As we head into the general election period, American Public Media, the public radio entity best known for producing A Prairie Home Companion and Marketplace, has launched an instructive and fun online game titled Budget Hero. The game allows you to set the U.S. budget by cutting or raising taxes, and increasing or decreasing spending. You want universal healthcare? Add it to the budget. Increased funding for Social Security? Go for it. Bring the troops home from Iraq? Just do it. Obviously, all such decisions will impact your budget. In this sense, it is similar to the 1993 computer game Shadow President. But with Budget Hero, every major decision, such as to repeal the Bush tax cut and raise taxes on the rich are accompanied with a list of pros and cons and potential impacts.
The folks at American Public Media worked with the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accounting Office to get the data correct. When you finish, the game allows you to compare your "budget" to other gamers. A serious and detailed review of Budget Hero can be accessed here. This is a fun tool that can teach you alot.Continue reading
Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a troubling report on the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) hiring of private contractors to assist in its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It really illustrates how little we know about government contracting and why the lack of transparency is a problem.
Imagine this. DoD doesn't even know how many private contractors it has on the payroll. AP reports that a senior defense official, in congressional testimony last month, estimated that there are about the same number of private contractors in each of the two war zones as there are American troops, 163,000 in Iraq and 36,500 in Afghanistan. But no one apparently knows for sure. The GAO found that private contractors outnumber DoD employees in some offices, and handle sensitive jobs like writing contracts and awarding fees.Continue reading