Try to Fix the Budget Yourself. It's Hard
Right now, the United States' federal debt is about 66 percent of GDP. It's projected to grow to 100 percent by 2022, and keep growing thereafter. Fixing it should be easy, right? We just raise the gas tax. Or let the Bush tax cuts expire. Or maybe we just cut those expensive entitlements.
Well, the peanut gallery can now give it a try.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has a simulator (some are calling it a "game") that will let you run through a list of major programs and decide which to cut. Your goal: Lower the debt to 60 percent of GDP by 2018.
Some choices are easy (do you want to "Eliminate Certain Outdated Programs"? Sure!) but most are not. Who wants to end school breakfast programs? And many choices that would help reduce the debt—passing a cap-and-trade bill or raising the corporate tax rate—would be hard to do politically anyway.
I ran through the simulator quickly and raised taxes in a variety of ways, cut a handful of programs, passed cap-and-trade, left the stimulus unchanged, and got this message:
"Uh oh! You failed to reduce the debt to a sustainable level. Without further changes, a fiscal crisis is likely to occur."
Ouch. Try it yourself if you have a few minutes. At the least it gives you a nice new perspective on what the big-ticket items are (TARP, stimulus, war, and the Bush tax cuts).
Smartly, as people work through the simulator, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is going to share the results with politicians, to show them what the public is willing to cut.