Budget Exercises

One of the most important sets of tools The Concord Coalition uses to highlight the importance of fiscal responsibility and the choices involved in being fiscally responsible is our interactive budget exercises. These exercises allow citizens at the grassroots level, whether as part of town hall meetings with their members of Congress or as students in the classroom, to learn in a group setting that takes advantage of the interactions with people of different generations or different ideological or political backgrounds.

We also have an experienced network of field staff around the country who lead these exercises in person and help volunteers and teachers learn how to facilitate the exercises themselves.

Select a budget exercise for your group

Large audience listens to a speaker
  • 1-2 hour group interaction
  • For a dive into policy choices & Congressional decision-making

Principles & Priorities

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Large audience listens to a speaker
  • 30-45 minute exploration
  • For a quicker look at policy tradeoffs

Debt Busters

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Large audience listens to a speaker
  • 15 minute activity 
  • For a brief understanding of the federal budget

Penny Game

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What you'll learn

The most popular exercise from this collection is "Principles and Priorities" which is designed to help groups learn about the competing pressures facing members of Congress in budgeting over the next 10 years. The participants gain exposure to current policy options that Congress often debates, while getting a sense of the political and time pressures that arise legislative sessions. Our "Debt Busters" exercise is a condensed version of "Principles and Priorities" designed for use in limited time sessions. And, we offer our "Penny Game" which can be used for elementary and high school students who want to learn the basics about where we get and spend our tax dollars.

For individuals, we offer The Federal Budget Challenge: this is our successful online budget simulation, based on Principles and Priorities, where users work through different policy categories and choose the spending and tax policies that fit their preferences, while being mindful of their budgetary effects. Developed in partnership with the California-based non-profit Next 10, this online tool will track the effect of individual policy choices on interest costs and the projected 10-year budget deficit as the choices are made.

We hope to continually develop these exercises. In order to properly do so, we encourage anyone who has participated to send us feedback about their experience.


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Blog Post

It’s Important to Distinguish Between Short-term Cyclical Deficits and Long-term Structural Deficits

Thursday, July 27, 2017
Not all deficits are created equal. In designing policy responses, it is important to distinguish between “cyclical” and “structural” deficits. Cyclical deficits are caused by a weak economy. Recessions drive down government revenue because many workers and businesses are no longer earning as much taxable income. At the same time, government spending rises because more people need assistance through programs such as Medicaid, unemployment benefits and food stamps.

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Your donation goes directly to support our program of honest budget analysis, reports, testimony, media outreach, town hall meetings, citizen participation exercises, and all of the activities that we conduct around the country throughout the year.

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