Michael Rappaport

Let's get rid of the national debt.

Whatever it is -- $10 trillion, $11 trillion, whatever -- let's just make up our mind right now that we're going to get rid of it.

My guess is we could do it within 10 years, maybe less, but not with these namby-pamby little spending freezes we've been talking about.

It really wouldn't be that difficult.

Here goes:

1. No more cost of living increases for Social Security. In fact, until the national debt is paid off, let's cut Social Security benefits by 50 percent. Old people have to bear their share of the burden too; a hell of a lot of them voted to support a lot of the wasteful spending that has been happening.

2. Medicare? Gone until we straighten things out. You stay healthy, you get to live. You get sick, we'll make sure there's a free clinic in your town. You need surgery that you can't pay for, tough luck.

3. Medicaid? Same deal. Oh, and forget Bush's prescription drug benefit. We can't afford it.

4. Defense spending? No more new weapons systems until all the old ones are paid for. The defense budget can be salaries and support for active-duty military and the occasional purchase of bullets. No more military-industrial complex. Let them bake cake.

5. Government research? We can't afford it. Anything we don't already need to know probably isn't worth knowing. We might make exception for work on contagious diseases, but heck, we can just piggyback off other countries' research.

6. Subsidies? Yeah, right. Archer Daniels Midland will have to do without its farm subsidies, as will all the other big corporations. If we can't afford it, we can't afford them.

7. National parks? Hey, raise the price of admission to support the park. The good ones will prosper.

8. Salaries for Congress, etc.? Fifty thousand dollars a year ought to be plenty. Let them live in boarding houses or dormitories in Washington. Being in Congress shouldn't be a lifetime job anyway.

9. Interstate highways? Two words -- toll roads.

10. Foreign debt? Screw 'em. It's jubilee, baby.

There's more, but you get the picture. We'd suffer for maybe 10 years. We'd lose some old ones and lose some weak ones, but nobody cares much about them anyway these days.

If you think somebody might take advantage of us if we were in between shipments of bullets, think again. We've still got all those nuclear weapons, and up to now, the money we've been spending on them has been a pretty complete waste -- at least since the end of the Cold War.

For 10 years or so, we'd pay taxes and wouldn't get much in return, but I've heard a lot of conservatives whining about all the debt we're leaving to our children and grandchildren. This way, we suffer so they won't. Can you imagine how our economy will boom starting in 2020 or so once there's no more national debt.

This is the perfect way to save America, and it's the perfect way for the worthless whiners among us -- I include myself in that -- to finally make some meaningful sacrifice for our country.

There will be plenty of new jobs in the next 10 years too. Since several hundred million people will suffer from the suspension of government services, the mega-wealthy are going to have to use some of their money to hire folks to keep those who are suffering from killing and eating them.

Seems like a pretty good deal all around, and some fairly Swift thinking on my part.