Hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of federal spending cuts and tax increases are set to take effect in January if Congress fails to act between now and then. This “fiscal cliff” is about more than simple political winners and losers; many economists fear that it could throw the fragile U.S. economy into another recession.
Among the possible effects of plunging over that cliff: Tax cuts enacted by President George W. Bush would expire, as would some long-term unemployment benefits and a temporary payroll tax cut.
An automatic $1.2 trillion reduction in federal spending would begin to take effect, which would primarily affect military and domestic programs.
On the health care front, Medicare reimbursements to doctors would also be cut significantly and wealthy Americans would have to pay more taxes to help fund health insurance for more Americans.
The stage is set for another potentially nasty battle in Washington, reminiscent of last year’s fight over raising the federal government’s “debt ceiling,” with this fight most likely to come during the lame-duck session — after November’s election, but before the new Congress takes office in January.
Now you have a chance to tackle the federal budget on your own — and inform the work of journalists in the process.
The Budget Hero game lets you choose from actual policy proposals to construct a federal budget that reflects your personal values. In the process, you can see the trade-offs of your decisions and their long-term effects on the nation’s fiscal health.
In the coming months, reporters and analysts at the Public Insight Network, Patchwork Nation and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will dig into the data generated by people – like you — playing Budget Hero in order to report on how people choose to balance short-term needs and long-term debt concerns.