I recommend Jonathan Chait's analysis of Mitt Romney's demagoguery on the debt and deficit. I want to comment on one part of it:
Not only does Romney elide vast swaths of established facts about the deficit, it's fairly clear that he does not operate within the mainstream understanding of the term "deficit" at all. As Jonathan Bernstein has repeatedly explained, modern Republican behavior and even language in relation to the deficit is completely nonsensical if you understand "the deficit" to mean the gap between revenue and outlays. Republican use of the term only makes sense if you define "the deficit" to mean "spending Republicans don't like." That's why Republicans consider it impossible to believe that one could simultaneously extend health insurance to the uninsured while reducing the deficit.
Look at Romney's terms to describe deficits, and it's pretty clear he has adapted himself to his party's conceptualization of it. His speech includes the following phrases:
a financial crisis of debt and spendingIn Romney's telling, the terms debt and spending are essentially interchangeable. When presented with Obama's position -- that the solution to the debt ought to include both higher taxes and lower spending -- he rejects it out of hand.
Washington has been spending too much money
out-of-control spending sprees, or to piling up massive amounts of debt
This is why I do not, for one moment, share my opponent's belief that our spending problems can be solved with more taxes.
Well, of course Romney treats "debt" and "spending" as if they're interchangeable terms -- ordinary Americans struggle to understand the national debt and budget deficits, and, being a Republican, Romney's certainly not going to make understanding these concepts any easier, is he? Much better for the GOP if Romney takes advantage of the fact that the public already confuses debt and spending; it's much better for the party if Romney reinforces that sense of confusion, which the GOP has spent years trying to induce. The right has the American people just where it wants them -- misunderstanding these things in precisely this way, and thus blaming all debt and deficits on the spenders. Romney's just carrying on the right's existing work, which has borne great fruit for the party.
Democrats compound the problem because they're afraid to say that there are good government programs that voters clearly want, and therefore those programs need to be funded, and therefore taxes are necessary, which means the important thing is to take in an appropriate amount from an appropriate mix of taxpayers, not to just look for spending cuts. Democrats will never, ever say this outright -- even though everyone now knows that the public wants the rich to be taxed more, and even though people often say they'd pay more in taxes to pay for popular programs -- because Democrats never want to remind voters that government exists.
So Mitt deceives voters on how budgets work, even though we know he (unlike a lot of Republicans, including officeholders) knows better. But we knew he was a cynic, didn't we?