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WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Sure the rich may have to pay more in taxes. But a "fiscal cliff" budget deal could mean pain for nearly everyone else, too: higher airline ticket prices, for example, an end to Saturday mail delivery, fewer food stamps and lower farm subsidies.
Each of those changes would make some powerful constituency angry. And even if approved, they would be only a drop in the bucket toward reducing future deficits by trillions of dollars.
Still, all are being looked to as an immediate "down payment" on a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, a looming $500 billion combination of automatic spending cuts and tax increases in the first nine months of next year alone.
Every dollar counts, even when the totals are pretty modest compared with a trillion dollars in tax increases and equal or bigger cuts to the huge government health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid that drive the federal budget.
That could mean federal workers, including the military, may soon be contributing more toward their pensions. Republicans may revive efforts to deny child tax credit payments to illegal immigrants. In all, the White House says it can generate $250 billion over coming years, including billions of dollars from selling excess federal property.
At issue are a handful of longstanding options to trim the federal budget. Several of them, such as increasing airline ticket fees to pay for Transportation Security Administration operations, are ideas from the budgets of both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
The ideas have been blocked by opponents â¿¿ often powerful lobbying groups like the airline industry or public employee unions. They have come back to life as policymakers struggle for ways to defray annual trillion-dollar-plus budget deficits.
"All this stuff is hard. There's nothing easy here," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a member of last year's failed deficit supercommittee, which sifted through a long roster of budget cuts and new fees. "But if everybody feels like everybody else is contributing, it makes it easier."