Here's some evidence that the "Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop" Greg Sargent has been writing about might have been broken. He's posited that the "relentless bipartisan focus on the deficit convinces voters to be worried about it, which in turn leads lawmakers to spend still more time talking about it and less time talking about the economy."
Maybe it's just that the economy and job situation has become so dire that public opinion has dramatically shifted, or maybe it's the way the questions are being asked in public opinion surveys, that keep showing concern about the deficit. Either way, a five-month Gallup tracking poll reflects a great deal of concern in the American public over jobs and the economy.
A majority of Americans, fifty-five percent, have said that either the economy in general or unemployment in particular is the most important problem facing the country in 2011, according to an average of Gallup’s tracking poll results from January to May. Meanwhile, only thirteen percent of Americans have said that the federal budget deficit is the most important problem during a period where discussion of the deficit dominated the agenda in Washington. [emphasis]
Those focusing on the deficit are actually a pretty good representation of the Beltway: "male, white and making over $75,000 a year." But they are a definite minority within their demographic of white and male. "Men, whites, adults younger than 65, Republicans, independents, and those earning at least $30,000 per year are all more likely to cite the economy in general than unemployment or jobs. Conversely, unemployment is the top issue for blacks, seniors, and low-income Americans. The two issues tie among women and Democrats."
While the Beltway seems to be caught in the deficit feedback loop, the American people don't seem to be trapped there, anymore. Men who don't make over $75K a year, women, white people, black people, Independents, Republicans, and Democrats all thing the economy and jobs are the most important issue facing the country. That sounds like a mandate to me.