Think you have what it takes to balance the federal budget? Ever wish you could bypass the intransigent Congress and dictate your own solution to America’s fiscal woes? Well, now you can ? or, maybe not quite, but at least you can find out how your policy preferences would affect the deficit. The Federal Budget Challenge, a recently-launched website produced by the Concord Coalition and Next 10, is an online simulation that allows users to select from a variety of options that affect spending and revenue, with a goal of reducing the deficit to zero ? i.e., balancing the budget ? within ten years. Users must make a series of important tradeoffs in order to achieve fiscal sustainability. Should discretionary spending on defense and non-defense programs (including areas like education, food and drug safety, medical research, and disaster relief) remain capped at the levels determined by the 2011 agreement to lift the debt ceiling, should those programs be cut further, or should they grow with inflation? Should all or part of the “Bush” tax cuts be extended? Should various tax deductions and credits be eliminated?
The challenge provides a large array of options, and users can read arguments in favor of and in opposition to each. Some would have a small impact on the deficit ? such as eliminating the one-dollar bill or reducing funding for the arts ? while others, including raising Medicare premiums, curbing large tax expenditures, and increasing the full retirement age for Social Security benefits, would result in significant deficit reduction. Users can also choose to increase investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure, but are required to do so in a fiscally sound way by increasing the tax on gasoline in tandem. Repealing the Affordable Care Act is an option too, but it would increase the deficit, so commensurate savings would have to be found elsewhere in order to achieve the balanced budget goal.
At the end of the challenge, the simulation provides a summary of your choices with the total deficit reduction achieved (or not achieved, as the case may be). In addition to the Concord Coalition’s new effort, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has a similar interactive that allows users to make budget trade-offs with the goal of stabilizing the debt at 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). These simulations give the public a chance to learn about and evaluate the tough choices that our representatives must make in order to right the nation’s finances.
Give Concord’s new simulator a try here.