

As the idiom goes, nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. But while taxes are definitely an inevitability, the amount of taxes people pay and the methods used to impose those taxes are influenced by many different factors that are far beyond citizen control. To understand it better, one has…


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The US federal deficit has been a hot topic in the news lately. There have been headlines about the deficit hitting $3.2 trillion in 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and political pundits talking about the deficit equalling the economy for the first time since World War II. And while all of that sounds impressive and slightly scary, wouldn’t it be great to know what that actually means?

What is the federal budget deficit?

It seems like the US deficit is constantly in the news, but it can be hard to cut through the noise and understand what exactly the deficit is and why the average American should even care. On this page, discover what the deficit is, how it happens, why it matters, how it affects the US debt, and, most importantly, how it affects the US consumer. Also, explore what you can do to learn more about the US deficit and take an active role in fiscal policy in the United States.

The federal budget deficit is an estimate of how much…


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Participatory budgeting could bridge between democracy and economics and expand what Americans vote for when they go to the polls. Oftentimes, we as citizens are removed from our local and state budgetary processes and leave it in the hands of those we elect to represent us. It is up to us to expand our democracy and create a system where parts of our budget is left directly in the hands of the people. There are 3141 counties in the United States of America[1], if we were able to take 3.141 …


The U.S. federal debt has passed the $26 trillion mark and keeps growing. Experts believe that current levels of spending aren’t sustainable, and that we could be headed toward a new financial crisis. Is there a risk that the U.S. would default on its debt? What would happen in this scenario?

What Happens When a Country Defaults on Its Debt?

Countries such as Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela and Greece have defaulted on their debt in recent history. This decision plunged Argentina into a period of instability before the debt was successfully restructured.

Countries like Russia, Spain and Germany have defaulted on their debt in the past and have successfully recovered. The effects of defaulting vary from one country to another. Inflation and high unemployment have affected countries like Greece and Argentina, and borrowing has become temporarily difficult and expensive for almost all countries mentioned.

The Total US Federal Debt and The Debt Ceiling

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In 1933, the Second Liberty Bond Act established an early version of the debt ceiling. The purpose…


Individuals, corporations, and the economy have all been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help support Americans, small businesses, and the economy, the federal government has enacted four pieces of legislation that approves the spending of trillions of dollars. The Treasury Department has accelerated its borrowing to begin financing these legislative pieces.

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Infographic courtesy of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation

How much has borrowing risen?

Treasury borrowing has risen by $2.5 trillion since the beginning of March. A large portion of that increase actually occurred since March 30, just after the largest piece of relief legislation, the CARES Act, was enacted.

How is new debt issued?

The U.S. Treasury offers marketable securities which are sold at auction in…


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“Enter to learn, go forth to serve” — Duane Oakes

Mesa Community College took first place for the 8th annual Up to Us competition. Duane Oakes, Faculty Director for Mesa Community College’s Center for Community & Civic Engagement, served as the team’s faculty advisor and helped the team to realize and achieve their success. As a first-generation college student who spent his time growing up working on harvesting crops, he was never involved in student government until he entered community college. There, he found amazing leadership opportunities and became a student leader where he found his future career working in…


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In March, Congress approved the spending of trillions of dollars to address the looming economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 health pandemic. The largest approved legislation was the $2.7 trillion CARES Act, approved on March 27. To continue the country’s economic support, three additional pieces of legislation were passed, bringing the total approved spending to over $3.6 trillion.

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget who has been tracking the spending, not all of the approved spending budget has been sent out.

So, how much of the approved pandemic relief money has been spent so far and what…


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​What do you gain through involvement with Up to Us? In addition to access to world-class leaders, exclusive events, internships, training, and cash prizes, student leaders involved with Up to Us have the opportunity to develop and strengthen their leadership skills by planning, building, and executing a campus wide campaign to engage peers in a conversation about their generation’s fiscal future. Team leaders attend seminars and receive support from the Up to Us network, then work with a group of peers to put their learning into action. …


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​What does it take to win the Up to Us Campus Competition? Just ask one of the 20 teams of student leaders selected as finalists!

This year’s finalists include a diverse group of students from community colleges and universities across the country. Using the tools and resources they gained through Up to Us webinars and trainings, each team designed and implemented a nonpartisan awareness campaign to engage their peers in a conversation about their generation’s fiscal future. …


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COVID-19 has exposed a vulnerability in the healthcare system that has existed in society for years: job-linked health insurance. People often rely on their jobs to provide health insurance, but since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans have simultaneously faced the uncertainty of unemployment and losing health insurance.

With mass unemployment, suddenly many people are facing a global health pandemic with no health insurance.

Americans are losing jobs and health insurance

During the course of the pandemic, more than 45 million people have filed jobless claims, resulting in an unemployment rate of about 13 percent. …

Up to Us

Up to Us is a movement of a generation, for a generation. In the last 5 years we have engaged 100,000+ young adults around our nation’s fiscal challenges.

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