Americans Have Their Say in Reducing the National Debt

Apr 30, 2012

The politicians don't seem to want to budge on the budget, but our simulator is allowing the public to nudge them along.

The results from the simulator offer insight into what debt reduction choices Americans could support once they get a first hand look at the kinds of changes it will take to control rising debt. Although our results are not scientific, they can be very informative for policymakers as they seek solutions that both parties can agree on. As we note in a summary of the results, almost all of the entries (94 percent) relied on some combination of spending cuts and tax increases, rather than just doing one or the other.

The plan below represents all the simulator options that received majority support from users who voluntarily submitted their results. Implementing all of those options would easily meet the simulator's goal and then some, with debt at 48 percent of GDP.

Budget Simulator Plan As Selected by Average User
OptionsSavings/Cost (-) Through 2018
Users Selecting% Users Selecting
Eliminate Certain Outdated Programs$60718088%
Cut All Earmarks in Half and Use Half for Deficit Reduction$120667082%
Gradually Reduce Scheduled Benefits Protecting Some Earners$150659081%
Decrease Troop Levels$140658481%
Include State and Local Workers in Social Security$160626377%
Reduce Ship Building$80608275%
Raise Normal Retirement Age to 68$280604074%
Grow Discretionary Spending With Inflation$0602474%
Enact Medical Malpractice Reform$90602474%
Reduce Tax Gap$30598474%
Cut Various Weapons Systems$50594773%
Repeal LIFO and Eliminate Oil and Gas Preferences$150586172%
Use a More Accurate Measure of Inflation for Social Security$200579271%
Reduce Iraq/Afghanistan Troops to 30,000 by 2013$1,700571170%
Impose Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee$130570270%
Reduce Farm Subsidies$140567970%
Surtax on Income Above $1 Million$330553068%
Cut Foreign Aid in Half$180536366%
Establish a Public Option$100535066%
Limit Mortgage Interest Deduction and Other Deductions for High-Earners$430532365%
Rescind Unused ARRA Funds$140531965%
Reform Federal Retiree Benefits$70530465%
Freeze Civilian Pay for 2 Years$80527465%
Increase the Medicare Retirement Age to 67$160526865%
Enact Carbon Tax/Cap-and-Trade$590501762%
Reform Treatment of Employer Sponsored Health Insurance$300484760%
Freeze Average Unemployment Benefits at 2009 Levels$90480259%
Allow All Tax Cut Extensions, Except AMT, to Expire-$840477259%
Raise Social Security Tax Base to Cover 90% of Earnings$740446455%
Repeal Part of ACA$200453354%
Cancel Missile Defense System$90440254%
Increase User Fees Across the Board$60438254%
Increase Years Used to Calculate Social Security Benefits$90430053%
Index Tax Code to a More Accurate Measure of Inflation$190428953%
Increase Gas Tax by 10 Cents Per Gallon$140424252%
Eliminate New Markets Tax Credit$70422052%
Sell Government Assets$80418752%
Increase Medicare Cost-Sharing$160416351%
Eliminate Subsidies for Biofuels$170413651%
Median Simulator Plan Debt as % of GDP in 202148%

The simulator continues to be a helpful tool in guiding the discussion and identifying solutions. We have recently updated it to account for changes in the projected debt as well as laws passed or options that have entered/exited the discussion. Options in the table above that have been taken out include eliminating earmarks, canceling a missile defense system, and rescinding stimulus funds. New policies on the spending side include reducing nuclear arsenal spending, block granting food stamps, and repealing the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. New policies for revenue include raising or reducing capital gains rates, enacting the Buffett Rule, and phasing out the mortgage interest deduction.

Be sure to check out the updated simulator here.