Once if they are lucky. Why? Because those three entitlement programs are all on auto pilot. They increase at a certain percentage each year (determined by the bureaucracy) and keep growing and growing.
Oh yeah. Both parties talk a great game about controlling the budget. But they focus on minor stuff for the most part.
Sooner or later, someone is going to have to vote for an idea that has almost no political constituency - reducing benefits - or at least reducing the scheduled increases in benefits.
What's one way to pay out less in Social Security and Medicare? Raise the age by which you can qualify.
No one is going to do that right now. President Bush tried to get into that, but he had no power over the Congress. He gave up.
President Elect Obama talks a good game about controlling the budget, but not many people would want to put too much money on it.
The best time in terms of fiscal sanity over the last 40 years was during Bill Clinton's administration, when he had the White House and the GOP controlled the Congress.
They didn't really do anything about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security reform, but at least they held the overall budget in check.
Leadership is needed. But most elected officials in Washington, D.C. don't have it.