5 Most Popular Ways to Reduce the Deficit

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Rescuing the United States from an impending budgetpocalypse is going to take good ideas, great leadership, and and superlative political skills. But for now, it only takes a few mouse clicks. "Stabilize the Debt," the online choose-your-own-fiscal-adventure game from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, asks users to raise taxes and cut spending in the hopes of keeping the country's debt-to-GDP ratio below 60 percent. If that sounds like a hopelessly boring way to spend your Friday afternoon then ... well, you probably shouldn't be reading this blog.

After the first few weeks of testing, CRFB released its initial findings. Here we go!

The Five Most Popular Budget Choices

1. Eliminate certain outdated programs (91%)
2. Cut earmarks in half (88%)
3. Reduce farm subsides (81%)
4. Raise the normal retirement age for Social Security to 68 (79%)
5. Reform the international tax system (78%)

The Five Least Popular Budget Choices

1. Repeal the entire health care reform bill passed earlier this year (5%)
2. Repeal the excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health care plans (6%)
3. Increase the average federal Medicaid match to states from 57 percent of costs to 60 percent (6%)
4. Grow discretionary spending with GDP (7%)
5. Institute a minimum Social Security benefit (9%)

The Five Most Contentious Budget Choices Between Democrats and Republicans

1. Enact carbon tax (cap and trade) (85% D, 21% R)
2. Repeal health care legislation, but keep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid (4% D, 63% R)
3. Cancel missile defense system (77% D, 21% R)
4. Cancel TARP and rescind unused stimulus funds (35% D, 90% R)
5. Reduce food stamps to 2008 levels (32% D, 86% R)

Biggest surprise: repealing health care reform is the single least popular choice. I assume the Tea Party hasn't discovered the simulator yet.

Two biggest non-surprises: (1) call a program outdated, and people are OK cutting it; (2) carbon taxes, health care and defense cuts are the most contentious issues.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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