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Could YOU Balance the National Budget?

Have you played Budget Hero™ yet?! After my first try, I managed to reduce the national debt from 37.7% of the GDP in 2008 to just 5.9% of the GDP in 2018. That equates to $7.1 billion in ten years. According to Budget Hero™, I’m a downsizer, debt is no match for me and my kids called to say thank you!

Unfortunately, I did not achieve my goals of creating a better safety net and getting better health insurance coverage for all Americans. However, speaking from experience, better health insurance coverage does not equate to better health care – and it certainly doesn’t guarantee better health.

Start by getting briefed. Then determine what is most important to you – the issues where you want to have the most influence. At the end of the game, you will know whether you were true to your values by how many of the issue badges you earned. I successfully met my goals for energy indpendence, but maybe national security is more important to you. The fun part is – you get to choose!

You can increase or decrease funding in the areas of Defense/Diplomacy, Schools/Kids, Science/Nature, Housing/Living, Infrastructure, Health care, Social Security, Interest on Debt, Taxes and a Miscellaneous category which includes FDA funding and pork barrel spending.

The “policy cards” explain, in a nutshell, the impact each of your decisions will have. Of course, you could dissect impact to the Nth degree, but the cards (and the game) are actually quite well designed. Spend as much or as little time as you want balancing the budget. It is a user-friendly interface with a FAQs section, as well as a place to go for help. There is even an area for group discussion. One thing I wanted to know was how the game reflects the actual federal budget. According to Budget Hero™:

“The game relies primarily on the budget model and forecasts in the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “Long Term Fiscal Outlook.” We grouped together the CBO budget categories into fewer building categories to simplify the game.

The CBO provides specific budget forecasts for the next ten years and then makes assumptions about growth after the ten-year period, based on economic and inflation forecasts. American Public Media journalists altered the baseline CBO budget in a couple of cases to ensure the game reflects the current political debate. For example, the game assumes that President Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts continue beyond 2010 even though they are set to expire. The reason is that the current political debate assumes the cuts will continue and frames the issue as whether to end or partially roll them back. The game gives players the choice to end or roll back the cuts, along with many other tax and fee options.

If you play no cards, Budget Hero™ shows how today’s government commitments and plans will affect the budget in the future. As players select policy cards, the baseline budget is adjusted to reflect year-by-year increases or decreases in spending. Some cards, like withdrawing troops from Iraq may increase spending in the next few years before they lead to savings in later years.”

Playing Budget Hero™ is not just a fun challenge; it taught me something about choices and gave me what I’m sure is just a taste of how difficult it must be to really balance the budget. Oh, the pork – the compromise – the sacrifice – the waste – the inevitable backlash! It was actually a fascinating exercise. If you like computer games, Budget Hero™ is for you. For those who are truly interested in challenging presidential and congressional candidates, playing this game is a must. Plus, I challenge you to produce a better budget than I was able to.

If you post your summary, I’ll post mine…

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