"I will balance the federal budget by the end of my first term" is one of those grandiose pledges (like "Read my lips -- no new taxes" and "I will begin withdrawing troops from Iraq on Day 1 of my administration") so ridiculous on their face that we shouldn't even be talking about it, except to heap scorn on the person making it:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) plans to promise on Monday that he will balance the federal budget by the end of his first term by curbing wasteful spending and overhauling entitlement programs, including Social Security, his advisers told Politico.
[. . .]
In the long-term, the only way to keep the budget balanced is successful reform of the large spending pressures in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,” the McCain campaign says in a policy paper to be released Monday.
Why is "wasteful spending" like the weather? 'Cause everybody talks about it, but nobody ever does anything. And it is true that long-term fiscal sanity has to involve entitlement programs. But he's going to bring those under control in four years with a Democratic Congress? Even with a Republican Congress, it would be a fool's promise.