Skyler speaks to Ted Beneke (her boss) about some underreported income, which she found while analyzing the company’s accounting records. Initially, Ted labels this as an accounting error, but soon admits to underreporting income in an attempt to avoid paying more in income taxes. From this conversation, it’s clear that Ted purposefully engages in this illegal activity by taking into account the costs and benefits of his decisions. The scene is also useful for discussing the decline in tax receipts during a recession as well as its potential causes. Skyler also has to weigh the costs and benefits of reporting her boss (and friend) to the IRS.
In the background of the breakfast scene, a local news broadcast discusses the rapidly deteriorating American economy. This episode aired in May 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession. Interestingly, despite one of the worst time periods in American economic history, the White family seems unbothered by the news. The NBER is the agency responsible for classifying whether the economy experienced a recession, but they often don’t make the announcement until well after the recession has concluded. As a result, families often aren’t aware just how bad things will become in the middle of a recession.