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

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 11 2012 7:51 PM

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

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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.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.