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Virtual Penny Poll

What you do

Explore how you might choose to allocate the United States' federal discretionary budget. To start the game you have 100 pennies in your bank. Into each of the tin buckets you can enter a number that designates the number of pennies you wish to allocate. When you have allocated all of your pennies you can submit your Penny Budget to see your allocations compared to the official budget for fiscal year 2012.


The total federal budget for Fiscal Year 2012 is $3.8 trillion. About two-thirds of that goes to “mandatory” programs that are automatically budgeted such as Social Security and Medicare. The remaining third is “discretionary” spending – spending which Congress decides each year. This is the budget you are determining with your penny votes.

Finally, a note about the federal deficit. Most years the U.S. government spends more than it takes in, creating a federal deficit. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax cuts, and a combination of reduced tax revenue and stimulus spending during the recession have greatly increased the deficit. Most attempts to cut the deficit have focused on non-military spending, rather than addressing military spending, mandatory programs such as Social Security or tax revenues.

How the 2012 US budget allocates funds

100 Pennies remaining in My Penny budget