Want a shot at doing what politicians in Washington can’t seem to do: balance the federal budget and erase the debt?
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is given ordinary Americans the chance to stabilize the debt through a budget simulator that teaches the public about changes that must be made to control the nation’s rising debt.
The simulator has been used by a quarter of a million people since May 2010.
Those people took a variety of measures to reduce the deficit. Here are some of the findings from the first two years of its use:
• About 4 percent of users relied exclusively on spending cuts, 2 percent relied exclusively on revenue increases, and the remaining 94 percent reduced the deficit through some combination of spending and revenue changes.
• Partisan support for various options did not necessarily reflect what is reported in the media. For example, 71 percent of Democrats supported raising the retirement age, and 82 percent of Republicans supported letting at least some of the 2001/2003/2010 tax cuts expire.
• About 80 percent of the sample successfully stabilized the debt at 60 percent of GDP by the end of the decade.
The CFRB points out that politically “easy” options were popular with users too, but do little to stabilize the federal budget. For example, while 88 percent were in favor of eliminated outdated programs and 82 percent wanted to end earmarks – those combine to generate only $120 billion in savings.
There were some political preferences – more Democrats favored ending subsidies for oil and gas companies than Republicans, and more of them wanted to reduce the tax gap. But more Republicans wanted to cut earmarks in half and wanted to raise the national retirement age to 68.
However, there was consensus in eliminating outdated programs, increasing user fees, reducing farm subsidies, including state and federal workers in Social Security, and indexing the tax code to reflect inflation.