Public Takes the Deficit Seriously? That's the Wehner Delusion

The public really doesn't care about deficit reduction.

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The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait cheekily coined the term “Wehner Fallacy” (in honor of former Bush administration official and current Commentary blogger Peter Wehner) to describe a “genre of propaganda” that ignores economic suffering and, instead, ascribes Democrats’ political troubles in toto to “public revulsion at the liberal agenda.”

It’s time to introduce something new--the Wehner Delusion. Or, to be more precise, the Puncturing of the Wehner Delusion. It’s sort of the equivalent for conservative activists and pundits of Battered Woman Syndrome: the quixotic belief that, this time--really, no foolin’--the people and their representatives have gotten serious about cutting spending.

A sufferer of the Wehner Delusion will, consequently, express bemusement or frustration when polling data unambiguously demonstrates that deficit reduction is not truly one of the public’s chief concerns. Or, similarly, when someone such as Sen. Jim DeMint reveals himself to be utterly unserious about cutting spending.

Here is the inaugural illustration of the Wehner Delusion, courtesy of Pete Wehner:

DeMint has been a relentless critic of big government and has rung the alarm bell on the size of our debt and the deficit. Yet on the overwhelming fiscal threat of our time--the entitlement crisis--DeMint not only doesn’t have anything constructive to say; he actually is arguing against any cuts for Social Security and Medicare.

As it happens, I’m in intellectual sympathy with Wehner on this one. The difference, I suppose, is that I’m a rank cynic.

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