'Fiscal Cliff: Party Principles Leave Little Room to Deal


"I'm sure there are some small programs that could be eliminated or curtailed but it would be a drop in the ocean of spending represented by entitlements," said Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, are categorized as mandatory spending in the government's fiscal budget. In the 2010 fiscal year 55 percent of the budget went to mandatory spending. Within that 55 percent, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid made up a total of 71 percent combined, according to figures from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

It's these avenues that will likely be the quickest and least complicated means of generating the savings necessary to stabilize the debt. Of course, the irony is, these avenues are also the most politically sacred, making a simple and painless fix to the problem effectively impossible.

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Related: Corporate tax loopholes and the 'fiscal cliff'.

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