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Budget Hero: Balance our debt!

By Sheyna Steiner ·
Monday, July 18, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

Most news-savvy people are more than a little confident that they have all the answers when it comes to solving the country's debt problem. Just give me a pencil and a pad of paper and I'll show everyone how it's done.

Turns out, it's a little complicated, as illustrated by the surprisingly fun game, Budget Hero. The game lets players try their hand at balancing the national budget. Budget Hero 2.0 was unveiled last week.

The game is produced by American Public Media, a name you may already associate with NPR. It was developed in conjunction with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The game is an exercise in nonpartisan decision making; they used data from the Congressional budget office "which works with Congress to track the federal budget and to predict the impact of proposed Federal policies," the game tells you at the outset.

However, the game uses fewer categories than are included in the Congressional budget office's budget. Players must choose policies that impact defense, schools, science, housing, miscellaneous, infrastructure, health care, Social Security and interest. The only category not up for discussion is interest on debt; everything else can be slashed or raised according to your whims.

But your policies must live up to certain ideals, chosen beforehand, in the form of badges. You choose three and then to earn them, your policies must satisfy the objectives illustrated by the badges, for instance health and wellness, green, tea party, economic stimulus or competitive advantage.

To choose policies, players are given cards corresponding to the budget category. You can, for instance, cut arts and humanities funding to slice $5 billion off the budget; double FDA funding for an additional $40 billion or even freeze military spending for five years and then tie future growth to growth in the economy. That option saves $1,485 billion.

Plus, you can tax or not tax the populace and corporations and watch the consequences.

The policy cards enumerate the pros and cons and the impact of that choice. Your policy choices reduce the budget deficit and either adds to or subtracts from the size of government.

The game also shows you how many other people chose your cards which makes it an interesting conglomeration of social media, policy wonkishness and political idealism.

Ready to be a budget hero? Go here to play it. It is possibly the most fun and educational government policy game ever.

I learned that Social Security and health care take up even more of the budget than I thought. What did you think of the game?

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