"This is not a deal to fix the problem, it's a deal to diffuse the fiscal cliff," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan think tank that favors a balanced budget. . . .
"The bigger problem is the basic unsustainability of our entitlement programs versus our tax income," Bixby said.
Many who receive benefits such as Medicare and Social Security bristle at the term "entitlement," arguing that they paid for them. But they didn't, at least not fully. The benefits they extract, especially from Medicare, far exceed their contributions through payroll taxes.
While lawmakers have vowed to reform entitlements and taxes next year, it's not clear that they have the political will left, giving the grueling fiscal cliff showdown, Bixby said.