Here is the 2011 US Budget: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy11/pdf/budget.pdf
I would advise you to read it, but I know most people simply won't bother, so let's cut to the chase.
First, the military budget is by itself larger than all other federal spending EXCEPT for Social Security and Medicare. Yet, even if you completely eliminated all military spending, dissolving the whole of our armed forces in the process, you would NOT balance the federal budget. Similarly, no amount of trimming from the remainder of the non-military/SocSec/Medicare budget will balance the books, either. Not even in collaboration with any amount of trimming from the military budget.
That is how far in the hole we are. The reality is that we cannot balance the budget, at this point, without targeting Social Security and Medicare.
Even raising taxes "on the rich" will not cut it; you could double the income tax rate to an upper end of 70% and we would STILL not achieve balance. And that's assuming the rich, with all their tax attorneys and knowledge of gaming the financial system, didn't simply do what they did in the '70s in the face of high taxation: take their money out of the country and put it in places it couldn't legally be touched. Like those Caribbean micro-nations you might have forgotten existed by now. The rich have the resources necessary to evade taxation without breaking any laws in the process; you don't.
So here's my idea:
1) REFUND EVERYONE THEIR SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE TAXES.
The amount paid in, for every American, has always been on record with the IRS, so everyone can be fairly repaid their proper share. Make the refund part of a standard tax period and handle the payback like you would any other federal tax refund, which means to get your refund you have to properly file your taxes in the first place. Tax dodgers and identity thieves won't therefore get no-question refund checks out of this.
The big drawback here? One huge, up-front, deficit expense. But hey, that hasn't stopped us from paying for Iraq and ObamaCare, has it? And at least this one will be for a single year, not an ongoing bleed-out. It's over and done with fast, and everyone can re-invest their refunds as they see fit for their own retirements and medical needs.
2) LOCK IN THE RESULTING INSTANT SURPLUS TOWARDS PAYING BACK THE NATIONAL DEBT.
This will slowly reduce, from year to year, the amount of interest which must be paid on the debt, thus in turn slowly accelerating the payoff speed. If government wants to spend more money, it can't be spent either from this locked-in surplus or the saved interest resulting. All of that can be mathematically tracked year-to-year so none of it "slips" into general spending.
3) ZERO OUT THE NATIONAL DEBT OVER THE LONG TERM.
In all frankness, this will probably require a Balanced Budget Amendment, though it might have a "sunset clause" which would cause it to expire when zero-out occurs. Do you have any idea how much money we pay, every year, just in interest on the national debt?
For 2011 alone, it's $454,393,280,417 --- nearly HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS. A YEAR. We could pay for ObamaCare four times over, into infinity, with just what we're currently spending to keep the nation from defaulting on its debt!
When we hit Zero-Out, we can consider re-investing in programs like Social Security and Medicare again --- with systems built from the ground-up to meet the realities of the 21st Century, not the 1960s where the current models are perpetually stuck.
And let's face it, both programs provide terrible returns for what they are: a retirement account and a medical insurance program. SocSec isn't even good enough to avoid being considered by all and sundry as "supplementary income" --- if it's your only retirement source, you're already essentially screwed. Plus it's largely understood that if you're under 40, you're not even likely to see a dime of it at all, if we keep to the current course. And Medicare? There are hundreds of private-sector programs that'll give you more support for your dollar than Medicare does.
These are default fallback programs, which are already in danger of default. I say, we refund everyone their money, cut loose the albatross, and eliminate our national debt with a long-term strategy instead of soup-of-the-day quick-fixes aimed at getting your political dollar --- your vote --- while leaving your real-cash future up in the air.