News / USA

Students Debate US Budget Through Online Game

TEXT SIZE - +
Mike O'Sullivan

As a special congressional committee in Washington has been wrestling with ways to reduce the US budget deficit, students in Los Angeles and other American cities have also been tackling the problem.  They have tried to trim government spending through an online game called Budget Hero.

These high school students say playing Budget Hero is showing them how hard it is to cut federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.  That's the challenge Congress faces.

The game was developed in 2008, and in an updated version, students can embrace a set of values to motivate their choices - pursuing efficient government, for example, lowering taxes, safeguarding the environment or promoting national defense.  Using data from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, the game shows the real-life budget impact of every choice they make.

The process is important, says student Dory Bennett.  She says spending cuts are crucial to keep the economy healthy, and the American dream alive. “I want to grow up, go to college, get a good job, have kids maybe, a dog and a house," he said.

Like lawmakers in Washington, the students wrestled with the issues. “A simplified tax code and a tax code that more fairly and correctly taxes the wealth in this country is obviously preferable," said one student.

One former lawmaker gave the students some tips.  Nine-term Congresswoman Jane Harman now heads the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, which co-developed the online game.  More than one million people have played it so far, and she says they've learned two things.

“One, how hard it is, but two, that it can be done if there's a will to do it," she said.

Student Jeffrey Burke agrees that budget cutting isn't easy.

“The hardest thing for us to figure out was the little cuts like the gas money and stuff, increasing taxes on gas, because we felt it would have effects everywhere from the truck drivers shipping our stuff across the country or when you order from [the online retailer] Amazon or whatever, to you drive when you're going to work.  I think we need to look at the little things and realize that just because they're small money doesn't mean they're small effects," he said.

Defense spending really spurred debate, says student budget cutter Harry Kidd.

“Because at the same time, you've got … oh, we're going to freeze military spending, but then we're like, what is that going to do to jobs?  But then the other half was, oh, we can take troops out of Iraq and we all agreed on that," he said.

The broadcaster American Public Media co-developed the budget game, and the man in charge of digital innovation at the media network, Joaquin Alvarado, says many who play online leave a comment.

“And they will literally in the comments ask that Congress play this game to just get a little rational around the questions that have to be answered," he said.

Jane Harman, a Democrat, notes that Congress balanced the federal budget in 1997, when she represented California in Washington… and that these students are having more success than current Members of Congress.

“Kids, and actually adults too who play this game, have open minds.  They want to learn what the facts are.  And sadly, a lot of Congress is a fact-free universe, and that is tragic for our country, for our country's reputation, and for our economy and the livelihoods of millions of people who are presently out of work," she said.

But these students say that after playing Budget Hero, they better understand the challenge facing Congress, and that agreeing what to cut is the hard part.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid