One thing is for sure. The deficit hawks have been very successful at making the deficit a top priority in Washington. There wasn't too much complaining about it by the neocons when it was being created by Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. In the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression we finally have a Democratic President that's acting like a Republican and running up the deficit. So finally it's time to talk about blocking efforts to raise the debt ceiling, despite the fact that this could lead to economic catastrophe. It's time to think about failing to deliver Social Security checks. It's time to consider the austerity measures that have worked so well in Africa, Latin America, and Haiti. In fact these austerity measures are now imposed on the East Asian tigers. And their formerly rapid economic growth has slowed, particularly in South Korea and Taiwan. They've been forced to accept austerity in wake of the 1997 East Asian banking crisis.
But OK, let's say they are right and we need to get this deficit under control. There's three obvious ways to do it.
1-Raise taxes on the wealthy. Trickle down economic theories have failed. The theory involved a two part process. First you see to it that the rich have more money in their pockets. You then look for them to invest which leads to jobs and wealth for everyone else. As Rush Limbaugh points out, he's never been offered a job by a poor person. So we got the first part. Plenty of money in the pockets of the rich. The second part never materialized. Corporations are sitting on tons of cash. They aren't investing it. That's their choice and what we might expect them to do. But what this means is taxing some of that won't affect job creation much. So the left supports this policy change.
2-Reform our health care system to where it is more like what exists in the rest of the industrialized world. If history is a guide we should expect about half the cost and much improved outcomes. Medicare is the largest single cause of our deficit problems. Cut our health care costs in half and the deficit is gone. The left supports this policy change (though Obama blocked it).
3-End our various pointless wars. Greenwald has some excellent points in this regard. I can hardly keep track of how many wars are going on right now. I see no point in Afghanistan or Libya. This is some really expensive stuff. Right now ending the wars wouldn't entirely wipe out the deficit, but it would go a long way. The left supports this policy change (though obviously Obama does not).
Your typical Republican opposes all three of these. And yet he pretends to care about the deficit. And that concern is only expressed when a Democratic President is in charge. So I think we can dismiss Republican concern with contempt as purely faux outrage and concern.
But of course it's not just Republicans. Obama wants to let the Bush tax cuts expire, so he supports point 1 above. But as far as spending cuts, it's not the obvious (2 and 3). He wants to cut Social Security expenditures. Maybe Krugman is right. They don't really care about deficits. What they want to do is dismantle the welfare state.