Last week, a group of Loyola Marymount University (LMU) students tried their hand at solving our nation’s budget deficit. At the West Coast launch of Budget Hero 2.0 — a web game sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Public Insight Network at American Public Media — teams of LMU students in economics and political science were tasked with eliminating $1.2 trillion of federal deficit. With free reign to make decisions on federal budget items, including defense, education, social security, Medicare and the Bush tax cuts, the teams deliberated on the real world impacts of cuts and expenditures. They all reached the same conclusion. Reducing the deficit is a daunting task, but it can be achieved with courage and compromise.
Budget Hero 2.0 was designed to make fixing the federal budget everyone’s business, said Jane Harman, president and CEO of the Wilson Center, and former member of Congress. “There could not be a more critical time for everyone to get serious about fiscal responsibility,” said Harman. “The game is called Budget Hero because the public needs to step up.”
Yesterday, the Congressional Super Committee of six Democrats and six Republicans announced their failure to construct a bipartisan agreement to trim the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion by the Nov. 23 deadline. This failure will trigger automatic cuts, or “sequestration,” to the Pentagon and domestic programs, which will take effect in January 2013. It also triggered the expected finger pointing and a continued loss of public credibility for Congress.
I played the Budget Hero game with the LMU students last week and it is an exercise every American should take the time to do. One of the common refrains from students after the game was: “This would have been easier if I could have made the decisions on my own rather than as part of a team.” Members of the Super Committee and Congress probably feel the same way. For the students, it became clear that in order to achieve their deficit reduction goal, they needed to negotiate compromises and make painful choices that often conflicted with their own self-interest.
This week, as you count your blessings at your Thanksgiving table, ask for courage for our leaders in Washington, D.C. to come together, not as Democrats and Republicans, but as American “budget heroes” to make the tough choices to ensure a strong nation and a bright economic future for our children.
On behalf of the L.A. Area Chamber, I wish you and your family a peaceful and blessed Thanksgiving. As you celebrate your blessings, I urge you to remember those who are without jobs and to give thanks for our veterans and the thousands of young men and women in uniform who are protecting our nation and not able to join their families on this Thanksgiving Day.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
Gary Toebben is president and CEO of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.