The One Question That Should Be Asked at Tonight’s Debate but Certainly Won’t

Vice President Joe Biden

Photograph by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

Here’s one question I’m all but certain won’t be asked tonight but really should: Given that both tickets are running on rival deficit reduction plans, could you explain to the American people what problem in the typical person’s life today would be ameliorated by a smaller deficit?

I think the right answer is: Nothing. Not because the deficit never matters. There are some times in American history when one could credibly say that deficit reduction would make it cheaper and easier for a person to get a mortgage (or refinance an existing one) or a small business loan. There might be a time when you could say that deficit reduction would strengthen the value of the dollar and raise the average person’s real purchasing power. But today? I think nothing. And yet politicians who are eager to shoehorn their long-term economic policy preferences into a deficit reduction frame are almost never asked to explain why deficit reduction is important.