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New game allows average citizens to compose the Federal Budget

They call it a hearing, but is anyone really listening?
They call it a hearing, but is anyone really listening?
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

While lawmakers are working on appropriations bills to fund the government next year, they seem to have lost interest in trying to meet the country’s long-term fiscal challenges. But the newly updated Federal Budget Challenge gives citizens across the country a chance to succeed where Congress has thrown in the towel, letting them select policies to put the country on a fiscally sustainable path.

Two nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations -- Next 10 and The Concord Coalition -- created the Federal Budget Challenge in 2009. It lets players look out over the next 10 years and weigh some of the many different deficit-reduction options that are available to elected officials.

“Despite recent improvements in the near-term budget picture, fiscal policy remains on an unsustainable path,” says Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. “This generation has been presented with significant challenges that we must begin to solve. The Federal Budget Challenge allows us to examine areas such as health care costs, taxes, education programs and defense spending, and also lets more Americans join the conversation about the tough choices facing our country.”

The new version includes the most up-to-date options as presented by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. For example, players can decide what to do about the caps on discretionary spending that were put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. They can allow the caps to continue, or remove them and allow discretionary spending to grow with inflation or the economy.

The online game prompts users to answer important questions about their priorities for America’s future. For example:

  • How can we contain spending by federal health care programs while ensuring access to coverage and care?

  • Should additional tax revenue be used to reduce federal borrowing?

  • Should the federal government invest more in research and development?

  • How should we increase economic growth and job creation?

  • How should we secure Social Security and Medicare for future generations?

  • Should we increase or decrease national security funding in the years ahead?

As players consider such questions, the Federal Budget Challenge lets them see how their decisions might impact the deficit in the years ahead. Each option includes background information along with both supporting and opposing arguments.

In Washington, the chaotic federal budget process in recent years has often led to poor decision-making and unrealistic funding plans.

“Long-term, the federal deficit is projected to grow by an alarming $7.6 trillion over the next ten years,” said F. Noel Perry, founder of Next 10. “These issues directly impact American voters, who are largely shut out of the budget process.”

The exercise features interactive social networking tools and touch-screen capability. Users can take the Challenge as a group and send their results to friends.

The Challenge is based on the latest version of Principles and Priorities, The Concord Coalition’s interactive exercise to help citizens across the country understand the difficult trade-offs and compromises necessary to build sound fiscal policy, including some hosted by members of Congress from both parties. The budget challenge platform was originally developed by Next 10.

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