In silico veritas.

What would you cut?

Posted: November 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

This interactive budget deficit feature from the New York Times has been making the rounds in conjunction with multiple élite perspectives on the recently-announced Simpson-Bowles plan. Reuters’ Felix Salmon criticized the tool for what he saw as artificially limiting various budget and tax options. My own deficit-busting plan is here:

While I’m no budgetary expert — and as such am in little position to pass judgment on the validity of Salmon’s criticisms of the NYT’s budget tool — I found it an informative experience. And I think this is where Salmon’s criticisms miss their mark. While Atlantic readers, or avid NYT or Reuters readers, might have identified some of the same deficiencies as Salmon brings up and indeed might even sympathize with them, the NYT’s tool is still factually correct in its summarization of the major details and probable effects of various budgetary and taxation options. That’s good enough for 98% of people using this tool.

I suspect that that was the entire point: to move the deficit debate from the realm of the abstract, even for the reasonably well-informed, into a concrete and manipulable entity in order to move the public discourse onwards and upwards. The built-in Twitter integration is key in spreading the deficit-busting fun from one predisposed policy wonk to his friends and family, and on and on from there until suddenly average Americans are talking seriously about previously arcane concepts like capping Medicare growth to 1% above GDP growth starting in 2013. That can only be a good thing.