PoliticalNews.me - Apr 26,2012 - While lawmakers' efforts to reach an agreement on the "super committee" and the so-called "grand bargain" have so far been unsuccessful, Americans have quietly been showing the way to getting the national debt under control.
In 2010, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) launched the online "Stabilize the Debt" budget simulator, empowering the public to learn more about the changes necessary to control the nation's rising debt and providing a platform from which to make their choices heard. Today, CRFB is launching a new and improved version of the simulator, with additional options reflecting the current debate. As always, the simulator can be accessed and used at http://crfb.org/stabilizethedebt.
Since the initial release in May 2010, over a quarter of a million people have used the simulator. The sheer number of participants who have engaged with CRFB's online simulator illustrates the depth of public interest in deficit reduction and the seriousness of Americans when it comes to understanding the need to make hard fiscal choices.
Policymakers in Washington could learn a great deal from their constituents when it comes to tackling the national debt. Among our findings were the following:
• Four percent of users relied exclusively on spending cuts, two 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.
Unlike public opinion polls that measure the preferences of respondents in a vacuum, with little context regarding the effect those choices will have on the fiscal outlook, the CRFB simulator underscores the fact that politically easy options do little to reduce the national debt. For example, while the elimination of outdated programs (88 percent in favor) and earmarks (82 percent) were the most popular choices of our users, they combine to generate merely $120 billion in savings through 2018. Seeing how little those choices moved the debt needle, users were forced to make tougher choices in order to achieve a stable budget.
We hope that policymakers can learn from the results of the budget simulator and work across party lines to enact a comprehensive debt reduction plan this year.