If You're So Smart, You Cut The Deficit

NOW YOU, TOO, CAN BALANCE the federal budget--without lobbyists, demonstrators, and other such democratic distractions. A new simulation game has just come online via the Internet's World Wide Web, allowing fiscal-minded folk to tinker on their PCs with $1.4 trillion in U.S. outlays.

Want to deep-six tax deductions for mortgage interest? Done in a click of the mouse, adding billions to Uncle Sam's coffers. How about beefing up the military? Click. At the end, the system congratulates you if you balance the budget. Actually, it's O.K. to be off by $10 billion, which is peanuts, of course. If there's a big surplus, you get warned that taxpayers will demand a refund. If a deficit still exists, the system says: "Oops."

The game, which began on May 30, is a civics lesson courtesy of the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Community Economic Research.

The Center's new Web page (http://garnet.berkley.edu:3333/budget/budget.html) also shows successfully balanced budgets that others have run through the simulation. According to Web tracking software, 1,200 users have hooked up to try their hand with an ax--one from the White House.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.