News / USA

Students Debate US Budget Through Online Game

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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More