Presidential campaigns aren't where you look for honest, serious discussion of economic policy. Usually, the candidates confine themselves to slogans; sometimes, as with George W Bush, we also get a moron. But in this election, something very different is going on. For the first time, we are explicitly seeing the effects of America's new political duopoly.
Both Obama and Romney are very intelligent men. And yet, both of them are completely avoiding, or being dishonest about, huge economic issues – even when their opponent is highly vulnerable to attack. Thus, we have the bizarre spectacle of a Republican ex-private equity banker attacking the Democrat on unemployment, while the Democrat argues gamely that if we just give him more time, everything will be fine – which we all know is not true. Both men say vaguely that they will "reform Washington", when neither means it.
Neither of them says a serious word about the causes of the financial crisis; the lack of prosecution of banks and bankers; sharply rising inequality in educational opportunity, income and wealth; energy policy and global warming; America's competitive lag in broadband infrastructure; the impact of industrialized food on healthcare costs; the last decade's budget deficits and the resultant national debt; or the large-scale, permanent elimination of millions of less-skilled jobs through both globalization and advances in robotics and artificial intelligence.