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Brookings – Why we made a computer game about the federal budget

David Wessel – In the 30 years I spent at The Wall Street Journal, I tried a lot of ways to explain dense but important fiscal, financial, or monetary policies to people who know they’re important but never get to the end of any newspaper story on the subject. One topic is always hard to explain: The federal budget. Just say the phrase and eyes glaze over. Now I direct the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, where many of my colleagues know, well, everything about the federal budget. They’re worried not so much about today’s budget deficit; indeed, some would borrow at today’s low interest rates to give the slow-growing U.S. economy a boost right now. Instead, they’re worried about projections that show the federal debt rising inexorably over the next couple of decades. They know that putting the budget on a sustainable path will require politically difficult decisions about spending cuts or tax increases. And they know that tax and spending decisions are about more than dollars and cents—they’re also about the kind of country we want to live in. Without a change in spending and tax policies, rising debt over the next 25 years will put the U.S. economy and the well-being of our kids and grandkids at risk. So we wondered, how can we best get the word out? We decided to build a computer game. It’s called “The Fiscal Ship” — and you can play it yourself at It’s a partnership between The Hutchins Center at Brookings and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.”

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