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July 25--  What would you do if you had the chance to work on the federal budget?  Cut programs?  Raise taxes?  Some of both?

Congressman John Barrow is giving citizens in the 12th District a chance to experience the choices that he and his colleagues in Congress are studying regarding the federal debt crisis.

Under auspices of the non-partisan Concord Coalition, Southern Regional Director Phil Smith led a federal budget exercise with a group of concerned citizens in Vidalia.

"They learn by doing.  The pretend they are members of Congress trying to make budgetary decisions.  They decide what to keep.  They decide what to cut.  They put together their own federal budget.  What happens is people relearn the meaning of the word sacrifice.  It's a word that's been absent from the political vernacular for a long time now and it's high time we remember what that word means," Smith says.

More than 20 citizens attended the session and were divided into four workgroups.  They came up with cuts ranging from about half-a-trillion to over two trillion dollars.

We asked some of them about their impressions.

"I learned there's a whole lot that goes into it and it's not as cut and dry as we often think.  We may think we know, but when we read the wording we may not choose what we thought we would," one woman reported.

A male participant said echoed Smith's remarks about sacrifice. "I believe it's going to have to start at home.  Probably more than we want to make, but for the betterment of our economy and our country overall we're all going to have to make those sacrifices," he said.

Another woman said, "They had a lot of information on Social Security and Medicare that we need to consider.  I think this is great and the public needs to interact more."

Congressman Barrow has sponsored other budget exercises in Savannah, Augusta and Statesboro.

After the session in Vidalia, Smith believes "I think what it shows is that in some cases the citizens are actually ahead of some of the politicians up there.  Once they learn what the true drivers are, they are much more willing to take the tough medicine that we need to take," he said.