“If you ever wanted to control where your tax dollars go, here’s your chance to decide.” So says a voice on the introduction page of Budget Hero, a new interactive feature from American Public Media that puts taxpayers in control of the federal government’s purse strings.
Whereas many past budget simulators had rather limited options labeled raise taxes or decrease spending, Budget Hero provides the user with many more options. Don’t think that the federal government spends enough on education? Then select the card to fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) at a cost of $140 billion. Want to increase spending for special education? That will cost $162 billion. Prefer vouchers for poor students? Okay, but that will cost $150 billion. But how do you pay for all of this? You could limit the Bush tax cuts to the neediest individuals, which will save nearly $2 trillion. Or you could bring the troops home soon—that would save $391 billion. These are just a few of the options in Budget Hero, which also allows you to make spending decisions on science and nature, housing and living, infrastructure, health care, and social security. For example, will you provide more low-income worker benefits (a cost of $140 billion), or raise the social security age (a savings of $108 billion)?
As you make various decisions on taxes and spending, you must keep an eye on three other things: the deficit/surplus meter; the percentage that the federal debt makes of the gross domestic product; and the calendar that tells you when your budget will bust. At the end of the game, you’ll see a short summary that tells you how successful you were in meeting your goals.