I think that at the moment the DC establishment (and, it seems, the American people) care too much about the deficit. But what’s especially galling is that you can’t get the establishment to see that the conservative movement doesn’t care at all about the deficit. Progressives range from people who care a bit about the deficit to people who care a lot, but conservatives almost to a man don’t care at all. Consider:
The Senate took a vote on extending the federal debt ceiling — without which the United States would go into default. All 40 Republicans voted no.
The Senate took a vote on requiring Congress not to pass legislation that it can’t pay for. All 40 Republicans voted no.
The Senate took a final vote on passing the overall plan. Thirty-nine Republicans voted no. The 40th, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), skipped the vote.
Steve Benen observes of PAYGO:
A similar rule was in place during the Clinton era, when the deficit was eliminated altogether. Republicans — you know, the ones who claim to have the high ground on fiscal responsibility — scrapped paygo in 2002. Soon after, GOP policymakers stopped trying to pay for their policies, and Republicans quickly added $5 trillion to the national debt, and left a $1.4 trillion deficit for Democrats to clean up.
When Obama tried to reduce the deficit by reducing the growth in Medicare spending, conservatives lambasted him. When he tried to reduce the deficit with higher taxes, conservatives lambasted him. And when he tried to add a very modest dose of restraint to the defense budget, they lambasted him. But there’s simply no other way to reduce the deficit.