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You can be a federal budget hero!

Washington, D.C., has been going about this whole federal budget dealio all wrong. What America needs is a superhero to solve our financial crisis.

And you, my friend, can be that hero.

There's no need to be bitten by a radioactive spider, freaked out by a bat colony or come from another planet.

You just need to check out Marketplace. The American Public Media radio program that keeps an eye on the markets and finances has created the free online game Budget Hero.

Marketplace_Budget-Hero Click on the image (or here) to become a Budget Hero.

The game relies primarily on the budget model and forecasts in the Congressional Budget Office's Long Term Budget Outlook. Marketplace gamers did, however, group the CBO budget categories together to simplify the game.

Basically, you as the Budget Hero get to shape America's fiscal future by playing policy cards. They are split into the key issues facing the country, such as defense and diplomacy, housing and living and, of course, taxes.

The game's tag line is, after all, "If you ever wanted to control where your tax dollars go, here's your chance to decide."

What will you do? Pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Cut school lunch subsidies? Lower individual and/or corporate tax rates?

You get a chance to review what your choices will do to the budget before you play your cards.

Marketplace_Budget-Hero_intro2 Click on the image (or here) to get a briefing on Budget Hero.

Just be sure to pay attention to the game's meters. If you spend too much or tax too little, America's debt rises.

And remember, when the money runs out for anything but Social Security, health care and interest payments, your budget goes bust.

Finally, some budget fun: Think the game might be a bit too wonky? Don't worry, says Max Abrams over at the video gaming blog Kotaku:

"As an informative and educational tool, Budget Hero works. … This is a great way to both see what a future in your hands would really look like and compare your opinions to others. The social gaming implications of Budget Hero are interesting, as it could become an evolving impression of what Americans think should be done with the budget."

More importantly, at least to those who spend a lot of time in simulated situations, Budget Hero is actually a pretty fun game, Abrams says. 

So go to it. With the folks on Capitol Hill continuing to fight amongst themselves while our federal finances are about to go up in flames, America needs as many budget heroes as it can get and soon!

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