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Despite a compromise plan that would extend the current federal budget for two weeks, the risk still remains that a stalemate between Democrats and Republicans in Washington will lead to a government shutdown next month. The troubling thing? Not even the $61 billion in cuts the tea party-influenced House Republican caucus is pushing would make anything close to a meaningful dent in the federal budget deficit. The problem is that whenever Americans are polled about what specific programs they would cut or what taxes they would increase to eliminate the deficit, people say they don't want to do either.

At the Program for Public Consultation, a joint project of the University of Maryland's School of Social Policy and the Center on American Attitudes, they speculated that the problem was that the question wasn't being asked the right way. They set up a web application that guides users through the process of adding and subtracting to the budget in key categories, giving them constant feedback about how their decisions affect the budget. They've shared this application with The Sun, and we invite you to try it and send us feedback about the choices you made. The exercise is here. When you're done, e-mail your feedback to talkback@baltimoresun.com

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In other commentary today, Susan Reimer asks legislators how the gay marriage vote is going to look to the next generation.Economist Anirban Basu predicts that the Maryland economy is in for a world of hurt.

And we write about a study conducted by school bus drivers around the state that found a shocking 6,300 instances of people passing stopped buses that were picking up or dropping off kids in one day.

Be sure to vote in our poll of the day: Would a shutdown of the federal government be more politically damaging for the Democrats or the Republicans?

And check out our galleries of editorial cartoons.

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