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Midterm campaigns skirted the hard issues

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WASHINGTON – We’ll know soon who won the fiercely contested midterm elections, but we already know who lost: We all did. This election has been a referendum on U.S. President Donald Trump, which suits both Republicans and Democrats just fine. Democrats are betting that the public has increasingly tired of Trump’s lies and his vile style. Trump and his supporters believe that Democrats are again underestimating his popular appeal.

What’s been missing is any realistic engagement with the difficult issues facing America. In democracies, elections serve not only to select a country’s leadership. They also aim to gauge public opinion on the hard issues and to see whether any consensus is possible. The present campaign has featured very little of this constructive politics.

What are some of the hard issues? There’s no secret. Start with budget deficits. In fiscal 2018, the gap between federal spending and revenues was $782 billion, nearly 4 percent of gross domestic product. That’s up $116 billion from 2017. Based on current spending and taxes, the Congressional Budget Office expects large deficits forever.

With a 3.7 percent unemployment rate, no one can attribute these deficits to a weak economy. Put simply, Americans want more........

© The Japan Times