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How You'd Cut the Federal Deficit

You spoke up loud and clear. But is Washington listening?

other measures. Many commenters argued for even more dramatic cuts in the Pentagon's budget, which the Obama administration projects will grow to $616 billion by 2015. Some commenters said that defense spending should be cut in half, an extreme move that would reduce the federal deficit by $308 billion.

Others had specific ideas about what to eliminate in the defense budget — for example, closing the more than 700 U.S. military bases abroad and bringing home all the personnel, planes and ships stationed overseas, which, by one estimate, cost the U.S. about $250 billion a year.

"We do not need troops in Germany and Japan anymore and whatever other countries they are in," one commenter wrote. Others called for an end to the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, which might save $118 billion, not counting the cost of removing troops and equipment.

A self-identified retired government employee proposed eliminating maintenance contractors and using active duty personnel to paint, clean and perform other routine duties. This do-it-yourself approach would probably save about $14 billion in 2015 (assuming a 10 percent savings from the $140 billion a year — yes, that's billion — that the Defense Department spends on service contractors).

3. Drastically cut or eliminate foreign aid

The isolationist impulse didn't stop with the defense budget, and U.S. spending that's aimed at helping other countries was an especially sore spot. Many commenters advocated cutting foreign aid by 50 to 75 percent; some advocated eliminating it.

"We have no business sending money that we have paid in taxes to other countries when we should be spending it in the USA," one commenter complained.

A few aggrieved readers were under the mistaken impression that the U.S. government gives aid to such nations as China and Venezuela. (It doesn't.) But eliminating U.S. government spending on a wide array of

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