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Author Topic: Create Your Own Federal Budget!  (Read 3450 times)
Badger
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« on: August 12, 2010, 01:14:39 pm »
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Hey all.

With taxes, government spending and the national debt being constant sources of debate, I decided to create a thread to let Forumites put their money where their mouth is. Attached below are links to several on-line sims of the US federal budget. It'll be interesting to discuss what types of solutions people can come up with to simultaneously balance the budget and keep taxes low--or if that's even realistically attainable, depending on one's domestic and foreign agendas.

None of the sims are perfect, of course, but some are still very good (and fun---in a political junkie kind of way Wink).

http://www.nathannewman.org/nbs/
I personally prefer the long version to the short. This sim has as more flexability in spending decisions than any of the others. One could choose to double funding for (e.g.) food stamps, or the Pentagon---or even to eliminate funding entirely! On the down side it allows modification/elimination of tax deductions and/or the Bush tax cuts, but any additional modification of tax rates, up or down, isn't an option. Even more disappointingly the sim doesn't provide any info as to the extra-budgetary impact of one's decisions (how many divisions must be disbanded from an 'X' % cut in military personnel funding, etc). Still one of the better sims here.

http://www.econedlink.org/lessons/index.php?lesson=EM306
A lesser form of the above sim. The scenario mandates no increase (or cut) of tax rates, an automatic 20% increase in military spending, and leaves Medicare & Soc. Sec. unchangeable. Even among the remaining areas of spending no more than a  +/- 20% change is permitted. Even if one imposes the maximum allowed cuts in every category in merely results in a $60 billion reduction in the deficit--about one seventh of the total deficit. Hardly satisfying. Still, it is simple at least.

http://budgethero.publicradio.org/widget/widget.php?refid=apm
This one's my favorite. It allows a wide variety of spending and tax decisions, including contemporary issues like carbon emission taxes and a public option for health insurance. Better still each decision offers a good summary of the choice's impact plus balanced pro and con arguments. It estimates the long term impact of one's choices over the course of decades, both in terms of the deficit/national debt and federal spending's share of GNP. Even the graphics are cool! Smiley If it has a downside it doesn't allow the total flexability of the first sim to do something extremely radical like totally eliminating federal funding for education or defense spending. More realistic perhaps, but not as open to highly "creative" approaches.

http://federalbudgetchallenge.org/budget_challenge/sim/budget_master.html
A decent sim, but basically a lesser version of Budget Hero above offering fewer choices for spending and taxes. Also limits tax increases similar to the Newman sim. Still fun though.

http://uspolitics.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ/Ya&zTi=1&sdn=uspolitics&cdn=newsissues&tm=15&gps=150_3068_1003_592&f=11&tt=14&bt=1&bts=1&zu=http%3A//www.kowaldesign.com/budget/
(I don't have Java on my work computer, so I have no idea how worthwhile this is).

Some of these have an option to share one's budget with others, but I haven't tried to export one's budget to a Forum thread post. Extra points to anyone that can do that. I'd love to see some of fiscal theories from both the left and right applied to the hard mathematical realities of budgeting. I've applied mine with some (surprising) success. So give it a shot and share your results. Cheesy
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« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2010, 01:28:49 pm »
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Fun, but I will have to do it again, now that I'm beginning to get it. I was surprised at how simple it was to get rid of the deficit economically speaking - I just eliminated pork, cut discretionary spending, cut defence and repealed the Bush tax cuts and voila! no more deficit.
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« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2010, 01:49:54 pm »
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This one is my personal favorite:

http://crfb.org/stabilizethedebt/
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« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2010, 01:52:22 pm »
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Damn I tried to eliminate every iota of tax breaks, military & veteran spending from the budget, but increasing all welfare spending by 100%.

I slightly increased the deficit by a handful of billions of dollars Sad

using the Nathan one
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« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2010, 02:59:19 pm »
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Damn I tried to eliminate every iota of tax breaks, military & veteran spending from the budget, but increasing all welfare spending by 100%.

I slightly increased the deficit by a handful of billions of dollars Sad

using the Nathan one

I used that. I removed the Bush tax cuts, Iraq+afghanistan military operations and got rid of the deficit.
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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2010, 03:43:09 pm »
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Damn I tried to eliminate every iota of tax breaks, military & veteran spending from the budget, but increasing all welfare spending by 100%.

I slightly increased the deficit by a handful of billions of dollars Sad

using the Nathan one

I used that. I removed the Bush tax cuts, Iraq+afghanistan military operations and got rid of the deficit.

Yeah but I wanted to throw our veterans out on the street too to double our welfare state.  Didn't work.
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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2010, 03:47:48 pm »
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I might have to wait til I sober up and get a good nite sleep tonight.   Wink

But I'm gonna give it a shot in the AM.
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« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2010, 03:57:34 pm »
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Budget Totals
Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

New budget is $3342.23 billion
($2462.7 billion in spending, $879.53 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $405.9 billion.
Your new deficit is $-4.89 billion.

yay
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Lt. Governor Dr. Cynic
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« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2010, 04:09:56 pm »
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I cut 400 billion from the deficit in the short version of the Natl Budget Sim.
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« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2010, 04:44:54 pm »
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I did budget hero. I basically ended all tax breaks for various things and gutted SS and Medicare and the military. I was shocked at how much revenue eliminating the AMT brought in Shocked

Anyway, I ended up with a $600 billion dollar surplus, government as 18% of the economy, and a budget bust was delayed until 2068. I satisfied the three badges too ('Green', efficiency, and competitiveness).
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« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2010, 04:49:27 pm »
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I can't get Budget Hero to start. What do I click?
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« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2010, 05:44:13 pm »
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This one is my personal favorite:

http://crfb.org/stabilizethedebt/

I cut the debt in half Smiley I was very proud of myself Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2010, 05:55:14 pm »
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Budget Totals
Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

New budget is $3342.23 billion
($2462.7 billion in spending, $879.53 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $405.9 billion.
Your new deficit is $-4.89 billion.

yay

n00b

Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

New budget is $3304.54 billion
($2593.08 billion in spending, $711.46 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $443.59 billion.
Your new deficit is $-42.58 billion.
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« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2010, 06:13:35 pm »
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Budget Hero: Click skip intro, click OK, drag at least 1 badge, and then click start in green at the lower right.

I played the following cards:
Spending Cuts
Bring Troops Home Soon -$210 Billion
Cut Military Spending by 10 percent -$541 Billion
Cut Foreign Aid -$218 Billion
Cut Discretionary Spending -$265 Billion
Simplify and Raise Medicare Fees -$31 Billion
Tax High Premium Insurance Plans -$254 Billion
Freeze Medicare payments -$284 Billion
Cut Rates for private health plans in Medicare -$177 Billion
-----------
Total Cuts: $1.98 Trillion

Spending Increases
More Funding for Arts in Schools +0.53 Billion
Increase NSF Grants by 50 Percent +$35 Billion
Reform and Reduce Farm Subsidies -$10 Billion
Give Prize for Cheaper Car +$0.30 Billion
More Money for Child Care +$5 Billion
More for Workesr Affected by Trade +$4 Billion
Expand Unemployment Benefits +$22 Billion
Provide Relief to States +$50 Billion
Fund High Speed Rail +$10 Billion
Cover More Low Income People +$42 Billion
Computerize Health Information +$70 Billion
Public Option +$0 Billion
Require and Subsidize Health Insurance +$568 Billion
---------------
Total Increases: $817 Billion

Tax Cuts
Link AMT to Inflation: -$1.07 Trillion
-----
Total Cuts: $1.07 Trillion

Tax Hikes
Limit Breaks for Charitable Giving: +$255 Billion
No Breaks for Extractive Industries: +$26 Billion
End Breaks for Big Oil: $14 Billion
Tax Private equity, Hedge Fund Managers: +$26 Billion
Tilt Payroll Tax Burden to the Rich: +$77 Billion
No state, local tax deduction: $701 Billion
Repeal Bush Tax Cuts: +$2.954 Trillion
--------------------------
$4.053 Trillion

You reduced the debt from 70.3% of GDP in 2009 to 44.0% in 2019. You delayed the budget bust, pushing it from 2031 to 2070+.  You shrank the size of government from 23.4% of GDP in 2009 to 21.4% of GDP in 2019.

I just notice something f'ed up about this game, though. In calculating the debt impact they assume zero growth in GDP! Absurd. Revenue is half the story, yet it is totally missing here.

Further, this excludes the fact that in the short run, I would massively increase deficit spending to fund jobs programs; it also excludes that some of this would be funded by QE. These are critical points. Games like this are fun, but unrealistic.
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« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2010, 11:35:48 pm »
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I can't get Budget Hero to start. What do I click?

For some reason the intro screen is "squeezed" in. Go to the whiteish block on the lower left hand corner of the manila envelope and click there. (The white block, when fully exposed, says "skip briefing"; clicking the one in the lower right hand corner gives an overview of the sim.)
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« Reply #15 on: August 13, 2010, 02:31:53 am »
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Budget Hero: Click skip intro, click OK, drag at least 1 badge, and then click start in green at the lower right.

I played the following cards:
Spending Cuts
Bring Troops Home Soon -$210 Billion
Cut Military Spending by 10 percent -$541 Billion
Cut Foreign Aid -$218 Billion
Cut Discretionary Spending -$265 Billion
Simplify and Raise Medicare Fees -$31 Billion
Tax High Premium Insurance Plans -$254 Billion
Freeze Medicare payments -$284 Billion
Cut Rates for private health plans in Medicare -$177 Billion
-----------
Total Cuts: $1.98 Trillion

Spending Increases
More Funding for Arts in Schools +0.53 Billion
Increase NSF Grants by 50 Percent +$35 Billion
Reform and Reduce Farm Subsidies -$10 Billion
Give Prize for Cheaper Car +$0.30 Billion
More Money for Child Care +$5 Billion
More for Workesr Affected by Trade +$4 Billion
Expand Unemployment Benefits +$22 Billion
Provide Relief to States +$50 Billion
Fund High Speed Rail +$10 Billion
Cover More Low Income People +$42 Billion
Computerize Health Information +$70 Billion
Public Option +$0 Billion
Require and Subsidize Health Insurance +$568 Billion
---------------
Total Increases: $817 Billion

Tax Cuts
Link AMT to Inflation: -$1.07 Trillion
-----
Total Cuts: $1.07 Trillion

Tax Hikes
Limit Breaks for Charitable Giving: +$255 Billion
No Breaks for Extractive Industries: +$26 Billion
End Breaks for Big Oil: $14 Billion
Tax Private equity, Hedge Fund Managers: +$26 Billion
Tilt Payroll Tax Burden to the Rich: +$77 Billion
No state, local tax deduction: $701 Billion
Repeal Bush Tax Cuts: +$2.954 Trillion
--------------------------
$4.053 Trillion

You reduced the debt from 70.3% of GDP in 2009 to 44.0% in 2019. You delayed the budget bust, pushing it from 2031 to 2070+.  You shrank the size of government from 23.4% of GDP in 2009 to 21.4% of GDP in 2019.

I just notice something f'ed up about this game, though. In calculating the debt impact they assume zero growth in GDP! Absurd. Revenue is half the story, yet it is totally missing here.

Further, this excludes the fact that in the short run, I would massively increase deficit spending to fund jobs programs; it also excludes that some of this would be funded by QE. These are critical points. Games like this are fun, but unrealistic.

Yeah, it's obviously a lot more complex in reality. One of the crucial elements right now is obviously that the deficit must be maintained in the short term even if it does have to go down in the long term.
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« Reply #16 on: August 13, 2010, 02:42:22 am »
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Your New Budget

Budget Totals
Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

New budget is $3120.79 billion
($2367.83 billion in spending, $752.96 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $627.34 billion.
Your new deficit is $-226.33 billion.


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« Reply #17 on: August 13, 2010, 03:00:46 am »
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Playing Budget Hero, it's pretty obvious that all of our fiscal problems are useless moderate heroism. Any reasonable choices results in the national debt decreasing by trillions of dollars over the next decade. Of course, given the epic fail of American politics, you can always count on the reasonable choices to not be chosen.
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« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2010, 03:17:06 am »
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Playing Budget Hero, it's pretty obvious that all of our fiscal problems are useless moderate heroism. Any reasonable choices results in the national debt decreasing by trillions of dollars over the next decade. Of course, given the epic fail of American politics, you can always count on the reasonable choices to not be chosen.

Did you just define moderate heroism as being unreasonable?
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« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2010, 07:58:02 am »
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Budget Totals
Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
New budget is $3566.88 billion
($2542.54 billion in spending, $1024.34 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

You have cut the deficit by $181.25 billion.
Your new deficit is $219.75 billion.

Kept all the tax cuts and increased them for lower income brackets..........and since I'm in a wonderful mood today I left a lot of the social stuff alone.

You tax increasers who have surpluses, don't worry, you just bankrupted every American family. Roll Eyes
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I'm not counting Dave Leip.  He used to be the only moderator when I first started posting here.  There were no "infraction points" or anything like that back then.  I'd just get an email message once in a while that said something like, "Please avoid drunken, emotional diatribes.  Thank you, Dave Leip" or "Please refrain from linking to pornographic websites.  Thank you, Dave Leip." 
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« Reply #20 on: August 13, 2010, 12:04:00 pm »
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This one is my personal favorite:

http://crfb.org/stabilizethedebt/

That's a pretty good sim I totally missed. Thanks Wormy. Smiley
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« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2010, 12:06:22 pm »
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Budget Totals
Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

New budget is $3342.23 billion
($2462.7 billion in spending, $879.53 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $405.9 billion.
Your new deficit is $-4.89 billion.

yay

n00b

Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

New budget is $3304.54 billion
($2593.08 billion in spending, $711.46 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $443.59 billion.
Your new deficit is $-42.58 billion.

Your New Budget

Budget Totals
Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

New budget is $3120.79 billion
($2367.83 billion in spending, $752.96 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $627.34 billion.
Your new deficit is $-226.33 billion.

So exactly how did you meet this goals, guys? Those details are always the fun part. Cheesy
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« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2010, 02:51:44 pm »
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My Short Term Budget (The simulation didn't let me do nearly what I wanted in spending increases as you can only raise things up to a 100% increase, but you get the idea. I did not cut any spending or increase any taxes):

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Budget Totals
Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
New budget is $4164.5 billion
($3008.4 billion in spending, $1156.1 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

You have increased the deficit by $416.36 billion.
Your new deficit is $817.36 billion.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Spending ($3008.4 billion: increased $335.4 billion)

Military Spending ($446.11 billion)
Iraq and Afghanistan Operations ($112.54 billion)
Military Retirement ($115.48 billion)
International affairs ($31.59 billion)
General science, space, and technology ($47.94 billion: increased $23.97 billion)
Non-Defense Energy Spending ($4.06 billion: increased $1.94 billion)
Natural resources and environment ($36.98 billion: increased $5.82 billion)
Agriculture ($26.02 billion)
Commerce and Housing Loan Programs ($6.84 billion)
Transportation ($141.34 billion: increased $70.67 billion)
Community and regional development ($21.1 billion: increased $2 billion)
Education ($95.13 billion: increased $31.06 billion)
Training, labor and unemployment ($94.01 billion: increased $46.2 billion)
Non-Medicare Health Spending ($280.05 billion: increased $26.73 billion)
Medicare ($384.87 billion: increased $39.12 billion)
Civilian Retirement (Social Security excluded) ($72.02 billion)
Aid to Low-Income Families ($277.84 billion: increased $71.07 billion)
General Family Support ($41.71 billion: increased $16.09 billion)
Social security ($544.82 billion)
Administration of justice ($43.1 billion)
General government administration ($17.76 billion)
Net_interest_long ($211.08 billion)
Undistributed offsetting receipts and allowance ($-43.99 billion)

Tax Expenditures and Tax Cuts ($1156.1 billion: increased $80.97 billion)

2001 and 2003 Tax Cuts ($369.13 billion: increased $74.24 billion)
-$116.96 billion .... Benefits for Richest 1% of Taxpayers (No Change)
-$28.87 billion ..... Benefits for Next Richest 4% (No Change)
-$64.81 billion ..... Benefits for Next Richest 15%
---Increased $5.89 bil. from base of $58.92 bil.( 10%)
-$65.4 billion ...... Benefits for Next 20% of Taxpayers
---Increased $21.8 bil. from base of $43.6008 bil.( 50%)
-$93.09 billion ..... Benefits for Bottom 60% of Taxpayers
---Increased $46.54 bil. from base of $46.546 bil.( 100%)
Corporate Tax Breaks ($61.35 billion: increased $1 billion)
Personal Business & Investment Benefits ($86.71 billion)
Pension & Retirement Deductions ($168.47 billion)
Health Insurance Tax Benefits ($140.99 billion)
Housing tax benefits ($163.71 billion)
Other individual deductions and exemptions ($165.74 billion: increased $5.75 billion)

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« Reply #23 on: August 13, 2010, 04:42:06 pm »
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My Longer Term Budget (I left a slight deficit on purpose):

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Budget Totals
Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
New budget is $3352.47 billion
($2612.46 billion in spending, $740.01 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

You have cut the deficit by $395.66 billion.
Your new deficit is $5.34 billion.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Spending ($2612.46 billion: cut $60.53 billion)

Military Spending ($223.05 billion: cut $223.05 billion)
Iraq and Afghanistan Operations ($6.85 billion: cut $104.99 billion)
Military Retirement ($99.46 billion: cut $16.01 billion)
International affairs ($26.85 billion: cut $4.73 billion)
General science, space, and technology ($47.94 billion: increased $23.97 billion)
Non-Defense Energy Spending ($4.24 billion: increased $2.12 billion)
Natural resources and environment ($47.16 billion: increased $16 billion)
Agriculture ($26.02 billion)
Commerce and Housing Loan Programs ($7.45 billion)
Transportation ($141.34 billion: increased $70.67 billion)
Community and regional development ($28.65 billion: increased $9.55 billion)
Education ($124.91 billion: increased $60.84 billion)
Training, labor and unemployment ($57.74 billion: increased $9.93 billion)
Non-Medicare Health Spending ($267.16 billion: increased $13.84 billion)
Medicare ($350.42 billion: increased $4.67 billion)
Civilian Retirement (Social Security excluded) ($72.02 billion)
Aid to Low-Income Families ($261.08 billion: increased $54.31 billion)
General Family Support ($51.23 billion: increased $25.61 billion)
Social security ($544.82 billion)
Administration of justice ($41 billion: cut $2.09 billion)
General government administration ($15.98 billion: cut $1.76 billion)
Net_interest_long ($211.08 billion)
Undistributed offsetting receipts and allowance ($-43.99 billion)

Tax Expenditures and Tax Cuts ($740.01 billion: cut $335.11 billion)

2001 and 2003 Tax Cuts ($0 billion: cut $294.88 billion)
Corporate Tax Breaks ($48.34 billion: cut $12.01 billion)
Personal Business & Investment Benefits ($71.52 billion: cut $15.18 billion)
Pension & Retirement Deductions ($158.59 billion: cut $9.87 billion)
Health Insurance Tax Benefits ($140.99 billion)
Housing tax benefits ($160.08 billion: cut $3.62 billion)
Other individual deductions and exemptions ($160.49 billion)

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« Reply #24 on: August 13, 2010, 08:50:20 pm »
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Budget Totals
Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

New budget is $3342.23 billion
($2462.7 billion in spending, $879.53 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $405.9 billion.
Your new deficit is $-4.89 billion.

yay

n00b

Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

New budget is $3304.54 billion
($2593.08 billion in spending, $711.46 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $443.59 billion.
Your new deficit is $-42.58 billion.

Your New Budget

Budget Totals
Old budget was $3748.1268 billion
($2673 billion in spending, $1075.1268 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).

New budget is $3120.79 billion
($2367.83 billion in spending, $752.96 billion in tax expenditures and cuts).
You have cut the deficit by $627.34 billion.
Your new deficit is $-226.33 billion.

So exactly how did you meet this goals, guys? Those details are always the fun part. Cheesy

I went pretty hardcore on tax cuts for the rich and military spending. I did increase some areas of spending, so it wasn't like I was only cutting spending and raising taxes, though.
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