New Federal Budget and National Debt Voter Guide Cuts Through Partisan Jargon

Public Agenda releases the first in a series of unbiased Citizens' Solutions Guides to help voters navigate tough issues ahead of the election.


New York City -- Public Agenda, a nonpartisan research and public engagement organization based in Manhattan, has announced the release of a new resource for voters. "The Federal Budget: A Citizens' Solutions Guide" offers an unbiased source of information on government spending, as well as different policy scenarios that candidates have endorsed, to help citizens make better decisions as they prepare to head to the polls.

The federal budget guide, also available as a downloadable PDF, is the first in a series of Citizens' Solutions Guides that will help voters examine the trade-offs and consequences concerning critical issues facing the country. The guides are fresh updates to resources that Public Agenda has provided to the public every election year since 1996. Subsequent guides on energy, health care, immigration, education, and jobs and the economy will be released before the election. The guides are made possible through generous support of The Dilenschneider Group.

As various interest groups and politicians offer fiscal plans that they guarantee will resolve the country's budget crisis, "The Federal Budget: A Citizens' Solutions Guide" helps voters cut through divisive and dysfunctional rhetoric from politicians; conflicting information and spin from the media; and their own wishful thinking.

"The federal budget isn't just a topic for policy wonks. How the government spends our money, and how it solves its fiscal problems, is fundamental to the well-being of all citizens," said Scott Bittle, Public Agenda senior fellow and author of the "The Federal Budget: A Citizens' Solutions Guide." "Yet many Americans are struggling to grasp what’s really going on as politicians and the media spout 'simple' solutions and rhetoric that doesn't help voters truly weigh and consider the options. This guide is designed to help voters take a sensible, reality-based look at our choices and come to some agreement on what to do."

The guide explains, in a clear and comprehensive manner, essential facts about the federal budget – including where and how the government gets and spends money, and why we need to worry about Medicare and Social Security spending. It also examines the pros and cons of various policy choices being offered by candidates and political parties, including:

  • Focusing spending on the long-term needs of our economy and raising revenue to cover what we spend.
  • Focusing on Social Security and Medicare.
  • Keeping taxes low and reducing the size of the government.
"There are certainly sources of information out there on the federal budget. But we know, from decades of work with the public, that factual information alone does not lead in a straight line to sound judgment," said Will Friedman, president of Public Agenda. "Citizens need the opportunity to think through these issues and identify and weigh the consequences of various courses of action. The Citizens' Solutions Guides are designed for this purpose, helping citizens come to terms with these issues in time for the coming election and beyond."

Candidates like to make big promises and often avoid talking about the serious trade-offs that come with any of the tough choices that have to be made. The Citizens' Solutions Guides series will provide nonpartisan crib sheets to help voters get the facts straight and protect themselves from political spin. Each Guide will include a brief overview of the selected topic, an evenhanded review of possible solutions, the pros and cons of each approach and resources for readers to learn and do more. All of the Guides will be available both online and in a downloadable PDF format.

Public Agenda has presented nonpartisan, unbiased voter issue guides focused on key election topics in every Presidential campaign season since 1996. The 2008 election guides were downloaded and used by hundreds of thousands of users, including journalists, forum moderators, students and teachers.

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