<em>New York Times</em> Lets You Solve The Deficit (If Nothing Else)

Thehas widgeted up an interactive feature on their website today that allows any would-be armchair deficitologist to make the tough budget choices for themselves.

The New York Times has widgeted up a very cool interactive feature on their website today, that allows any would-be armchair deficitologist to dig down into the various proposals that have floated out of the Deficit Commission and take up the task of making the tough choices for themselves.

Page through the list of spending cuts and tax increases, solve the budget problem, and share it with friends online, if you like. This might be the only chance you'll ever have to experience what it feels like to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (mostly, anyway!) with the click of a single button. It will also be fairly enlightening to experience first-hand how many of the deficit bugaboos that get all the attention in the media (Eliminate all earmarks! Health-care tort reform now!) are actually comically insignificant, in the grand scheme of things.

That said, this is a really great use of the web as a tool for telling a story: it takes many of these abstract concepts and demystifies them -- making the process visceral, personal, and intelligible. But be warned: I say "many of these abstract concepts" because there's no way of charting the effects that stem from the decisions you make. Here, you can "reform" Social Security to your hearts content, but you don't get a projection of what happens to your household income when your aging mother and father move back in with you and your family.

This is why, outside of the elite obsession with deficits, the American people are more focused on employment: they want to have some means of contending with whatever rash decisions their lawmakers make.

Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget [New York Times]

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