Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
The days of easy money have ended the way they always do with a financial crash. With warnings we could be headed for another Great Depression, the presidential campaign's holiday from facts must come to a screeching halt.
It's time for truth telling. John McCain and Barack Obama need to come clean about the causes and consequences of Wall Street's meltdown. Neither has because it would require them to admit there are no quick fixes and that most of us are part of the problem.
Maybe we should get them together and put them under oath before we let them talk about the crisis because so far it's been politics-as-usual. Both are talking in platitudes and nibbling around the edges of the truth. Unnamed "regulators" and greedy "speculators" and fat cat CEOs are getting all the blame.
Obama rightly sees an ideological bias against even reasonable regulation by the Bush administration, but does he really intend to mount a campaign based on a demand for more regulation? There's a winning slogan: I promise more red tape!
McCain initially said there are enormous strengths in our economy, but attacks over that politically incorrect truth turned him stupid. He, too, talks as though we're a nation of innocent victims blindsided by crooks who sold us houses we didn't want and couldn't afford.
Right. Anybody who buys that baloney will soon be in the market for a bridge.
Let's try some honesty. We you and me and our government, all of us have been living in fantasyland about credit cards and mortgages. We wanted to have it all and we pretended we could.
We forgot that a successful con game involves two greedy people, one preying on the other. And if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Both political parties aided and abetted the crime against the law of economics, with the skids greased by support from advocates and the dollars of lobbyists.
Look at how the patterns repeated. Wall Street banks borrowed as much as $40 for every dollar they invested, just as homeowners saw no problem in getting a house without a down payment and a mortgage they couldn't afford.
They were called "liar loans" and everybody, from borrowers to banks, signed on. And now that it's all going bad, everybody is a victim deserving a bailout.
Washington did a similar thing, borrowing from cash-rich foreign governments to fund everything from the Iraq war to the rebate checks sent out last summer. In a generation, we became the greatest debtor nation in history.
Day in, day out we borrow money from China to buy their toys and to buy oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. How crazy is that?
It's a Ponzi scheme that worked only as long as the next sucker bought in. Many of those suckers turned out to have been in Asia and Europe, which is why this is a global crisis.
The days of denial can't be replaced with glib finger-pointing and false promises of rosy dawns. If the next President doesn't level with the American people, he will take office under the fraudulent idea that we can just muddle through without painful sacrifices. That's a formula for a failed presidency.
Obama and McCain need to tell the truth and lay out comprehensive plans for getting us out of this unholy mess. Real solutions won't be pretty or have the snap, crackle and pop of lipstick-on-a-pig ads or accusing someone of being senile. But they might save the country from a ruinous course.
Our best hope is for joint appearances, with the candidates standing side by side and taking questions from ordinary Americans. Similar to the "town halls" McCain advocated, these appearances would be an extraordinary symbol of the nation's bipartisan determination to tackle this crisis. And they would pave the way for the next President to actually deliver on his promises.