If Republicans paid attention they'd see how fast the deficit is already shrinking. It was 8.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 2011. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts it will shrivel to 5.3 percent by the end of 2013 if we go over the fiscal cliff on March 1 -- and some $85 billion is cut from this year's federal budget. Even if March's fiscal cliff is avoided, the CBO expects the deficit to shrink to 5.5 percent of the GDP, in light of deficit reduction already scheduled to occur.
This is not something to celebrate. It translates into a significant drop in demand, with nothing to pick up the slack.
Look what happened in the fourth quarter of 2012. The economy contracted, largely because of a precipitous drop in defense spending. That may have been an anomaly; no one expects the economy to contract in the first quarter of 2013. But you'd be foolish to rule out a recession later this year.
The budget deficit and cumulative debt are not the "transcendent issue of our time." The transcendent issue is jobs and wages. Cutting the budget deficit now will only result in higher unemployment, lower wages, and more suffering.