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Think you can balance the budget?

It may be budget week in Washington, but state leaders are wrestling with budgets these days too. On Thursday, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue is sending her budget to the North Carolina General Assembly. Like most state governors, Purdue is dealing with a steep decline in tax receipts, job cuts across state government and budget shortfalls even after making deep cuts. For the next fiscal year, she'll be attempting to close a projected $2.4 billion gap in the budget.

To understand what it's like to make the tough decisions she and other leaders like her have had to make, Purdue's office has put together an interactive tool that lets constituents try to balance the budget themselves. It's not easy, forcing voters to select various cutting and spending measures in order to get the budget deficit to zero. Is it better to add one child to each K-12 classroom or cut funds for crime prevention? Which would be less detrimental--eliminating nurses in public schools or teaching assistants in grades K-3?

Basic enough for school kids to use and surely overly simplistic in its choices, North Carolina's "Balance the Budget Challenge" might seem like a hokey way to earn the governor a little sympathy for the tough choices she's had to make, none of which will make everyone happy. As users click on various choices ("reduce low wealth funds for poor counties by 50 percent" cuts $112 million, while giving teachers a 3 percent raise costs $50 million), the deficit tally is immediately recalculated based on which measure the voter selects.

Still, it's also a wise leadership move. By putting constituents in her shoes, Purdue is helping them to see that on the heels of a massive recession that has pushed state governments to the breaking point, there are no easy choices. Helping people realize how difficult it is to decide whether to cut spending in education, public safety or social services could help elicit a more cooperative and civil discussion about what to do.

I can't help but wonder if doing something similar at the national level would help the president and Congress move the bitter budget debate in a more productive direction. It would be infinitely more complex, of course, given the far greater size of the federal budget, but a simplified exercise could still go a long way toward helping people on both sides see how difficult some of these choices can be. And while the federal government doesn't have the same mandate to balance its budget like the states do, creating a tangible way for citizens to understand how much one program can or can't affect the deficit would help to reset expectations.

A balanced budget and a smaller deficit is something everyone says they want. But the best way to get there isn't easy; and for most voters, the entire concept is extremely abstract. As with any tough call, leaders who are able to make the choices transparent--and better yet, put their followers in a position to see how hard it is to decide--are likely to win a few more people over to their position. Or, an even greater win, they may just prompt a discussion about solutions that is grounded in knowledge, understanding and civility.

Related content:
Boehner's 'so be it' leadership
Republicans and the budget: When to compromise?

By Jena McGregor

 |  February 17, 2011; 10:23 AM ET |  Category:  Decision-making , Economic crisis , Federal government leadership , Government leadership , Presidential leadership , Women in leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Did anyone of you guy ever look into budget? Ever?
I did.
And I can safely say that I can cut NYS and NYC budget without hurting health, education spending by at least 20%.
Where? Look into so called pets projects of the elected "leaders".
Half of those project at best useless and just allocated money in budget without actually doing any good for us. Other half get spent on completely bizarre issues such as "renovating historical hill of.."
Why would we need to renovate hill even if it is historical? And to spent $200.000,00 on that?
Look into spending budget and you will see how many projects like that one getting money from budget while we getting taxed to near death.
And for what? So next time you will vote for this guy because during election campaign he said that he will reserve money for hill restoration.

Posted by: allblond78 | February 26, 2011 1:52 PM

Long Job but it could be done. Wish I had the budget.Number1:- eliminating- Number2:- rebuilding- To make a long job short.

Posted by: sisterlylove68 | February 24, 2011 9:00 PM

Long job but it could be done.I wish I had a list to help out.

Posted by: sisterlylove68 | February 24, 2011 8:50 PM

This was too easy! I got a $178,000,000 surplus with less than 900 job losses. The painful cuts were avoided by raising tobacco taxes and selling off the ABC monopolies that should never exist in the first place.

I personally would rather pay 1% in sales tax than lose my library, layoff teachers and screw public workers, but then again, I'm not a teabagger.

As long as we view taxes as evil, we will never have fiscal discipline and never have balanced budgets. This is an artificial crisis created by the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts.

Posted by: AxelDC | February 22, 2011 10:46 PM

Yes, if it can't pass an audit, review the necessity of it, and seriously question the results achieved so far. No single effort is hands off.
Contracting requires a submission (monthly I think) of monies received, and results obtained. No results - no cash.
Stop relying on consultants who went into private industry in an effort where they perpetuated failure in government effort and expenditure.
Stop trying to modify the US economy to a European model in regulation, finance and trade. (Cause it really works well, right?)

We have 9% of the working population that is adept at accounting, public works, payment systems, analysis, statistics, computers, and inventory control - rather than spending money on those who aren't - put the people with that strength to work in a transitional management review system (like a TVA for the economy).
They got laid off by the "gurus" who were asleep at the wheel.



Posted by: cooney_colin | February 22, 2011 8:56 AM

Balancing the budget isn't complicated, spend only the revenue on hand. Only the important vital issues shold be on the table at all times. Technology would eliminate all or most of the communication/travel abroad and in the states. The only holidays would be Xmas and Easter. There would be no waste, down to paper,pens even garbage pick up. A sensor would control lights... there would be no frills in government, the limo would be be a common vehicle, the president would eat hot dogs once a week as the average family there is a great waste in the white house that would save the country quite a bit of money. Do a shake down in Congress, lot of the rift raft could go home and not come back. Put the shoe on the other foot and this big talk would be a shut up and become human beings with a mortage and ends to meet.

Posted by: alwaysAlabama | February 21, 2011 9:55 PM

I have no doubt I could balance the budget and I know for a fact, I would be the most hated by the users and abuser and loved by those who are not. Government is no different than a family budget. They want to make you believe it is different but it is not.
Government is responsible for secure borders and not much else. Our government is a gluttonous monster that ignores its one genuine duty to stick its nosy nose in the states business. The Obama budget sent to Congress was an embarrassment. Our family stand with the Republicans who cut 60 billion in spending and do not feel they went far enough. I sat down the other day and thought to myself what would I miss if they shut it down. I would miss the military and veterans and the Federal parks. If fact there are too many things to even mention I would not miss at all. Shut it down and our family will be just fine.

Posted by: greatgran1 | February 21, 2011 2:18 PM

Of course I could balance the budget.

1) End the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Shut down 700+ of our bases around the world. Recall most of the troops and station them on the border to interdict invaders. That saves about $1 trillion/year AND means all those military paychecks will be spent in THIS country, not overseas.

2) Eliminate unconstitutional federal agencies. If an agency is fulfilling a function not spelled out in the Constitution, it's UNconstitutional. ED, ATF, DEA, and about 100 other agencies: CLOSED. Save about $1 trillion.

3) Legalize drugs. The "War on Drugs" costs about $300 billion a year and imprisons about 1 million people whose only "crime" was to possess drugs. Legalizing drugs would reduce the need for police, judges, courts, prosecutors and prisons. It would also greatly reduce the bloodbath south of the border.

4) Eject the 12-20 million criminal aliens currently in the country. This would be very simple to do: Just pass a law that says they have 6 months to leave, and any criminal aliens present after that date are subject to a mandatory sentence of two years at hard labor (building a wall between the US and Mexico). Then tattoo them across their foreheads for easy future identification, and dump them over the wall. End "birthright" citizenship in cases where neither parent has a legal right to be in the US.
Result: 10 million new jobs for Americans - which not only would decrease the unemployment rolls by 70%, but create jobs for those on welfare - who would then be given a simple choice: Work or starve. And with all the earnings being spent in THIS country (not sent back to Mexico) it would be a huge, on-going stimulus. Estimated savings: $500 billion.

By this point the budget is running a substantial surplus. We can enact a Balanced Budget Amendment and retire the debt, then repeal the 16th Amendment and scrap the IRS.

EASY EASY EASY.

Just follow the Constitution!

Posted by: bambiB | February 21, 2011 2:04 AM

We should never, NEVER give another dime to the UN. Never pay rent to countries we have military bases in. It's their protection we giving anyway. No foreign aid to any country that is not totally loyal to us. If the country is a 3rd world country they shouldn't get aid unless it's overseen by conservatives. The government should shut down one day a week. No more money goes to illegal aliens in anyway. This goes for the kids, babies, moms, old people too. Let them go home and change their own country. My ancestors and I didn't fight these wars to protect illegals. Shut down the federal education dept. That's just a few. The illegal alien thing costs more than the war against terrorism hands down.

Posted by: gdaddy47 | February 21, 2011 12:05 AM

When we started building the Interstate Highway system the maximum personal income tax rate was 91%. When we landed on the Moon it was 77%. Today it's 35%.

America is going broke on the backs of the poor. It is time for the rich to once again pay their fair share.

Posted by: raschumacher | February 20, 2011 11:03 AM

Of course this country and the various states are in a financial mess. Beginning about a 3 decades ago, we began giving away the farm. Taxes on businesses were greatly decreased to the point that most large businesses pay very little tax. We then cut taxes for everyone, with the largest cuts reserved for the wealthiest of us. Now we refuse to acknowledge that we could not afford these cuts.

It is no wonder we now find ourselves in a mess. I have no idea if it was an orchestrated play, but we have effectively killed government by starving it. It no longer functions effectively because we refuse to pay our proper share of taxes. It is more inefficient now than it ever was. Because of cuts that are required, we no longer can afford to run the system. Instead of properly fixing things, we repair with bandaids that need to get replaced every year. Because of cuts, workers are required to use antiquated equipment and technology because new purchases cannot be made. Because of cuts, our governments outsource work to the private sector, only to pay upwards to 50% more. The funny thing is that all these "cuts" to the government actually cost more to the public because the private sector is full of scams and cheats - not all but enough - that often the gov't does not get what it paid for.

Because of cuts, we now we pay service fees or other miscellaneous charges to cover costs that were previously free. When we refuse to maintain our infrastructure like roads because of no tax money, we end up actually paying more because we have to fix our cars after driving over potholes or we pay tolls to use the roads. Or worse, we sell the public road to a private company, sometimes even a foreign company, where the public has no recourse.

By refusing to tax properly, we are now actually paying more. But don't try to tell that to our politicians.

Taxes are at 60 year low and depending how it is measured, we have not been taxed this low since the early 20th century. We the people and the businesses can afford to pay more and it will not hurt the economy.

Governor Perdue and the many other "leaders" of our country, including our President, have failed us miserably. They refuse to ask for more money from the rich and the businesses to cover the losses. They refuse to acknowledge the mistakes made by giving away the farm this past decade. They refuse to recognize that our country could not and still cannot afford to fight 2 wars without a tax increase.

Now we find ourselves on the brink of collapse and we wonder why?

Posted by: pdt278 | February 20, 2011 9:37 AM

Why balance it when Bennie at the Fed just prints more $$ to buy more treasury debt?

It won't matter a bit to balance the budget unless the Federal Reserve is stopped from further debasing our currency.

Posted by: wesatch | February 18, 2011 10:07 AM

Get tough with China and make them float their currentcy. They need us more than we need them.

Posted by: rlsrd | February 17, 2011 1:02 PM

How much were you hoping the retail price of Chinese made goods will go up? Are you hoping that instead of paying $850 for an LCD TV you'll be able to pay $1400?

You might look at Germany for an interesting comparison on trade balance. They have a positive trade balance and some of the highest [if not the highest] labor costs in the world. The EU is hardly known for it's lax regulations. Yet they are the 2nd largest exporter in the world and on a per capita basis export nearly 4 times what the US does per capita. And the Euro floats.

Posted by: James10 | February 18, 2011 7:08 AM

John Stossel can balance the U.S. Budget.

Glenn Beck can balance the U.S. Budget.

Rep. Paul can balance the U.S. Budget.

Sen. Paul can balance the U.S. Budget.

Judge Napolitano can balance the U.S. Budget.

In other words, if you have a BRAIN, you can balance the U.S. Budget.

Posted by: notinca | February 18, 2011 5:29 AM

As I have suspected, the Gov. Perdue made the interactive game that fits neatly into her way of thinking or basically stacking the deck.

Many of the problems stems from candidates making campaign promises that effectively handcuff themselves in the process. As noted in the news article (under her name), the Governor is rolling back many of the expiring taxes that is going to make it harder to balance the budget and what's not noted is the use of the rainy day fund. It's voodoo economics, period.

Posted by: beeker25 | February 18, 2011 2:55 AM

Triming the budget is about as impossible as trying to trim Michelle's booty.

Posted by: gone2dabeachgmailcom | February 17, 2011 11:47 PM

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE $700 BILLION T.SEC PAULSON GAVE THE FINANCE INDUSTRY WITH NO QUESTIONS ASKED? TAX THAT AND THE BUDGET WILL BE BALANCED IN A BLINK OF AN EYE!

BIBLICAL.

Posted by: epespinoza43 | February 17, 2011 9:40 PM

It's so much easier for one person to balance the federal budget than it is for 535 representatives and a president. Okay here goes: Cap federal spending at $3 trillion by 2015, when federal revenue is projected to reach that number--that solves the deficit. 2015 spending would be: Social security $900B; defense $600B; Medicare $600B; discretionary $500B; interest $400B. Modify the social security and Medicare laws to cap spending at these levels: done.

Posted by: dhenken1 | February 17, 2011 8:56 PM

Balancing the budget was easy and i ended with over a billion dollar surplus. Funny thing is i spend tuesday evening going line by line through the federal budget book and was amazed at how much fat, bloat and crony capitalism was stuffed in there too. I haven't finished, but when i'm done, it looks like the budget will be balanced and i'm sending my proposal to my congressman and senators.

Posted by: darkwingg | February 17, 2011 7:44 PM

As the song says.."Tax the rich....Feed the poor...til there are no rich no more." What twaddle! Think that will work? It's SO easy to take your capital and just move - to places that treat capital as an asset instead of as some evil. I'm not rich but I sure wish to be some day - I frankly don't want to see my dream destroyed by a bunch of socialists who want everybody to be equal - you just create a new form of rich people - the connected government insider. Then it's the bureaucrats who are rich. Believe me we don't want that!

Posted by: Capitalist-1 | February 17, 2011 7:35 PM

Atten: Editor. Re; Your column on Balancing the Budget dated 2-17-2011. The last thing any of the experts will say, that will balance the budget is, "Stop the wars and bring the troops home".
Their aversion to such a comment
makes all of us wonder, what is wrong with stopping the war??
Give us a clue, will you? What is wrong with stopping the war???
At least give us a debating point.
Signed: Cyrano.

Posted by: Cyrano | February 17, 2011 5:41 PM

TAX THE RICH ELITE ITS JUST THAT SIMPLE WHEN THEY PUT THE MULTI MILLIONS OUT OF WORK THEN MADE THE MIDDLE CLASS PAY BUT EXEMPT THEMSELFS FROM PAYING. NO WONDER AMERICA IS IN DOWN SPIRAL TO DESTRUCTION. THERE GREED IS OUT CONTROL. LORD HELPS US THEY WON'T LISTEN TO REASON ANY MORE.

Posted by: JWTX | February 17, 2011 4:33 PM

This is the perfect example of the problem these people have. She set up straw men and never gave us the choice to raise taxes. Like so many politicians she is afraid of the voters and so neglects the obvious solution. I feel that if I want services, I should pay for them. Give us the option to vote for higher taxes. And make them income taxes not the nickle-diming nonsense.

Posted by: TomfromNJ1 | February 17, 2011 1:26 PM

I would follow the advice of Willie "I-rob-banks-because-that's-where-the-money-is" Sutton:

Tax the rich.

Posted by: dhilleub | February 17, 2011 1:25 PM

Oh, and choose the reorganization option. Or, the 1% pay decrease almost clears it.

Posted by: dkp01 | February 17, 2011 1:20 PM

Here were my choices:

Give students who meet certain academic requirements a $2,000 scholarship for college, raise university tuition by 10 per hour/$300 per year, increase grant funding for nonprofits that serve the poor and disabled, reduce state employee pay by 1 percent, begin charging active employees and retirees a $20 monthly fee for health insurance, reorganize government by consolidating agencies and programs; privatizing functions; and reducing layers of middle management, increase the tobacco tax to $1 per carton, keep one cent sales tax, regulate video lottery terminals

Surplus: $75,000,000
Jobs cut: 0.

It would have been better had there been more tax increases, instead of raising university tuition, cutting government wages and charging the $20 fee for government employee health insurance. Those savings could have been spread out over a much larger pool if more/larger tax increases had been on the table. But even still, if I hadn't increased funding for scholarships and funding for aid to the poor and disabled, it's possible to get the deficit to $0 without cutting jobs. Just choose the video lottery, the $.01 tax, and the $1 tax, plus the $20 fee for health insurance.

Posted by: dkp01 | February 17, 2011 1:16 PM

It's not hard at all. Lets start first and formost by taxing the wealthy. They've been getting away without paying taxes long enough. Take the restriction off of Social Security payroll taxes up to 1 million. Next make it so you can't collect Social Security at 65 if you make over 100k. Also the fact that Hedge fund managers only have to pay 8% or whatever the ridiculous tax on their earnings is ridiculous. Then lets get the public option to health care into place, give the insurance companies some compitition. Remove the state restriction on selling health insurance only stat wide. Next, lets outlaw lobbyists and turn the government back over to the people.

Get tough with China and make them float their currentcy. They need us more than we need them.

Redo our laws so we don't have to provide education or health care to illegals. Only emergency health care and that means emergency, life or death. Not a trip to the emergency room because you have a cold.

Then remove the tax break for comapnies investing overseas and make one for investing at home.

Then watch the money come in.

Posted by: rlsrd | February 17, 2011 1:02 PM

Is she serious!? Where the hell are her tax increases? Oh, I'm sorry, increase the tobacco tax by $1 and keep the $.01 sales tax. Why not increase the tobacco tax to $1.50? Increase the $.01 sales tax to $.02? Increase state income tax by half a percent?

This governor, like the governor of Wisconsin, is a moron. If they want to balance the budget, they have to increase taxes. That it barely even registers as an option for them is telling of their immense stupidity and complete lack of leadership qualities.

Posted by: dkp01 | February 17, 2011 12:59 PM

Maybe it's tough in North C, but raising tobacco tax to $1/carton, keeping a 1 cent sales tax, and regulating video games to wipe out almost all of deficit doesn't seem too agonizing!

Posted by: whatsgoingonhere | February 17, 2011 12:57 PM

Who needs cuts? Implementing the three permanent "New Money" options in that tool wipes out 90% of the state's deficit. But of course the deck is stacked: there are no options in the governor's online game for increasing the state income tax or capital gains tax.

The states and the federal government will not solve our shared financial problems until we resume taxing the rich as we did in the 1950s and 1960s.

Posted by: raschumacher | February 17, 2011 12:26 PM

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