Jonathan Chait asks a question:
Insincerely Yours: JThe anti-deficit lobby is a powerful force in American political life. The lobby consists of a loosely aligned network of think-tanks, institutions (many funded by Pete Peterson), and allied journalists. Of course, the anti-deficit lobby does not always win — indeed, it usually loses,as its basic mission runs in opposition to the general tendency of politicians to avoid unpopular choices as well as the specific ideology of the modern Republican Party (“Reagan proved deficits don’t matter”), which refuses to accept the notion that revenue levels ought to bear any relation to spending. The anti-deficit lobby has had extraordinary success, though, in making the deficit the top item on the Washington agenda....
You have one side embracing its proposal, and the other side rejecting it, and the instinct of the anti-deficit lobbyist is... to urge the former to embrace its position. Aside from the bizarre disconnect from political reality, this simply highlights a huge problem with the incentive structure. Aren’t you supposed to reward politicians who agree with you, and impose some cost on those who oppose you?
Paul Krugman answers it:
[I]t makes no sense — unless you consider the possibility that the anti-deficit lobby doesn’t really care about deficits.... [I]ts real agenda (not always consciously) is to dismantle the welfare state, with deficit fears as the excuse, then the seemingly bizarre positioning makes perfect sense. Democrats trying to preserve the essence of the New Deal and the Great Society are always deemed insufficiently committed.... Republicans eager to tear the whole thing down are serious people, never mind their obsession with budget-busting tax cuts.... My sense is that there are very few true deficit hawks; the vast majority of those who claim that title are really just using the deficit to pursue the goal of a more unequal society.
Occasionally a professional "deficit hawk" manages to emerge from the defensive we-give-prizes-to-Republicans-even-though-they-always-vote-to-cut-taxes-rather-than-cut-the-deficit crouch to say something reality-based.
Today, Peter Gorenstein quotes David Walker:
GOP Being “Very Unreasonable”: Could Lose House Over Debt Ceiling Debate, Walker Says | Fin - Daily Ticker - US - Yahoo! Finance: The President is committed to playing "long ball" while the GOP is now settling for "small ball" is how former U.S. comptroller General and current CEO of Comeback America Initiative David Walker describes the current state of affairs. That puts the President in the driver's seat politically, Walker tells Aaron in the accompanying clip. "He's clearly exhibiting leadership and now the Republicans are on retreat." In contrast to President Obama, "the Republicans right now are looking very unreasonable to independents," argues Walker. And, if progress is not made on fundamental issues, Walker believes it could cost the Republicans the House of Representatives in 2012...
And sometime ago Clive Crook said that if the Republicans resist raising the debt ceiling and use it as a political football that they would risk and would deserve political annihilation.
But experience shows that they soon return to their both-political-parties-are-equally-at-fault-don't-bother-me-with-facts crouch...