Here it is: Scientific proof of the `Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop’

The other day, I argued that we are increasingly caught in what might be called a “Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop.” 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.

Now the National Journal has done us all a good turn by publishing a new study that seems to confirm that this phenomenom is having a palpable impact on our political coverage. The study concludes that major newspapers are increasingly obsessed with the deficit at the exptense of the economy:

Major U.S. newspapers have increasingly shifted their attention away from coverage of unemployment in recent months while greatly intensifying their focus on the deficit, a National Journal analysis shows.

The analysis — based on a measure of how often the words “unemployment” and “deficit” appear in major publications — portrays a dramatically shifting landscape of coverage over the past two years, as the debate over how to fix the federal deficit has risen to prominence and the question of how to handle still-high unemployment has faded from the media’s consciousness.

Click through the link for the study’s methodology, but take particular note of this conclusion:

That major newspapers and other media outlets have covered the deficit with greater intensity in recent months should come as no surprise given the focus of the politicians and policymakers they cover. The declining mentions of unemployment are perhaps more surprising, as the issue remains salient for millions of Americans.

And of course, the increasing media focus on the deficit only exacerbates the original dynamic, worrying voters more and more about the deficit and persuading public officials that they should spend still more time focused on it. And on, and on, and on. If this study is even remotely accurate, that’s as close to confirmation of the Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop’s true existence as one could ask for. Living proof!

(H/T Taegan Goddard.)

UPDATE: Let me add that the Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop has actual consequences, exacerbating a dynamic in which the range of acceptable views on the economy, as Atrios notes today, is shifting ever rightward.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.

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