BERNANKE GETS SPECIFIC ON GOP-FORCED JOB LOSSES…. Congressional Republicans seemed quite pleased with themselves yesterday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke commented on the GOP’s spending-cut plan. As Bernanke sees it, economic projections showing 700,000 job losses resulting from the Republican proposal were overstated.

GOP officials were delighted. They shouldn’t have been.

Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that House GOP’s 2011 spending plan would likely cost “a couple hundred thousand jobs,” a number he called “not trivial.”

Bernanke’s testimony Wednesday was more specific than what he offered Tuesday before a Senate committee, in which he said he couldn’t put a number on the number of jobs the GOP spending package would eliminate.

His comments buttress House Democrats’ warnings that the bill will put people out of work.

Ya think?

Look, I realize that different economists have come up with different numbers. Bernanke believes the Republican plan would cost the nation a couple hundred thousand jobs; Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi puts the number at 700,000 job losses; the Economic Policy Institute projects job losses of just over 800,000; and data from the Center for American Progress found the proposal would force roughly 975,000 Americans from their jobs. Goldman Sachs didn’t offer specific numbers on job losses, but it believes the GOP plan would cost us up to 2% of GDP, pushing the U.S. economy closer to a recession.

They obviously can’t all be right. But there’s one thing all of the projections have in common: they all show the Republican plan making American unemployment much worse.

The question Congress has to ask itself is why on earth anyone would push a proposal that would cost the United States hundreds of thousands of jobs right now.

The question the media has to ask itself is why this, and not the size of proposed spending cuts, isn’t at the heart of the debate. If there’s an argument over which of these numbers is the most accurate, fine, let’s have the argument. But at this point, we haven’t even reached a he-said/she-said dynamic (“Democrats said the GOP plan would make unemployment worse; Republicans said, ‘So be it.’”) If Republicans have competing projections, let’s see them.

For a month, the debate has been limited to who wants to cut what, and consequences have been left out of the conversation. If even Bernanke — a Republican, no less — sees what Democrats see, isn’t it time for a shift in the debate?

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.