The U.S. economy is one of the most important aspects of American society. Not only does it affect citizens on a daily basis, but it is also a pivotal element in determining U.S. politics and government. This guide serves as a brief outline of the U.S. economy, beginning with the basic history of economic policy and then covering present-day federal economic organizations, private economic think tanks, sources for economic news and economic indicators.
To understand current economic policies and economic news, take a look at the history of economic thought. The following sites offer an overview of economic theory, some of which predates the American economy. These sites are a good source of information if you’re interested in discovering the basis of the U.S. economy today.
The U.S. Department of State
presents an overview of the U.S. economy. The third chapter, “The U.S. Economy: A Brief History,” outlines the history of the U.S. economy from Native American culture to modern times. Visit “How the U.S. Economy Works
” to learn about specific components of the American economy such as labor, the stock market and the role of the government in economic policies.
EH.Net (Economic History Net)
is an organization dedicated to the study of economic history. Visit the “Economic History in the Popular Press” section for articles that have appeared in popular media, written by authors affiliated with economic history.
, an educational Web site, provides a timeline of the history of U.S. currency. Beginning with the colonial notes of 1690, this site traces the history of money through the nation’s first bank, the U.S. Mint, greenbacks and more—all the way until the redesigned bills of 2000.
The inner workings of U.S. government organizations provide insight into the basic principles of American economic policy and issues. Learn how each of these organizations is working to maintain and improve the U.S. economy, and what economic policy entails.
- Most federal organizations post their economic policies somewhere on their Web site. If an organization you’re interested in isn’t listed in the sites below, search for the organization’s Web page to read about its economic policies and agenda.
- If you’d like to contact a political representative about an economic issue of interest (for example, taxes, social security or education funding), visit Project Vote Smart for a directory of state and local representatives.
- As you research, keep in mind the bias of the party holding the majority in each government organization. For example, as you look up economic issues on the White House Web site, remember that the current administration will favor conservative economic policies. On the other hand, more liberal policies may dominate discussion in Congress.
The White House
Web site features this section on Bush’s “Council of Economic Advisers,” currently headed by Chairman Edward P. Lazear. Find recent speeches and statements delivered by the president, executive economists, budget directors and others. Go to “Publications
” for economic analysis, forecasting, issues key to the U.S. economy and U.S. economic strategies for growth.
The U.S. Department of State
presents “Trade and Economics.” The purpose of this online publication is to discuss economic news and issues. Take a look at “Issues in Focus” for a list of the most pressing topics in American economics, including “Biotechnology
” and “USA and the WTO
”, among others.
The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee
assesses the U.S. economy. Recent news is posted on the home page; go to “Reports
” for current, in-depth economic analysis. “Hearings
” lists topics Congress will discuss or has recently discussed. Click any hearing title for a list of participants and to download PDFs of the charts and data used during the hearing.
Think tanks unaffiliated with the government can serve as good sources of nonpartisan economic discussion. The sites below provide economic news and analysis from organizations that examine and consider economic issues, and offer strategies and economic policy proposals.
- The following organizations may be nonpartisan, but that does not mean they are without bias. When in doubt about the political tendencies of an organization, check the Web site’s “About Us” section.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
is a progressive organization that seeks to help “low- and moderate-income families” in need. The institute examines recent economic news and economic policy and offers an opinion on the benefits of or downside to various U.S. economic initiatives. Scroll down to look at “Issues in Depth,” which covers pressing economic topics.
The Brookings Institution
is one of the foremost economic policy institutes, covering both U.S. and global economic news. The organization independently researches economic issues and policies. Through that research, the group hopes to improve American democracy, and secure the economic welfare of U.S. citizens. Articles and discussions posted throughout the Web site address these issues.
These sources offer the most readable, immediate economic news. If you want to find out what economic issues are happening today, or want to track the progress of the markets, these sites are the best source of current economic coverage.
- Other thorough sources of economic news are The Wall Street Journal and Economist.com. Both require a subscription for complete access but the effort and price is worth the analysis provided.
is a good source of economic news, offering up-to-the-minute financial headlines. Read featured headlines on the homepage or browse for articles in the publication’s different sections, such as “Investing
,” and “Companies
posts the latest economic news headlines on its homepage. Search for economic issues under specific topics using the navigation bar at the top of the page.
, the Web site of the Financial Times, offers timely analysis of world markets. Although this is a UK-based publication, it’s a good tool for following the details of U.S. and world markets, and tracking the international trends that may influence the American economy.
Economic indicators measure the economy based on how it is projected to perform. As a result, they reflect how the economy is perceived at any given point and are a great source of straight data.
- Economists at the Federal Trade Commission frequently present lectures detailing the state of the U.S. economy. Click on the title of any presentation that interests you for full PDF texts of these reports.
- Staying abreast of global economic developments is also important. More often than not, the international economy influences American markets. Track international indicators using, or refer to the Financial Times, suggested in the previous section.
The White House
Web site hosts the “Economic Statistics Briefing Room,” which offers “access to current Federal economic indicators.” Choose any of the hyperlinked issues on the homepage for charts detailing the economic change (growth or loss) of major issues month by month.
GPO Access (the U. S. Government Printing Office)
allows you to search a wide range of economic indicators, dating back to 1995. Select the issue that interests you from the main search box, or browse by year or month. Reports are downloadable as plain text or PDF files.
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