Jonathan Chait listens to NPR, which uses its Neutral Omniscient voice to casually refer to the national debt as "the biggest problem facing the nation." Ugh.
As Chait notes, this really is the triumph of Pete Peterson. It's also the outcome of what Greg Sargent calls the "Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop." After all, anyone listening to NPR is going to tend to believe that the national debt is very important. Politicians, knowing that, are going to hesitate to dismiss its importance, and even more to the point are going to find it costly to say anything positive about deficits, even when they believe (or at least their economic advisors believe) that deficits are appropriate policy.
What it isn't, of course, is a factual statement of an objective condition. As Chait points out, calling anything the "biggest problem facing the nation" is going to be opinion, not fact. Even if you agree with Peterson about deficits, Chait is correct. Nice catch!