Think you can do better than Congress? Prove it.
June 9, 2008 8:34 PM   Subscribe

 
Its a neat toy that has been the subject of a lot of discussion on the various "serious games" mailing list. Ben Medler had a good review from that perspective.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:46 PM on June 9, 2008


That was fun, but I found it was too easy to beat the simple goals the game laid out based on the values I chose. All I had to do was gut the Pentagon and take an axe to the Social Security money I'll never see anyway, and then I had more than enough cash to take every card that had a positive effect on the environment, education, and energy independence with enough left over to fund single-payer health care. Basically I just picked every card that reflected my personal values and suddenly the budget was fixed and the country was a better place for it.

It's buggy, though. If you kill off certain defense programs, you're not eligible to tack on that juicy 10% across-the-board cut. I wanted to do both!

I was also disappointed with how few education options there were. All I could do was kill NCLB and pony up for a couple of small things. It'd have been nice if there were a "double Federal assistance to schools across the board" card.
posted by majick at 9:14 PM on June 9, 2008


This game is easy. Repeal the Bush tax cuts and you can do whatever the fuck you want.
posted by Caduceus at 9:31 PM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ditto. The "compare" function at the end was pretty interesting though. I was surprised by how small government I ended up being, as compared with pretty much every group. This despite universal state paid health care and increasing spending on science and the environment.

Needless to say, compared to the current band of jokers running the sh*t show down there, I am a budget hero.
posted by bumpkin at 9:31 PM on June 9, 2008


"Repeal the Bush tax cuts and you can do whatever the fuck you want."

I found that strange as well, almost like it was trying to tell me something...

Apparently my leftist, almost socialist policies with regards to spending somehow managed to make the government smaller and more efficient (although the military might complain in the future).
posted by shoebox at 9:40 PM on June 9, 2008


Based on this, we should disband Congress and just make me Budget Czar for life. Not that I'm running, mind you. But if asked, I will serve.

(Yeah, getting rid of the Bush tax cuts means you can make any reasonable choice you want and still come out okay.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:42 PM on June 9, 2008


I found that strange as well, almost like it was trying to tell me something...

I think that's just gives you a clear idea of how much the Bush tax cuts crippled the budget. Incidentally, no one I know saw much more than a couple hundred dollars worth of change in their taxes from those tax cuts. Which is, you know, I guess a lot when you make $40k a year?

But they sure do make a big difference in the budget. I wonder where all that money is disappearing?
posted by Caduceus at 9:44 PM on June 9, 2008


the Social Security money I'll never see anyway

This is lie propagated among those who want to roll back the program.

The US's demographics are reasonably good and with any breaks the program will remain fully funded as designed for the remainder of this century.

Last I checked the SS is scheduled to exhaust its trust fund sometime in the 2040s. Don't know about you, but I'll be in my 70s then.

I wonder where all that money is disappearing?

it's one of my pet theories that the real estate boom earlier this decade was accelerated by the income tax cuts.
posted by tachikaze at 9:59 PM on June 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


oh, the app itself sucked descended elephant balls.

The National Budget Simulator, sadly dead now, was my go-to site for playing around with the numbers. With it, cutting the DOD back by 30% and scaling down our intervention in Iraq, jacking up taxes on the top 10% of wage earners 10%, I could get the budget more or less in balance (a deficit under 2% of GDP is good enough for government work).
posted by tachikaze at 10:03 PM on June 9, 2008


Two words: pork barrel. I guess I did remember some of high school economics. Yeah, what for libruls supposing to be big gov't, I sure slashed the budget and reduced debt...yet the kids still got art classes. Funny, that.
posted by SassHat at 10:55 PM on June 9, 2008


I don't think this game takes into account lobbyist/special interests who want their special stuff funded. Lets say you don't increase the defense budget and throw Boeing a beefy no-bid contract, then they won't fund your re-election campaign and you have less of an influence (one term instead of many).

Or, we could take this one step further and take the constituency that placed you in such a position to begin with, if they're not peachy keen with some things then they'll kick you out.

Or...whatever
posted by hellojed at 11:06 PM on June 9, 2008


Where was the option to siphon all funds into laundry bags with dollar signs on them?

And then a second option to purchase a monocle, mustache and blimp.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 11:33 PM on June 9, 2008


Coming up next: WATCHING CARS RUST HERO!

Playing this is less interesting than having one's teeth cleaned.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:16 AM on June 10, 2008


Playing this is less interesting than having one's teeth cleaned.

Indeed, the dentist often makes pithy remarks about the relevance of dental hygiene to the modern man and his ability to score.

It's an interesting concept but the execution isn't wholly satisfying.
posted by WalterMitty at 3:19 AM on June 10, 2008


By "interesting concept", I mean the game, not the process of teeth cleaning and aphorism-dispensing dentists.
posted by WalterMitty at 3:19 AM on June 10, 2008


1. Dear web developers: please stop calling every cute little web game you create about a subject "_______ Hero" unless it's actually a parody of Guitar Hero. If you called this game "Budget Budget Revolution" it would be an equally stupid title.

2. Once again, this is a really un-strategic simulation, unless you deny yourself the same "cheat code" of every other version of these that I've played, in that (gasp!) you can balance the budget by repealing most of the tax and/or national security plans initiated in the last eight years.

Ultimately, what makes these simulations so annoying is they seem to imply that no one ever had the brilliant idea of making the budget work... except, of course, for the actual reality that eight years ago the budget was balanced and was projected to be so for at least another decade if we merely didn't do anything stupid, such as, say, spend a trillion dollars on a permanent military occupation of a sovereign nation.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:14 AM on June 10, 2008


Boy, this isn't biased at all. Typical NPR garbage.
posted by tadellin at 6:58 AM on June 10, 2008


The BBC did a similar (in concept) "game" on Climate Change ages ago. Don't know if it got mentioned on here at the time (think it was in my pre-blue days).

The Climate Challenge
posted by garius at 7:34 AM on June 10, 2008


Boy, this isn't biased at all. Typical NPR garbage.

They explain various aspects of the game here, along with a faq page.
Do you have any fact-based criticism of their model or are you just upset that it doesn't conform to your beliefs?
posted by D.C. at 7:57 AM on June 10, 2008


Last I checked the SS is scheduled to exhaust its trust fund sometime in the 2040s. Don't know about you, but I'll be in my 70s then.

I'm 30 years old in 2010, so I'll only be 60 by 2040. Social security eligibility begins at what, 65?

No, for us Millenials, we're not going to see a damn dime.
posted by BrianBoyko at 8:18 AM on June 10, 2008


Boy, this isn't biased at all. Typical NPR garbage.
...
Do you have any fact-based criticism of their model or are you just upset that it doesn't conform to your beliefs?


I think tadellin's just upset that they're so-blatantly deriving the game's outcomes from that controversial liberal theory called 'basic accountancy.'
posted by saulgoodman at 8:28 AM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


No, for us Millenials, we're not going to see a damn dime.

Actually, the surplus was only designed to cover the demographic bulge of the postwar generation.

How well Gen Z's SS benefits compare to the present generation will depend on what kind of economy the generation being born now inherit and develop.

While of course we can have no idea what the world will look like in 30 years [why all the pessimism?], once the trust fund is exhausted the plan's administrators forecast that the scheme will still be break-even with ca. 70% level of benefits compared to today's retirees.

This is a complicated topic but "not a damn dime" is simply incorrect, defeatist, and worse, a lie designed to reduce future support of the program.

The funny thing is for me, personally, I would love to see SS gutted, since I plan to be far, far from this sorry-assed nation of liars and fools by retirement age.
posted by tachikaze at 8:37 AM on June 10, 2008


I think tadellin's just upset that they're so-blatantly deriving the game's outcomes from that controversial liberal theory called 'basic accountancy.'

It's a well known fact that the insidious perversion of "double-entry bookkeeping" was invented by liberals, atheists and Marxists to destroy Western Civilization. Real patriots know that America has only assets and NO liabilities. USA! USA! USA!
posted by Avenger at 9:27 AM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I, too, am shocked that I am both a budget cutter and downsizer (moderately), while my three goals (which I did achieve) were heath & wellness, social safety net and greenness. Apparently moderately leftwing policies are more fiscally responsible than right wing.

But I was disapointed by the health care options. I wanted a "run all health insurance companies out of the country at the end of a pitchfork and institute universal health care on the tried and true single payer system that is more efficient and costs less and gives most first world countries better health outcomes than the United States."

I also want a t-shirt that says "Private healthcare is fiscally irresponsible".
posted by jb at 10:03 AM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


(That would be moderately leftwing for somewhere like Canada - my policies were probably still completely pinko for the United States.)
posted by jb at 10:04 AM on June 10, 2008


This seems a little unfairly skewed to leftist positions. Why does privatizing social security add cost to your budget? Silly.
posted by fusinski at 10:14 AM on June 10, 2008


I would have to know more about the current SS system and the privatisation plans to understand the costs, but sometimes partially private systems can cost more than fully public ones. The US health care system costs more than the Canadian per person because of its partial/mostly privatized nature (counting private and public funds, since both come out of our pockets). Much higher administrative costs, and still not an appreciable saving on public spending because of the huge amount of money spent by the government to try to caulk the creaking leaks on the sinking ship. In the end, the US gov't spends more per person on health care than the Canadian, which is kind of crazy considering how many people have inadequate service and the resulting poor health outcomes (and, anecdotally, no improvement in the way you get treated, even in posh plans). (wikipedia)
posted by jb at 10:31 AM on June 10, 2008


"Why does privatizing social security add cost to your budget? Silly."

Privatization plans certainly do add cost to your budget in the short term, because the same benefits will be paid out from people who are already in the system but less money will be paid into the system. People will put some of their money that would have gone into the Social Security fund into a private investment account instead.
posted by demiurge at 11:01 AM on June 10, 2008


That said, this game addresses future budget projections based on your choices. I don't see any money falling off social security liabilities in the long-term through privatization.
posted by fusinski at 11:12 AM on June 10, 2008


This game is missing the "stay in office for 40 years so no one can do to your reforms what you just did with Bush's tax cuts" part of the challenge.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:41 AM on June 10, 2008


"One commission plan would divert 4 percentage points of the 12.4% payroll tax to the accounts. To keep paying benefits to current retirees while funding the account for future retirees, the government would face "transition" costs of $1 trillion to $2 trillion that could be added to the national debt."[1]
posted by tachikaze at 11:44 AM on June 10, 2008


Needs more badges; hitting three goals is too easy.
posted by ryanrs at 2:16 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I consider myself strong on defense, but I don't see a need to increase spending in that area at all, in fact I think we could stay completely secure an still cut defense by 10%.

Unfortunately, such views are not accounted for in this game.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:05 PM on June 10, 2008


I found it both realistic and annoying that, no matter what steps I took, I could not prevent healthcare and social security from being drastically the largest expenditure for the government for all time. I sort of suspect that is the moral of the story.

It also fails to model the effects of R&D spending on the future, but that sort of modeling is basically impossible anyway. 1970's projections probably didn't account for the rise of computing very well. I doubt we account for the effects of the telfughar manifold properly.
posted by enkiwa at 7:02 PM on June 10, 2008


tachikaze, Any idea where that "70% of current benefits" line comes from? I started reading a bit of the SS and Medicare trustee reports after playing that game, and was shocked to see the $11T and $36T (2007$) in unfunded liabilities. A 70% level actually sounds really damn easy in comparison, but it depends on when that starts and under what conditions. The worst-case outlined in the reports points to very little coverage. Ironic that if a 30s style depression occurs the program started because of it won't survive. I'd love any links people have to scenario discussions.
posted by FuManchu at 7:21 PM on June 10, 2008


Any idea where that "70% of current benefits" line comes from?

204x is not "Social Security bankrupcy", it's trust-fund exhaustion.

If things stay as they are now, the administrators expect income to be 70% of outgo in the mid-2040s.

the $11T and $36T (2007$)

Those are infinite horizon numbers, ie. "bullshit".

Ironic that if a 30s style depression occurs the program started because of it won't survive

Sure it will. This country is immensely wealthy and productive, and increasingly so.

The only thing that can put pressure on a "pyramid scheme" like SS is if the COLA of its recipients explodes (like they all live forever and/or require labor-intensive medical care) or the productive base dwindles, like what Japan is beginning to face now.

Oh, the other thing that can kill it is if Republicans convince enough people that our government doesn't work any more. They've been doing their level best these past 25 years, with mixed results.
posted by tachikaze at 9:49 PM on June 10, 2008


70% cite:

"The 2006 trustees report indicates somewhat better financial status for the separate OASI program, with solvency through 2041 and trust fund exhaustion in the following year under the intermediate assumptions. On a combined basis, the OASI and DI Trust Funds would remain solvent through 2039, with assets exhausted in 2040. At the time of trust fund exhaustion, 74 percent of scheduled OASDI benefits would be payable."

posted by tachikaze at 9:53 PM on June 10, 2008


Thanks, tachikaze, it must have been in the actual report then. I also don't see reason to call those numbers bullshit -- they are cautious and conservative, but certainly possible. I do like the coverage numbers better, which gets rid of the worsening of the present value from effects after 2040.
posted by FuManchu at 10:06 AM on June 11, 2008


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