In recent years the right-wing has effectively framed, and thereby controlled, the debate on the economy by focussing the economic discussion on the debt and deficits, with many serious people on the left and progressives tacitly agreeing that the debt and deficits are a problem, or at least will be in the long term. In reality, most of the recent addition to the debt and deficts are attributable to four major causes.
Those four causes are the Bush (43) tax cuts, the totally needless war in Iraq, the seeming interminable war in Afghanistan, and the reduced Federal revenues due to the Great Recession, which was caused in large part by the policies pursued by the George W. Bush administration. Notice that Social Security and Medicare are not among the major causes of the recent debt increase and deficits. The real causes of the recent debt increases and deficits are not systemic fiscal problems, that is, except for the remaining George W. Bush tax cuts, and they won't be if they are finally repealed.
By enabling the right-wing to frame the economic discussion solely on the debt and deficits, the left and progressives have allowed our real economic problems to go relatively unaddressed. The biggest economic problems we face are a lack of jobs and relatively high unemployment, which cause a lack of demand, which in turn causes a lack of economic growth. With sustained economic growth the deficits and debt become a smaller and smaller percentage of GDP and won't become a significant issue in the future.
Deficits can become a problem if they lead to inflation, however, there are no indications, and there have been none, even though the right-wing often brings the possibility of deficit and debt caused inflation into the discussion, that inflation is likely to become a problem any time soon.
The austerity that the right-wing is pushing is not a viable path to economic growth. A economic slowdown is the time to increase government spending, not decrease it. Government spending is the one type of spending and investment that can take the place of private spending that decreases during an econmic slowdown. The time to decrease government spending is during boom times when there is more than enough private spending to sustain a growing economy, not during down turns.
The left and progressives should focus the economic discussion on investment, growth, and jobs, as often is possible. And with regard to jobs, progressives should remind people that it's increasing middle class spending that causes private companies to add and create new jobs, not tax cuts for the wealthly. Progressives should also remind people that tax cuts for the wealthy are just about the least effective way to get more money into the economy and to create jobs.
I think the real reason the right-wing wants to focus on the debt deficits is so that they can use the suggested reduction in spending to try to undo the remaining social safety net that was created during the New Deal and the Great Society.
If those on the left and progressives don't allow the right-wing to frame the economic debate, and we focus Americans on the real economic problems that we face, there will much less of a chance that the right-wing can undo the social safety net that progressives worked so hard to put in place during the twentieth century.