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Think you can fix the Obama economy? Try the Federal Budget Challenge

Sarah henry next ten
It's no mystery that the U.S. economy is a mess. Why is there a budget crisis? Well, spending a lot of money is a large part of it. But fixing that is more complicated.

The Federal Budget Challenge is a Web application that aims to help Americans get an idea of the complexities facing the Obama administration.

It's a game of sorts that lets players choose which programs to cut or add in hopes of balancing the federal budget. The system breaks down the financial effects of each choice.

We caught up with the development team in Palo Alto for a demo on Wednesday. Sarah Henry, program officer for developer Next Ten, said the product is primarily an educational tool.

The nonprofit organization is collecting plenty of data from the thousands of people who have taken the test so far. Players are asked for demographic info, including age and ZIP Code, which make for some interesting statistics when combined with feedback about programs like the proposed "public option" in healthcare legislation.

"It's not scientific," Henry said. So the team isn't paying too much attention to the responses. "It's not so much about feedback as it is learning new things," she said.

Initial responses have been mostly positive, Henry said.

The few complainers were a mixed bag. Some said the choices were too simple, and they'd like more think-outside-the-box options. Others said it was too long and overly complicated. Can't please 'em all, Henry said.

Next Ten is licensing its platform to cities, including Los Angeles, which plans to release its own version. The Times built a similar app earlier this year called State Budget Deficit.

-- Mark Milian

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Photo: Henry, Next Ten program officer. Credit: Mark Milian / Los Angeles Times

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innovation, interactivity, forward-thinking: still coming out of CA!

With the jobs summit coming, provide jobs to stimulate the economy through corporate fedral and state tax exemptions. "Claw Back" American jobs presently overseas.

I applaud the President’s call for a summit to deal with the growing unemployment program in this nation. I do not agree with those voices that proclaim each day that our President is trying to destroy the economic productivity of the nation. His commitment to pull together some of the greatest business and economic minds for the summit is a great idea. Even though one of my oldest and dearest friends is a member of his cabinet, being a conservative I doubt an invitation to attend will come my way, but I still cheer his effort and wish him every success.

I wrote in weeks past an article in the NY Times focusing on the need for job restoration. I believe an incentive for companies (reduction or elimination of federal and state taxes on corporations) which restore American jobs may be the answer. Let’s learn to utilize the payroll taxes from worker paychecks in lieu of taxing corporations when foreign countries like China exempt them daily. Again, kudos Mr. President, this is a great first step in solving this problem.

On August 23rd, the lead story in the LA Times emphasized the 11.9 per cent unemployment rate in the area. It’s time for corporate C.E.O.’s to finally be confronted with the need for helping job restoration. These folks live in America, their children and grandchildren attend American schools, they utilize American services to the fullest, it’s time these C.E.O.’s consider helping the nation that gave them and their companies a future, envied by the rest of the world.

Recently, Bob Herbert of the N.Y. Times, reminded all Americans, recovery is still about the national economy. “The American people are worried sick over the economy, which may be sprouting shoots from Ben Bernanke’s lofty perspective but not from the humble standpoint of the many millions who are unemployed or those who are still working but barely able to pay their bills and hold onto their homes.” I personally remain concerned about U.S. job losses to China without regard for their replacement at home. In the woods when you harvest a tree you plant another, this is not happening on the jobs front...

Americans need to read the article in a recent Financial Times (of London) concerning the “Shopping habits of China’s suddenly wealthy” (August 21). The “Baofahu” as they are called, have become the suddenly wealthy. “Big flashy cars like the Porsche Panamera and the Geely GE, otherwise known as the Baby Rolls-Royce, are just a couple observations concerning their tastes. Add to the list their appetites for Gold, Barbies, Sprits and the finest wines, Ivory, Dairy, Dried seahorses for aphrodisiacs, they are still labeled by the author as “penny pinching, ruthless, suspicious shoppers.” This is a must read for Americans being admonished to drive smaller cars, use less energy, be careful in wasting healthcare, and support even greater participation in global trading.

The Financial Times also has reported “Caterpillar chief hits at “buy American.” “Address ing the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs, Jim Owens attacked the ‘buy American’ position in the stimulus, saying it had prompted ‘a wave of concern throughout the world.'” The paper observed that Mr. Owens’s words carry weight in both Washington and globally…The Caterpillar chief is also a member of Mr. Obama’s Economic Advisory Board and is close to both the President and,…the transportation secretary…Mr. Owens stated that “we cannot be a great country by building a wall down the southern border.”

(Financial Times, Hal Weitzman) August 22, 2009, FT highlighted the story that Caterpillar holds China truck talks (Justine Lau), “The talks come just months after Caterpillar announced that it would expand its joint venture with Navistar to produce commercial vehicles outside North America…Caterpillar also said it would withdraw from being an engine supplier for U.S. truck makers because of declining sales in the U.S. market.

It should be noted that Caterpillar is not the only American company exporting jobs to China.

There have been some nations, however, who are to be commended for investing dollars and plants in the United States. Several auto plants are the result of Japanese, German, South Korean and other nations who understand the reciprocity inherent in equitable international trade. Businesses and nations must all yield to a free exchange on labor and production.

Much has been said in recent years about “job creation.” Whether small businesses, the federal government, corporations or even the U.S. Coast Guard, estimates can range from 30,000 to over 400,000 to create a new job. Job restoration is quite a different matter and summit efforts to return jobs to this nation are a must, for corporations that bring jobs back to America, ELIMINATE FEDERAL AND STATE TAXES ON THEM, China does. Remember, when citizens are really trying to work but can't find jobs, if America doesn't work for everyone, It doesn't work for anyone. Thanks Bob, great and truthful article.

Again I commend the President for the upcoming Jobs Summit.

Dr. Alan Phillips
Bloomington, IL


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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