Published: Nov 24, 2012 8:17 AM EST
Updated: Nov 25, 2012 7:30 AM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama and leaders of the lame-duck Congress may be just weeks away from shaking hands on a deal to avert the dreaded "fiscal cliff."

So it's natural to wonder that if they announce a bipartisan package promising to rein in growing federal deficits, will the agreement be real?

Look for specific deficit-cutting targets in writing for each of the next 10 years, and how the savings are be divided between tax increases and spending cuts. Spoken promises are less impressive.

New revenues from higher tax rates on top-earning Americans would resolve the toughest obstacle to a deal. Closing tax loopholes will prove extremely difficult.

How specific are the savings from big, costly benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare? That's where the money is.