James Carville, former Bill Clinton campaign adviser, on Tuesday called on Democrats to focus on rebuilding the middle-class instead of accepting the conventional wisdom that cutting the deficit was the most important issue facing America.

"I think we make a fundamental error," he told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. "The biggest problem we have in the country is the deficit. You say, let's cut entitlements because the deficit is the biggest problem. If you say the biggest problem is that the middle class is shrinking -- it would clearly shrink if the deficit got too high -- but that would lead you to a conclusion, let's cut health care costs. That's the easiest way to cut the deficit. But the Washington consensus is we have to cut entitlements."

"When people do focus groups and political people all come back and say the same thing, people are breaking down crying," Carville continued. "They're breaking down crying, people say the same thing, 'I'm one disease away from the end.' They're taking children back in their house, they're changing jobs. People are starting lawn mower businesses when they're 55-years-old, and the Washington consenses is, ah-ha, this person can't have Medicare, or the Washington consensus is, cut their Social Security."

He implied no one would be talking about the federal deficit if it were not for Republicans, and said Democrats should work to cut the cost of health care and education.

"[When] I grew up, that was the ticket to prosperity," Carville explained. "If you got an education, you knew it was going to pay for itself. That was the best investment you could make. Now, not so sure."

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