Budget Hero

Everyone wants to be a Budget Hero, at least on Twitter

Matt Berger Jul 14, 2011

The latest version of the budget-balancing game Budget Hero, produced by our newsroom partners from American Public Media’s Public Insight Network, is spreading across the web today proving that thousands of Americans wish they could try their hand at doing what Congress can’t: Build a balanced budget

The game went live yesterday with a launch event on Capitol Hill, which was hosted by the Wilson Center’s Science Technology and Innovation Program, which co-produced the game, and some top Congressmen and involved in the real-life budget negotiations raging on this month.

Associated Press reporter Jim Abrams was also at the event in Washington and published a story on the wires today. Here’s how he described the game:

The new version, updated to reflect the increasingly dire financial situation and such new factors as the House Republican budget’s approach to Medicare, allows players to pick from some 100 policy cards as they try to earn “badges” that reflect their political leanings. Fiscal conservatives can try to earn a tea party badge, defense hawks a national security badge or environmentalists a green badge.

The game starts in the year 2021, based on Congressional Budget Office numbers showing what happens to the government’s budget if there is no change in current policy. Players, by using their policy cards, change the course of history.

Before clicking on a policy, the player can check out the pros and cons. Raising the Social Security eligibility age to 70 for those born in 1973 or after would save $152 billion over 10 years but would also mean a 10 percent loss in benefits for those now in their mid- to late 40s.

Former Representative and former House Appropriations Committee chair Bob Livingston holds up his Budget Hero t-shirt as the Wilson Center’s Jane Harman looks on.

Immediately, readers took the challenge. As of 10 a.m. this morning, more than 12,000 people have tried to balance the budget on our website and thousands more have played version 2.0 of the game elsewhere on the web. The original version of Budget Hero, launched in 2008, has been played more than 800,000 times.

Here’s what the Twitter universe had to say this morning:

Brittony Hodgins, of Lubbock, Texas writes: “I halved the national debt in 9 years.”

Kyle Anderson, an economist at the Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis, noted: “Just played Budget Hero… Raise taxes and cut spending – its easy if you don’t run for office.”

Steve Ludlum, who writes a blog called Economic Undertow, tweeted: “Game won’t let me do anything w/ legacy debts or SS! Unfair!”

If you can translate German, maybe you can tell us what Werner Schnierer had to say in his Tweet: “Just played Budget Hero … Ein irre-witziges Spiel, aber hart an der Realität der USA. Ich hab’s aber geschafft…”

Maybe our favorite response so far, and one that we might just take to heart comes from Boston, Mass., consultant David Lawrence Sundahl: “I just want to know when it’s available for the Wii.”

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