IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID, CONT’D…. Another day, another piece in a major media outlet about Congress deliberately choosing to emphasize the deficit over economic growth and job creation. Congressional Republicans, not surprisingly, are unanimous in trying to undermine the economy, but far too many Democrats on the Hill have internalized right-wing talking points, too. In an election year, hand-wringing Dems actually believe they’ll be better off with a weaker economy. It’s bewildering.

In a major shift in congressional politics, Democrats have developed a severe case of sticker shock, just as many of their colleagues press to prime the pump of the economy in time for the mid-term congressional elections.

Now, even popular initiatives with widespread support … are stalled inside Congress…. But as the White House plans a push this summer to sell the results of last year’s massive stimulus bill, the prospects of any major new investment this year appear bleaker by the week.

It adds instability to a creaky economic recovery — and adds a new dimension to a volatile political year, as the White House watches its pull on Capitol Hill diminish as elections approach.

This is genuinely insane. The economy is struggling to get back on track, and more than a few panicky Dems have concluded, “Maybe now would be a good time to start listening to those who put us in the ditch in the first place.”

I mean, really. Are there Tea Party sympathizers out there who will vote against Dems over the huge deficit (which Republicans created)? Sure. But those votes are gone and won’t come back if Dems abandon their efforts to improve the economy — and they can be offset by votes earned by taking positive steps to create jobs.

There was a point not too long ago when Democrats thought the focus should be “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Now, with the elections drawing closer, some of the Dems have decided the focus should be “deficit, deficit, deficit” — a deficit that will, by the way, get worse if more Americans are unemployed.

As a result, recovery measures aren’t passing, unemployment benefits are ending, popular tax credits are languishing, and massive state layoffs are coming. Congress has the means to act, but it’s choosing not to.

I don’t want to overstate the Democratic role in this — most Dems are right where they need to be, and are up against a Republican Party that acts as if it’s trying to sabotage the national economy. Even if Dems were entirely united, moving forward would be difficult.

But the fact that there are any Dems at all who have decided to stop caring about economic growth is unfathomable. This is like ritual electoral suicide.

Paul Krugman asked today, “Spend now, while the economy remains depressed; save later, once it has recovered. How hard is that to understand?”

It’s much easier to understand than Dems who are so afraid of their own shadow that they’re losing their nerve just when the country needs them to step up.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.