'Fiscal Cliff: Party Principles Leave Little Room to Deal

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"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.

Read more about the Fiscal Cliff:

Related: What the average American should know about capital gains and the fiscal cliff.

Related: Can the mortgage deduction survive the fiscal cliff?

Related: Why changing Medicare is so controversial.

Related: Fiscal Cliff negotiators search for cuts without sacrifice.

Related: Ending charitable deduction would help budget, hurt charities.

Related: Meet a 'small business' at center of 'fiscal cliff' debate.

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

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