Everyone has a plan to cut the government down to size, eliminate the deficit and – harder, much harder – pay off the national debt. Here’s mine. It’s simple, short and sweet.

Pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and hand it off to the states for ratification. Anyone who fails to vote for this amendment is a moron and has no business serving in Congress. These people must be booted out of office, no ifs ands or buts. Individuals and families must live within their means and balance their budgets. Many states operate under balanced budget amendments. The necessary cuts must be made at the federal level until a balanced budget is reached. It’s the very least a citizen should expect of his or her elected representatives.

Pass a law that ties congressional pay to a balanced budget. Anyone who fails to vote for such a law is a coward and should be sent home at the first available opportunity. The federal budget is the primary job of Congress. If Congress fails to complete a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year, the individual members must forfeit their salaries and return all money received for that year.

All federal budgets must contain a reasonable emergency fund. Emergencies happen each and every year. They are a fact of life. If that fund is exhausted, Congress must take the money from another portion of the budget before funding an emergency. If Congress cannot agree, then the cuts must be made evenly, across the board. Congresses routinely use emergency spending to mask the true amount of the federal budget. This must stop!

All entitlements, with the exception of those specifically funded by an individual’s direct contributions, should be eliminated, and the line items may be included (or eliminated) as part of the discretionary budget, which is subject to an annual give and take. Most citizens are unaware that an entitlement can be anything a lawmaker chooses to wall off and put on automatic pilot. There are thousands of unnecessary entitlements that have been walled off in this manner. This must be reversed.

The legitimate, individually funded entitlements that remain must be adjusted so the payouts do not exceed revenues.

Eliminate earmarks permanently. Lawmakers argue that earmarks are a relatively small portion of the federal budget. However, these earmarks are used to grease the skids for tons of unnecessary spending and are an added burden to the federal agencies on which they are imposed. This process must be stopped. Budgets should be lean and specific. Bids for items in the federal budget must be conducted by impartial federal employees who operate under strict guidelines and cannot be swayed by lobbyists seeking favors.

Rotate members of the House and Senate appropriations committees every two years. It is no accident that the appropriators turn out to be the biggest spenders.

Cut all the committees down to size. The largest committees in Congress, like Appropriations, Transportation and Armed Services are responsible for the lion’s share of the wasteful spending. Most members are given three to five committee assignments. The more committee assignments, the more opportunities to spend. Most committee members don’t bother showing up to hear testimony. Testifying before Congress has become a joke. You testify before empty chairs. Give each member only one committee assignment and expect members to take their jobs seriously. That will give all the members more time to read bills before they are passed.

End the “old boy network” of giving committee chairmanships to the longest-serving member. Committee chairmanships should be earned.

Is it constitutional? That is a question that must be asked before a dime can be spent on a federal program or federal agency. Eliminating the U.S. Department of Education would be a no-brainer. The Department of Education has no constitutional authority. Our founders wisely left matters of education to the individual states. All the Education Department can do is “suggest” and spend tax dollars. It didn’t exist until 1979. Get rid of it!

Another federal agency that should be eliminated is the Department of Agriculture. Today, we have more people working in the computer industry than we do on farms. There is no shortage of food. However, we are still handing out Depression-era farm subsidies, most of which go to wealthy landowners.

Eliminate all government grants. It is unfair to taxpayers for the government to pick winners and losers in business. Government grants to charities and nonprofits also are counterproductive.

These suggestions are broad-brushed to be sure. Maybe I’m dreaming, but I’m dreaming of a Congress that works for, not against, the people who pay the bills.

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