You Got a Fix for the U.S. Budget? Here’s Your Chance to Test It

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The game "The Fiscal Ship" allows you to see how your tax policy and spending ideas would play out. Hint: It's harder than it looks.

The Brookings Institution has developed a game for all you armchair federal budget experts out there.

The computer game called “The Fiscal Ship” allows you to set up to three broad policy goals (such as shrink government, reduce inequality, strengthen defense, or strengthen the social safety net, among others) and then try to find the policies that will achieve them. At the same time, players need to bring down the federal debt from its projected level in 2041 (130 percent of the gross domestic product) to where it is today (75 percent of gross domestic product).

Each policy choice you make has an impact both on your goals and on the debt level.

In a blog post about the game, David Wessel of Brookings said it was partly designed to show that there are no easy answers.

“You’ll discover how much money we’d raise by imposing a carbon tax or how much money we’d save by abolishing the Department of Education. You’ll see how small an impact some widely discussed policies would be, and how hard it is to solve the puzzle unless you choose some options that are, at least right now, politically difficult,” Wessel writes.

The game assumes you’ve become some sort of benevolent dictator — any policy you choose is implemented without having to worry about the political trade-offs or congressional approval. It can be worth clicking on some of the policies you might personally dislike, just to see what impacts they would have — or, at least, what impacts the folks at Brookings think they would have.

Try it out and let us know how your version worked out in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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