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John Dickerson wants someone to explain a little better why deficit reduction is suddenly so important:

Politicians haven’t gotten better at delivering this message to people. Why do we have to reduce the deficit? And do we have to do it quickly? How will a smaller deficit improve the life of the average citizen?

It’s an assumption of the current debate that these questions have already been answered. Politicians have jumped ahead to stage two of the debate: the competition over who can do more deficit-reducing. But both parties should go back to square one: Here’s why we need to do it in the first place. The party that wins the political battle will be the one that makes this case most clearly to the public, because if people buy the diagnosis they’ll be more likely to buy the prescription.

Dickerson has been a reliable deficit scold recently, and a friend of mine is annoyed. “It’s almost as if he’s saying ‘Will somebody please explain to me what these parroted lines of mine mean?’ ” he says.

I guess I’d be a wee bit more charitable. Presumably Dickerson himself thinks he knows why the deficit is so important, but also thinks that the good word hasn’t soaked through to the common man yet. And without that, our all-important budget cutting will never have enough public support to happen.

But if that’s what he thinks, I’ll bet he’s wrong. So here’s a challenge to Dickerson: without making any phone calls or doing any Google searches, write 500 words on why deficit reduction is so important. Write that speech you think the president should give! But lock yourself in your office and do it off the top of your head. Demonstrate to us that you really do understand why deficit reduction is so critical. Ten bucks says you don’t get it right.

(Hint: your answer should not contain the words hyperinflation or Greece. It should contain the word healthcare.)

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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