THE GOP PLAN TO MAKE UNEMPLOYMENT MUCH WORSE…. The number one issue on the minds of most Americans is job creation. With that in mind, it seems rather important that congressional Republicans are pushing a plan that would make unemployment much worse, on purpose.

A Republican plan to sharply cut federal spending this year would destroy 700,000 jobs through 2012, according to an independent economic analysis set for release Monday.

The report, by Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, offers fresh ammunition to Democrats seeking block the Republican plan, which would terminate dozens of programs and slash federal appropriations by $61 billion over the next seven months.

Zandi, an architect of the 2009 stimulus package who has advised both political parties, predicts that the GOP package would reduce economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year, and by 0.2 percentage points in 2012, resulting in 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of next year.

Zandi also had bad news for liberal Democrats who are resisting sharp spending cuts: Bringing deficits down to sustainable levels will require more than a growing economy.

If this seems familiar, it’s because it’s not the first report to raise this point. The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank, relying on data compiled by the Center for American Progress, found that the Republican budget plan would force roughly 975,000 Americans from their jobs. What’s more, just last week, economists at Goldman Sachs estimated that the GOP proposal would reduce economic growth by as much as 2% of GDP, which would cause the unemployment rate to go up about a point.

How is it this isn’t at the heart of the debate over the budget? How far off track is the public discourse when an entire chamber of Congress, in the midst of a jobs crisis, approves a plan to make the crisis much worse, and this is considered only tangentially relevant?

Greg Sargent, noting the Zandi and Goldman Sachs analyses, added:

Even if you disagree with these analyses, you’d think the fact that there are now two of them reaching similar conclusions would be newsworthy enough to break through the din of Beltway deficit-reduction fetishizing. The argument about budget cuts is too often framed solely as an argument between so-called deficit “hawks” and “doves,” as a dispute between those who say steep cuts are necessary and those who say they’re cruel and extreme. The fact that outside analysts think that budget cuts could actively hamper the recovery deserves to be part of the discussion.

I couldn’t agree more. For weeks, the larger policy conversation has focused almost exclusively on spending cuts and deficit reduction, with a striking disregard for the consequences. The debate itself is so detached from reality, it’s hard to even believe the extent to which we’re stuck in the wrong conversation — Republicans ran on a “where are the jobs” platform, got elected, and are aggressively pushing a plan that they know will make unemployment much worse.

We can have a debate about why the GOP is doing this — irrational fear of inflation, politically-motivated economic sabotage, etc. — but after multiple reports, the effects of the Republican plan themselves are no longer a mystery.

This deserves to be the lead story for every major news outlet covering the debate. There’s no more important angle to the electorate that still says economic growth and job creation trump everything else.

I would, by the way, gladly note the Republicans’ response to this, but as far as I can tell, the GOP doesn’t have one. The House majority has seen these multiple projections, showing steep job losses, that Republicans have responded with nothing — no projections, no competing sets of numbers, no hearings on the effects of their cuts, nothing.

If midterm voters aren’t feeling some buyer’s remorse right about now, they’re just not paying attention.

Update: Also, don’t forget that as far as Republicans are concerned, the ultimate attack on any policy is to call it “job-killing.” If Dems don’t start using this in the budget fight, they’re missing an important opportunity.

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.