Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget [nytimes.com] is an interesting take on using (simple) data visualization as a participative communication medium that can provide valuable insight to the masses, and potentially even influence legislative decision making. The project is set up as an interactive puzzle: readers are asked to come up with a set of cuts that would sufficiently reduce the deficit for both the years 2015 and 2030.
Some policies save more money in the near term than others. Some policies, such as those that deal with Medicare and Social Security, have considerably more long-term savings. However, the ultimate deficit solution will have to include a mix of medium- and long-term savings. The baseline is the current policy, that is including all existing policies, even those that are scheduled to expire such as the Bush tax cuts. The spending options are broken into 4 different categories: "domestic programs and foreign aid", "the military", "health care", and "Social Security".
In all, the needed deficit savings for 2015 must be $418 billion. The needed deficit savings for 2030 are $1.355 trillion.
While more sophisticated forms of data visualization might help to provide a more profound insight into the relationships between the different possible options, this initiative would have been truly perfect if it allowed readers to save their particular set of choices and share or embed them via a unique URL.