If the consequence of not coming to an agreement was a fine in the order of a full year's salary or prison time for not doing their job, we would not be in this predicament right now.
Forget a full year's salary. My personal opinion is that their salaries should have been the first things cut...in half (at least, there is no reason that someone who only works PART of the year at their job should be making more than 4x - or more - than their lowest paid constituents)...PERMANENTLY. Also, this little perk of some positions being paid salaries for the rest of their lives, receiving health benefits for the rest of their lives etc...GONE. Granted it wouldn't save a huge chunk of change in the short term, but it would add up over the long haul and it would be something that hurt the politicians not doing their jobs instead of
the main populace who are just trying to make ends meet and keep their kids fed during a recession.
I'd also change the way they write bills and get rid of their ability to add riders to a bill. You want to use federal money to build a bridge to nowhere...you can no longer attach it to a bill about education. You have to submit it as it's own bill and let it be voted on on it's own merits. This would chop a good chunk of the pork barrel spending out since a number of these would be shot to hell IF
they ever made it out of committee. Too many decent bills get shot down because of the riders attached to them, and too much pork gets through as a means of buying votes. Again, not something that would likely save tons of money, especially in the short term, but something that would effect the Politicians
more than the average Joe.
Other cuts DO need to be made, but they should be made with some common sense and look at the big picture, not just short term gains. The military budget is bloated beyond belief but cutting their tuition programs is BS. I'd have no problem cutting salaries for top brass down to something like 75k a year. The money saved I'd put back into the system to given soldiers a bit of a pay bump. It wouldn't be huge obviously, but it would still be an improvement over what they have now. I'd also look at those projects that Hades mentioned, the ones the military actually said they don't need and that are really just States looking to pad their own pockets with military contract, and cut them clean out. The money not being wasted on such projects could be put back into the system for the VA or tuition programs for soldiers.
I hate to say it, but if you're trying to streamline gov't spending, and cut waste, some jobs will be downsized or flat out lost. The federal gov't is so bloated it's ridiculous and it does need to be pared down to size. If you have three people in one office doing the same job, and it's only a two person job, then someone is going to lose their job. Perhaps they could be transferred to an area that needs more people, perhaps not, but some jobs would end up on the chopping block. It sucks but if we're really trying to get gov't spending under control it needs to happen.
I would probably also restrict humanitarian aid to places devastated by natural disaster or civilian populations affected by war - maybe. I'm personally of the opinion that there is so much humanitarian aid needed in the US that we don't have a lot of business sending resources elsewhere until we get that straightened out. It's kind of like expecting those parts of the east coast that got hit by Sandy to ignore their rebuilding so they can send aid to places affected by wildfires in the west.
It's not that I don't think we should help others who need it, but it is an established fact that you are better at helping others when you have reached a stable place yourself. I think the US needs to do that. Badly.
I would probably go a bit further and cut it to only places effected by natural disasters, and then on a case by case basis because...really...I am enough of a bitch that I see no good reason to send money to reinforce the home of someone who hates me, when my own roof needs replacing. I think we have enough people in need here that need our help that we should be sending our aid money to our own people. I would much rather see our aid money spent on things at home like decent low-income housing, food supplement programs designed to get people eating real food (not just the trash that's cheapest), job training programs to get people real, viable, skills that will allow them to get off the gov't tit and let them give themselves and their children, better lives and more opportunities.