Principles and Priorities


Principles & Priorities is an interactive exercise in which participants learn about how difficult it is to balance the federal budget by making many of the policy decisions facing lawmakers today. Working in groups of five to ten, participants review current spending priorities, suggest principles for the future, and then apply their principles by selecting from several dozen priorities currently being discussed in Washington. We also have an online version of the exercise called the Federal Budget Challenge.

Download Principles and Priorities

By considering issues such as federal spending priorities, tax policy, and entitlement reform, participants gain firsthand experience addressing the difficult issues facing policymakers in today's fiscal environment. They then recommend a package of policies to put America on a sound fiscal foundation for the next several years. Principles & Priorities concludes with a wrap-up discussion of the results from each group and the lessons learned from the exercise.

Principles & Priorities can be used by groups ranging in size from eight to two hundred and is an entertaining way for virtually any audience from students to civic groups to Congressional constituents to learn about the federal budget. It has been used by nonprofits, Members of Congress, high schools, and colleges such as Georgetown University, Rutgers University, the University of Wisconsin, St. Louis University, the University of South Dakota, and the University of Chicago's public policy graduate program.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: The Concord Coalition has developed Principles & Priorities to provide participants with a better understanding of the federal budget and realistic insight into how some of the policy proposals in the news would change the operations of the federal government. The exercise is designed to enable participants to consider the following:

  • What is the current composition of the federal budget? How are taxes spent and who pays them?
  • What options are being considered to change the federal budget, strengthen the economy, and improve our quality of life?
  • What kind of political will and compromise will be required of our political leaders to change or even to maintain current federal budget priorities?

For more information, please contact the Concord Coalition at (703) 894-6222 or send an email to [email protected] Your can also contact your local grassroots coordinator. To go directly to the exercise, click here.


Participant Reaction

As a part of the Principles & Priorities exercises, we asked participants and moderators to evaluate the exercise. Below are some of the comments that were provided. Some comments were taken from questionnaires provided at the conclusion of each exercise.

"The students loved it! You added a great dose of reality and perspective to the class. . .I think they now appreciate more about the challenges legislators face and the difficulties and opportunities presented by budget issues."-- Assistant Professor at Georgetown University

"I absolutely loved it. . .Best class since school started. This has to be one of the greatest exercises I have ever participated in. I love having power to change laws. . ." -- St. Louis University Participant

"Thank you for coming to USD! I think we all, as graduate students, benefited from this exercise."-- University of South Dakota Graduate Student Participant

"It was very fun. I learned a lot that I didn't know before." --University of South Dakota Political Science League Participant

"This seminar was a good experience for my group." -- Anderson University Participant

"It was perfect complement to the LEAD program and the students really enjoyed it." Harris School of Public Policy (Graduate Program at the University of Chicago) Professor.

"Interesting and Enjoyable."-- Georgetown University Participant

"The freshmen in this seminar enjoyed participating in this exercise and learned a substantial amount about the U.S. budgetary process.."-- St. Louis University Professor of Political Science

"My class consists of 24 selected juniors in an honors class. . .They enjoyed the simulation and learned a great deal. I look forward to using your exercise again, and I thank you for your efforts to promote both public understanding and the public interest."-- Rutgers University Professor of Political Science