This quote from Thomas Jefferson is something that both Presidential candidates would be well advised to heed:
"I place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt."
Failure to live within our means - and to insist that our government does likewise - is the greatest single cause of the current financial crisis. That means we, and the government, must reduce spending, while increased taxes are a real possibility.
An honest candidate will tell us about his preferred policies and the methods by which he will achieve the objective of a long term budget surplus so as to pay down the national debt. A dishonest candidate (so far both are accumulating dishonesty points at a rapid rate) will shuffle and avoid the question.
Talk about cutting waste, fraud, earmarks and abuse is intellectually dishonest when defense, Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the national debt account for over two thirds of government outlays.
Interest on the national debt is untouchable, unless we want to create an even greater financial crisis than the present one. After seven years of war in Afghanistan, and five years in Iraq, with no end in sight, our armed services need major expenditures to restore them to their previous strength.
We can reduce some discretionary expenditures but the new President will have to face down the special interests, including government employees, who might lose jobs or funding to which they consider themselves entitled. The likely savings will not be nearly at the levels implied by the candidates.
That leaves Social Security, Medicare and taxes.
It is time to level with the American public. We are adults, even though politicians find that hard to believe, and will sacrifice for our country if those who wish to lead us will only make the case.
Regrettably, our politicians resemble no one so much as Robespierre who, while at a social engagement during the French Revolution, spotted a mob rushing down the street. As he left, he is alleged to have said: "there go my followers - I must go lead them."
Public opinion polls are the modern mob. Our politicians must have the courage to defy the mob, and to trust their own judgements, even if the result is electoral defeat.