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LMU Students Take Up the Budget Challenge

bWith the deadline for the congressional “Super Committee” proposals less than a week away, Loyola Marymount University students in economics and political science attempted to solve the nation's budgetary woes using a Web-based game called Budget Hero 2.0.

The Nov. 17 event was the West Coast rollout of the game, which was created as a teaching tool by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“Budget Hero 2.0 is a really clever online game designed to make fixing the broken federal budget everybody's business,” said Jane Harman, who left Congress in February to become CEO of the Wilson Center. “There could not be a more critical time for everyone here and across the country to get serious about fiscal responsibility.”

Some 40 students played the game, followed by a discussion and news conference. Budget Hero 2.0 teaches players about the budget while challenging them to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit. Players weigh the impact of their decisions on various programs, including defense, scientific research, infrastructure, farm subsidies, education aid and the environment, as well as taxes, the safety net and health care for retirees, the poor and the disabled.

“The reason the game is called Budget Hero is because the public needs to step up and become the budget heroes to get this job done,” Harman said. “Players have the opportunity to change the fiscal environment and, in the process, make decisions that reflect their values and viewpoints.”

Students reported on their strategies to balance the budget and the challenges they faced in cutting programs or increasing revenues to increase the country's competitive advantage.

“It was a great learning experience,” said Robert Reynolds, a senior economics major and applied math minor. “Everyone in my group was the same major, but we had a lot of differences of opinion. I definitely learned to prioritize what is important.”

Gary Toebben, CEO and president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, played the game as well and commented on the results. “The game is an innovative, hands-on way to engage students and the community in helping to solve the fiscal challenges facing the country today,” said Toebben. “I hope everyone gets a chance to play the game and become more involved in the political process.”

Budget Hero 2.0 is online and available to the public.