The most important question in politics

The unemployment rate is still at 9 percent. According to Gallup, 35 percent of people say the economy is their top concern, and 22 percent say jobs. Just 12 percent cite the federal deficit and debt. Republicans have taken the top concern of roughly one-eighth of the public and made it their existential cause. On top of that, they have taken a subset of the debt issue, the long-term fiscal sustainability of Medicare, and made it their calling card.

If political life were fair, they’d be rewarded for their farsightedness. Medicare’s trustees report that the trust fund that covers hospital stays will go broke in 2024, five years earlier than forecast just last year. But bureaucratic reports about threats more than ten years off don’t hit people where they live, especially not during a recovery that still feels like a recession.

If you are worried about the security of your job, if your personal income is stagnant, if the value of your home is still declining, and if you are paying more for food and fuel, the perilous state of a government program circa 2024 that you know, one way or the other, will never be permitted to go bankrupt is not a subject of proverbial kitchen-table conversation.