In the last couple of years it's become strikingly clear that the majority of people in the United States do not know where or how their federal tax dollars are spent. As a result, they feel disengaged from both the personal and societal impacts of federal spending and believe they receive little benefit from and have little influence over the creation or oversight of our nation's budget.
The absence of clear information about U.S. federal spending and its local impact has helped erode democratic participation. NPP believes that the federal budgeting process is meant to be participatory and open, with elected officials fully accountable to their constituents.
So, propelled by a vision of a United States where all people affected by federal spending priorities have the ability and opportunity to shape our nation's budget, NPP has created some new tools and resources which we hope are as engaging as they are informative:
Voice Your Budget Priorities – NPP's version of a “take action” section with great links to help our constituents find your elected officials, contact local media and locate other great data resources. We've also included a helpful guide to meeting with elected officials;
Share Your Budget Story – We've created an interactive map and we invite you to fill it with your budget stories, letters to the editor, fact sheets, photos, videos. NPP believes that we all have a lot to learn from each other and we hope that this map is a great vehicle for exchanging information;
Federal Budget 101 – This section of the website contains a host of budget charts and graphs which allow for a solid look at both expenditures and revenue generation over time. It also contains some great information on the federal budget timeline, the difference between Discretionary and Mandatory Spending, information on the difference between deficits and debt, and between federal funds and trust funds;
Data for Democracy Webinars – NPP launched this series last year to allow us to connect more with our constituents and build your capacity to use our materials more effectively. Our latest webinar – Jobs, Deficit and Taxes – demystifies three of the most pressing issues of our day;
Lesson Plans and Workshops – We're creating both traditional, multi-discipline lesson plans for use in middle and high schools and launching a series of two-page resources and workshop outlines, which invite a participatory/popular education approach to learning about the budget. One of our favorites – the Discretionary Budget Pizza – was created by Angela Bellas, a graduate intern from the University of Connecticut. Angela piloted this piece with a group of amazing young people from Holyoke, Massachusetts. We invite you to carve up a pizza like the Discretionary Pie – and let it spark a good conversation!
I recently spoke up in Bangor, Maine and gave a pretty broad overview of the budget using NPP's charts and graphs before diving into specifics. After my talk a man approached me and said that it was the best overall budget talk he'd ever heard. He said that so often he gets unconnected budget snipets and that it's almost impossible to get the whole picture. He confirmed my appreciation of NPP's ability to connect the proverbial budget dots for folks – and impact that has on our collective willingness and ability to engage with our government.