Which is Easier to Fix: California’s Budget or Yours?

In case you haven’t heard, California is headed for disaster. No, not the Big One, an economic disaster. Because voters rejected some taxes and cuts that would have resolved our budget issues for this year, the governor is making draconian cuts to try to shore up our collapsing budget. Basically, we’re broke and the voters didn’t want to fix it. That’s just how we roll.

Play the Budget Game

You may have played the national budget hero game at Marketplace.org. If you played a few months ago, it’s now been Obama-ized for the new economic reality, so go back and play again.

Once you fix the Federal budget, give the California budget a try.  California has to trim $24 billion from the state budget in order to balance the budget. The LA Times tool lets you cut programs and add taxes, but also informs you when some of the cuts may be illegal or impossible to achieve. I managed to get it down to a $6 billion deficit.

How Does Your Personal Budget Compare?

So now that you’ve taken a whack at the California budget, which is larger than the budget for several small countries, it might bring your own budget woes into perspective. If you’re willing to increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 to close the budget gap for California, maybe it’s time to cut your own budget by $5 a pack by quitting smoking, for example. If you want to cut the Office of Emergency Services, maybe you should also increase your personal insurance deductible to at least $1,000 to cut your own insurance costs.

At first it seems hard to cut your personal budget, but once you compare cutting a few thousand from your budget to cutting several billion from a state budget, it seems more doable.

At the very least, this game makes you reconsider what you expect government to provide for you, and what you’re willing to offer in exchange. One thing is for sure: you can’t have low taxes and full government services at the same time. There are costs. Even if you cut government waste, there are still a lot of costs associated with services.

Now, if you want to have some real fun, play your own budget game by seeing how your budget categories line up to recommended averages with the CNN Money budget tool.

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