But they are no more insulting than Romney's platitudes and unworkable promises. The Republican says he would get the economy moving again by shrinking government and getting it out of our way. Which regulations would he do away with — those that protect the environment, public health and safe workplaces? He says he would reduce tax rates and broaden the tax-collecting base. Which deductions would he abolish or limit: mortgage interest; charitable contributions; health insurance? Romney says the federal government can spend far less as a share of the economy. What would he cut, other than his brave commitment to go after Amtrak and the National Endowment for the Arts? We don't know, we don't know and (other than his vow to block-grant Medicaid and so put at risk health care for the poor) we don't know.
Both candidates portray this election as a stark choice between radically different governing philosophies, and we tend to think that is true. But each has been more eager to scare voters about his opponent's worldview than to explain how his own could cope with 21st-century problems. Slow economic growth, rising inequality, uncapped entitlement spending, suffocating debt: None of these is inevitable for the nation. But they are the endpoint of our current path. Voters have a right to hear how their leaders would avert these outcomes.