"I'll bet you $10,000 that I can beat this game" (Photo by Gage Skidmore) (www.flickr.com).
by ladyslipper
Oct 2, 2012, 11:00 AM

GOP leaders: take the “Spent” challenge

I would love to see Mitt Romney, Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich try their hand at this game.

I came across a blog post the other day on Digby’s Hullabaloo entitled It’s Harder to Work When You’re Poor. The mayor of Phoenix, Arizona attempted to live on a food stamp budget for one week and found it hard to maintain his energy and focus. Commenters observed while the gesture was noble, a one-week experiment couldn’t begin to illustrate the pervasive effects of poverty.  Another commenter mentioned an online game. I Googled “online game about poverty” and found Spent.

The scenario: you don’t have a job, you’ve lost your home, you’re a single parent, and you’re down to your last $1,000. The challenge: find a job and make it through to the end of the month. You’re presented with a series of situations with multiple-choice possibilities.

Even if you already belong to the working poor, Spent is a real eye-opener because of the overwhelming number of choices you face.

Big choices about where you’ll work, how you’ll get there, where you’ll live, how you’ll stay healthy.

Little choices, like what to do when your kid and his buddy hear the bells of the ice cream truck.

And choices that not only test your monetary reserve but also your moral reserve.

  • When you see someone drop a ten-dollar bill, do you return it or do you keep it?
  • You’re a restaurant server and you drop a trayful of glasses while everyone else is out on the floor. Do you own up to it and pay for the damage? Or do you blame someone else? If you choose the latter, be prepared to live with the consequences.

The first time I played Spent I ended up with eight dollars at the end of the month. The next time I played I was out of money on day eight. Several of the multiple-choice scenarios include the option of asking a friend. When you take that route, you’re connected to Facebook where you can share with your network the progress you’re making. You can also tweet or share your results on Facebook. Grim reality aside, Spent is a really cool toy.

Spent was launched in February 2011 by the digital ad agency McKinney for Urban Ministries of Durham, a North Carolina nonprofit organization. I hadn’t heard of the game before, so maybe Spent is old news. But even if you’ve already seen it, give it another try. With Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47% and Newt Gingrich’s remarks about Barack Obama being the Food Stamp President, you can only wonder how they’d do at Spent.

You can also challenge your legislators to play Spent  by signing this petition.

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