American ‘Budget Heroes’ find consensus on how to reform federal budget

The Takeaway

The Congressional Super Committee may have failed to balance the budget, but Americans online seem to have found consensus on what they would do to get the federal deficits under control.

  • Rapidly cut troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Reform and simplify the tax code.
  • Cut discretionary spending by 10 percent.
  • Require wealthier seniors to pay more for prescription drug benefits.
  • Raise the age to get full social security benefits and slow the increase in the amount of benefits.

Those were the top five choices of people who played the Budget Hero game online, said Linda Fantin, director of network journalism and innovation at American Public Media and one of Budget Hero’s creators.

The game was launched in 2008, but as the debt crisis has taken center stage it’s seen a resurgence in popularity. More than 170,000 people have played the game.

“It was a pretty broad mix of Americans,” Fantin said. “We had good representation in age and income and political affiliation. We did have quite a bit of a gender gap. Many more males than females played the game.”

Fantin said those choices were endorses by a “super majority” of game players. For example, 79 percent of those who played wanted to bring the troops home rapidly. 

But there was also support for raising taxes. 

“There was quite a bit of support for ending tax breaks for big oil,” Fantin said.

Fantin said for her, the big takeaway was that when you give people the option to weigh the consequences of tehir actions and let them understand how their decisions affect the world, they’ll make decisions and sometimes go against their own interest.

Of course, if the stalemate in Congress continues through next year, a new report from the Washington Post documents how the deficit could be reduced by $6 trillion over 10 years.

Of course, there are also predictions that such hefty spending cuts and tax increases could jolt the economy back into recession.

Perhaps they should consult the online Budget Heroes.

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