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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
Some people think of politics as a game. But an online game lets people think of themselves doing one of the hardest jobs in American politics: cutting the federal budget. The game is called Budget Hero. Students in Los Angeles and other cities have been playing it. Budget Hero lets them decide how they want to spend federal tax dollars. The game uses information from the Congressional Budget Office. It shows what effects each cost-cutting proposal would have.
High school student Dory Bennett says she thinks spending cuts are needed to keep the economy growing and keep the American dream alive: "I want to grow up, go to college, get a good job, have kids maybe, a dog and a house."
The students consider the same issues facing lawmakers in Washington. The game was developed in two thousand eight. In the newest version, students make decisions about what spending is important to them. Do they want to reduce taxes? Spend more on environmental protection? What about defense spending? Making these decisions helps clarify their goals.
Jane Harmon is a former Democratic representative from California. She served in Congress for almost twenty years. She now heads the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, which helped create Budget Hero. Ms. Harmon says the students are having more success than Congress at cutting the budget. More than one million people have played it so far, she says, and she thinks they have learned at least two things: "One, how hard it is, but two, that it can be done if there's a will to do it."
Student Jeffrey Burke agrees. "The hardest thing for us to figure out was the little cuts like the gas money and stuff, increasing taxes on gas, because we felt it would have effects everywhere from the truck drivers shipping our stuff across the country, or when you order from Amazon or whatever, to you drive when you're going to work. I think we need to look at the little things and realize that just because they're small money doesn't mean they're small effects."
Joaquin Alvarado is with American Public Media, an organization that also helped create the game. He says many of the players "will literally in the comments ask that Congress play this game to just get a little rational around the questions that have to be answered."