IMO, people need to be pragmatic about the actual money trail of government spending, if they want to truly make meaningful cuts that don't hurt us. 1.9 million dollars to study ants (for example) sounds like a waste, but you're paying a lot of people in the process, and these people spend their money domestically on goods and services, creating demand for jobs.
Money that very quickly finds it's way to the top of the financial ladder is where the waste is. This money is both horded, and much of it simply put into investment trading or goes overseas. They aren't hiring more people with this money or bringing jobs back to the US, because an influx of cash does not motivate you to suddenly run an inefficient business. But paying it out to shareholders makes your stock worth more.
So, you just need to follow the trails of where money is very quickly going into the pool that simply circulates around the top. A lot of medicare/medicaid results in increase spending through freed up resources to do other things than pay for healthcare, but a lot of it also pretty much goes straight into the business side of healthcare - be it pharma or highly profitable private hospitals, etc. Medicare and Medicaid are very efficiently RUN programs - and even the running of it employs middle-income people, so that probably isn't a loss. You'd need to have true healthcare reform to really lower the costs of these programs in meaningful ways so that a smallwe percentage isn't just going straight to the top. There needs to be a great deal more transparency in the business of providing healthcare.
But for the most part, I would say spending isn't our problem. We're in this situation because of the crowd pleasing policies of cutting taxes and keeping spending. Very nearly all of what the fed spends our money on is either meaninful or unavoidable, and not just wasted - which is why it's so hard to actually cut spending when you get out the microscope. We just need to PAY for 1st world lifestyle that we have, and accept that you can't have what we have in this country for free - it costs a LOT of money.