something like 2/3 of US land
Frankly, we can't worry about "political suicide" any more. The way we are spending, we are on the verge of actual national suicide. The Federal Reserve is talking about bankruptcy as a real possibility. Nationally and internationally, there are signs that faith in the dollar is waning fast. If the dollar is no longer the world's reserve currency of choice, the US economy as we know it will go into a tailspin of hyperinflation. We're at the point where we have to cut, deeply, and across the board, or we'll see a depression that will make the 30s look mild by comparison.
Why even look for specifics? Take the budget from 25 years ago, adjust all numbers for inflation, and use that. Presto!
But since you asked for specifics:
- Pull all troops from Germany, Japan, Korea, and any other place we fought more than 10 years ago. It's time our allies protected themselves instead of relying on the US. Wonder why the US military budget is so big? Because nobody else pulls their weight.
- Eliminate all farm subsidies.
- Privatize Amtrak. What a waste of money. If it can't operate in the black, it's mismanaged and/or unnecessary.
- Cut funding to PBS. The recent scandals, as well as the admissions they don't need federal funding, ought to be sufficient justification for this.
- Axe the War on Drugs. Waste of time, money, and lives.
- Cut the Dept of Education. Unconstitutional. Anything that is really needed, the states can do just fine.
- Cut the TSA. Their incompetence knows no bounds.
- Cut pension plans for Congress. Drop in the bucket, I know, but it's the principle of the thing.
- Cut the IRS. Seriously. Do you know how much money is expended just to take in the tax revenue, with all the compliance monitoring that has to take place? Good grief! Enact a simple consumption tax, and BAM, you get instant savings, and much less potential for abuse by politicians. Plus getting back all the lost productivity in the private sector that was going toward record keeping and the filing process itself.
- Cut the SSA and end Social Security. Fund existing obligations through sale of unconstitutionally held federal lands. (Do you realize something like of US land west of the Missouri River is owned by the FedGov? Insane.) Let people plan their own lives, because they have incentive to do it right. DC has squandered the money and made a thorough mess of it.
That's just the outright cuts I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure there's plenty more, and still more that could be pared back and reorganized.
5 year old pentium D with 2GB of RAM running XP [...] can't install IE9, which means HTML5 cannot be widely adopted until the majority of the business world installs Firefox.
Fixed that for you.
The example in question could have been remedied easily. What should have happened in this case? FD could have said to homeowner, "You didn't pay your fee (insurance) this year. We will put out the fire, but you will be liable for full costs associated with this. Do you want us to proceed?" I think the FD was stupid for not handling it this way, but that's beside the point I was arguing.
Dude, if you are so petty as to ridicule me for not updating my signature (which has been the same for, oh, maybe six years now) then you need to get a life. And clean up your mouth while you're at it. You've reminded me why I started coming to Slashdot less and less several years ago. This isn't worth my time.
I don't personally object to taxation to provide a fire department. (Though I also don't personally think privatization of the FD--which this case, an optional subscription/enrollment based service, is similar to--is a bad idea, either.) Narrowly, I was objecting to the OP's comment "Taxes are good, because they protect idiots like this one from themselves", which implied the purpose of taxation is to protect idiots from themselves. If that is the case, I want my money back, because I'm not an idiot.
More generally, I object to the larger premise as well. The purpose of government is not to protect anybody from themselves; the purpose of government is to protect the people's rights. I am vehemently against the notion that somebody else, somewhere else, who doesn't know me or my situation, can better determine my choices for me than I can for myself. Don't limit my freedom "for my own good". I don't need laws to tell me to buckle up, to wear a helmet, to buy health insurance, to buy fire insurance, not to smoke, etc etc ad nauseum! I can do the smart things on my own, and if I don't and get bitten by the consequences, I'll take responsibility for it!
The real problem, as I see it, is that nobody takes responsibility any more. Anybody with a decent moral compass can look at what they've bungled and say, "Yup, that's my fault," then, "How do I make it right?" or, "I guess I won't do that again." Morality is on the decline, and we've traded it for legality. We'll only admit culpability if it's legally required, after all the machinations and contortions and extensions fail to win a more favorable outcome. We want someone else to take the blame, someone else to pick up the tab. To do that, for every possible situation that might arise, requires an insanely complex set of rules. We call this the "legal system". To help us navigate it, we have more lawyers per capita than any society in history. We have waiting times to get into court that mock the right to a "speedy trial", bordering on unjust. Frivolous lawsuits clog the system, because people throw everything at the wall just to see what will stick. Nearly every law that's passed to limit some unjust action has overreach that will snag inoffensive actions as well. And then there are the laws that are passed because "it's a good idea". If it's so good, you shouldn't need a law to make people do it! That's how freedom is eroded.
William Penn said, "Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants." That's exactly what we're seeing. We've traded morality for legality, but legal doesn't make it right. "The system" is the tyrant, and it's of our own making.
That you are so sure you know what's best for me, even when you don't know a thing about me, indicates that you are a patronizing elitist. Go find a socialist country to reside in, where that kind of thing is appreciated.
Further, why should I answer questions if I don't want to? You don't need to understand me. You only need to leave me alone unless we mutually enter into a relationship or transaction. Don't force your will upon me, and I won't force mine on you. It's called liberty. That's what you need to understand. Since we'll all have differing ideas on what functions of gov't are beneficial to the general welfare, those functions should be limited to the smallest set we all agree on.
I'm not saying I should be exempted from a mound of regulations because of a "unique plight" of mine. I don't meekly submit an application asking if I may be allowed to use my rights. I'm saying the mound of regulations shouldn't exist at all, for anybody! That's why I don't feel obligated to open up any details to anybody.
Clarifying, I wasn't saying that taxes are only good for that. It was the GP that implied it, and I responded to that.
I do realize that there are tax-funded services that are necessary, but I would like the "nanny state" to be dismantled, and to keep that money in my own pocket so I can take care of myself. People need to be more self-reliant, and take their lumps when they screw up. No need to coddle adults, unless you want a society of perpetual children.