Ron Paul's plan to slash $1 trillion in federal spending begins and ends at the government bureaucracies he says are most responsible for the mess.
As part of his "Plan to Restore America," the Republican presidential candidate and firebrand congressman from Texas wants to cut out all foreign aid, end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and eliminate five Cabinet-level departments.
"We are in the midst of the worst debt crisis ever in all of history, so I cannot see how we can get out of this by increasing the debt around the world," Paul said in a CNBC interview. "Nobody has proposed any cuts and I don't know how in the world you can get out of the problem of too much spending and too-big government by not cutting anything."
Specifically, he wants to eliminate the departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior and Education.
While taking an ax to agencies that have become part of Washington's bureaucratic fabric may sound extreme to some, Paul said voters he has met on the campaign trail approve.
"I get no grief over that," he said. "How does hiring a lot of bureaucrats in Washington and running a department up there make our system better? There's no indication it's happened. It's quite the opposite."
Paul's plan differs from many of his rivals in that he does not propose reducing any benefits for massively indebted programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
"I see the Social Security as a contract that we should fulfill if at all possible," he said.
Paul does believe those under 25 years old should be allowed to opt out of receiving—and paying for—Social Security benefits. Otherwise, he advocates going after government first.
His plan comes at a time when polls are showing the Republican race at least on a national level coming down to a three-man contest: A pitched battle for the top position between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and businessman Herman Cain, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry holding a solid third. The most recent Gallup poll has Romney at 20 percent, Cain at 18 percent and Perry at 15 percent.
But Paul's candidacy, though registering just 8 percent support, has retained a populist base throughout, and the race to unseat President Obama is far from settled.
Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan to establish a loophole-free 9 percent tax rateon businesses, individuals and sales helped catapult him to the front of the race, and Paul is hoping his plan takes root as well.
"In order to get back to growth again you have to get rid of all the mistakes, all of the malinvestments, all of the debt," he said. "You can't keep dumping the debt onto people."