While the president and his minions play smear games against the GOP, the economy is figuratively burning down. The Post reports:

The nation would be plunged into a deep recession during the first half of next year if Congress fails to avert nearly $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit in January, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday.

The massive round of New Year’s belt-tightening — variously known as the fiscal cliff or Taxmageddon — would disrupt recent economic progress, push the unemployment rate back up to 9.1 percent by the end of 2013 and cause economic conditions “that will probably be considered a recession,” the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said.

But the president refuses to deal with that mess until after the election (by then, we’ll be well on our way to the recession). The irresponsibility is staggering.

The CBO contends that unemployment would go over 9 percent as the economy contracts another .5 percent.

Moreover, the economy is worsening, coming in below expectations. (“In addition, CBO analysts concluded that the underlying economy is weaker than previously predicted. In its latest budget outlook, the CBO predicts the federal deficit will be $1.1 trillion in the fiscal year that ends in September, marking the fourth straight year of deficits in excess of $1 trillion.”)

The Obama team seems convinced that it can win the election on smears and tactics. (Tie Akin to Romney! Holler ‘Bain’!) It is either in denial or oblivious to the fact that actual events — and real things like the economy — may motivate voters. And it seems never to have dawned on the team that it needs concrete policies (e.g., Social Security and Medicare reform) of its own.

It is not even as if the negative attacks are working. The Post reports: “A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 41 percent of Americans view the new GOP vice presidential nominee favorably, while 37 percent rate him unfavorably — slightly improved from last week’s polling. Among seniors, though, the numbers are even better for Ryan: 50 percent favorable and 35 percent unfavorable. Fully one-third of seniors say they have a strongly favorable view of the Wisconsin congressman, while one-quarter have a strongly unfavorable view.” The Obama camp no doubt believes (More cowbell!) it hasn’t run enough attack ads. But maybe, just maybe, the poll numbers reflect voters’ own assessment that Paul Ryan is congenial and talking earnestly about actual policies (e.g., energy, Medicare).

The gap between, on one hand, what is happening in the real world and what voters care about and, on the other, what the Obama camp and much of the media push is as vast as it has even been. In an idealized (or even responsible) journalistic environment, we’d be focused on possible war with Iran (a very real possibility) and the looming recession. Instead, the media, following like lemmings behind the Obama parade, are still fixated on Todd Akin. Unfortunately, this is now par for the course.

Refusing to play on that terrain, the Romney-Ryan team has latched onto a smart “strategy” — talk about issues, point to evidence in the real world, offer actual policies and rebut forcefully the merits of the Democratic spin. That might not work. But it’s nice to think that facts and reality matter more than bile, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent to bamboozle us. Really, if that isn’t the case, our democracy has bigger problems than the recession.

UPDATE (11:45 a.m.): House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wastes no time, putting out this statement: “This CBO report underscores why on August 1, I and other House GOP leaders urged the Senate to follow the House in passing legislation that would steer our nation clear of the fiscal cliff. Instead of threatening to drive us off the fiscal cliff and tank our economy in their quest for higher taxes, I would urge President Obama and congressional Democrats to work with us to stop the coming tax hike that threatens our economy and replace the looming defense cuts with common sense reforms.”

House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) chimes in: “The economy isn’t growing. As the CBO makes clear, the President’s push for higher taxes on small businesses and failure to prevent devastating defense cuts threaten our national security, jobs and economic growth. The House has acted to stop the tax hike and replace the sequester with common sense reforms. Weeks ago, Congressional Republican leaders asked the President and Senate Democrats to work with us on a bipartisan solution to these economic threats. The clock is ticking, but Democrats continue to stall. With four years of trillion dollar deficits and an economy threatened by the President’s failed policies, Americans deserve real leadership that will create jobs, responsibly reduce our massive debt and return economic growth and prosperity.”