California Budget Crisis: Solve It Yourself

Next10

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In recent months, several media outlets and nonprofits have launched online budgeting tools that put us lay folk up to the task of balancing the government’s checkbook.

In November, the New York Times introduced its “You Fix the Budget” tool, a simulator that lets online readers tackle the federal budget. MinnPost, the Los Angeles Times, and Cleveland’s Plain Dealer have launched similar initiatives for state budgeting, sending users a-hacking at expenditures and upping taxes via checkboxes and sliding cursors. (If only making fiscal policy was actually this straightforward.)

Yesterday, Next10—a California nonprofit—unveiled the revised version of its own budget simulator. While the organization has hosted the online tool for the past seven years, revising it annually to reflect the state’s current legislature proposals, this year’s scorched-earth budget battle makes it especially timely. With K-12 and higher education, health care, and a wide range of social programs on the line, concerned voters can pick and choose through a variety of options toward a balanced budget. Check it out. Nifty, no?

Next10 officially revealed its updated version at a San Francisco budget forum Thursday. There, participants learned about the different proposals the legislature is considering—and took part in a live run using hand-held clickers to vote, multiple-choice style, on the proposals.

The online tool works similarly. Users have to consider spending across many realms—from schools and health-care plans to California’s troubled prison system. Each policy problem offers a handful of potential solutions which, conveniently, they can learn about before voting—because next to each question, there’s a sidebar with background on that policy initiative.

Next10 is nonpartisan, and its budget simulator reflects this. Beyond the background data, every potential policy move contains a built-in list of pros and cons, based on arguments that have been made for or against. Just mouse over each item and voilà—up pops a green bubble, where some tough and time-consuming reasoning has already been done for you.

All in all, it’s a pretty cool—and heartily diplomatic—widget. Given the dubious online practices of some folks in government, such a positive use of political technology is certainly refreshing.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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