IT’S NOT A GAME…. House Speaker John Boehner was asked this morning about expected job losses as a result of Republican budget cuts. “In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs,” he said. “If some of those jobs are lost so be it.”

Asked exactly how many thousands of Americans would be left unemployed as a result of GOP cuts, Boehner said he didn’t know. Apparently, he doesn’t care, either.

Democrats, not surprisingly, are on the offensive. Time‘s Mark Halperin thinks Dems are choosing to “ignore a real debate.”

Both sides engage in this kind of all-hands-on-deck exploitation of stray remarks by the opposition to try to win a wipe-out victory in one or more news cycles. From the DNC to liberal interest groups to Democratic members of Congress, the piling on Boehner is meant to drown out discussion of issues and define the budget fight on favorable terms. Again, Republicans pull this stunt too all the time. It is one of the Beltway’s most unattractive sideshows, even when (especially when) it becomes the main event.

This strikes me as wildly off-base. Halperin is arguing, in effect, that this is some kind of superficial “gotcha” moment, and little more than a distraction from what should be a substantive debate.

But that’s just not the case. Job creation and the 9% unemployment rate represent a national crisis and the top priority for Americans nationwide. The Speaker of the House, by his own admission, prefers a budget plan that would make unemployment worse, on purpose. This morning, Boehner had no qualms about admitting that his own policies would put thousands of Americans out of work — and he doesn’t care.

This wasn’t a “stray remark”; it was an acknowledgement of the most serious flaw in Republican budgetary policy, which as best as I can tell, is pretty important this week. To care about Boehner’s concession isn’t to “ignore a real debate”; it’s to appreciate the debate that matters most.

John Boehner intends to force thousands of teachers, police officers, medical professionals, and food inspectors from their jobs, and this morning said he doesn’t much care. Under the circumstances, the question isn’t why Democrats find this interesting — the question is why Mark Halperin doesn’t.

Steve Benen

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.