People Really Don’t Care About Deficits

I’ve mentioned this before, but Jamison Foser realizes that smart politicians know people don’t care about deficits (boldface mine):

The audience member asks Bush how the “national debt” has effected him personally. Bush [in the 1992 Bush-Clinton debate] rather obviously doesn’t understand what she means. He talks about interest rates and abstractions. Then it’s Clinton’s turn, and he recognizes that when the questioner asked about the “national debt,” she really meant the poor economy.* So he talked about factories closing, people losing jobs and unable to afford health care, declining wages, people “working harder for less money than they were ten years ago,” and so on.

Clinton’s answer was better not just because it was stylistically better, but because he addressed voters’ real concerns rather than the precise word the questioner used. People don’t really care about deficits. They think they do, because the political and media elite can’t stop obsessing over deficits, so it’s a word voters know. But when they use it, they’re using it as a proxy for other things. That’s the lesson politicians and the media should’ve learned from the 1992 debate, if they didn’t already know it… it’s the economy people are worried about, and their own financial condition. Help improve that, and voters’ concerns about deficits will disappear, even if deficits continue.

It seems like last night maybe Obama figured this out. Don’t know if he really believes it though.

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