Either Barack Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, will face a fiscal nightmare: a sluggish economy, a massive tax increase, meat-axe spending reductions, the expiration of extended jobless benefits, and a debt ceiling that imperils the faith and credit of the U.S.

Both candidates, though especially Romney, are calculating they can avoid specifics and focus on the other guy’s deficiencies. …

If Obama and Romney believe this is a big-stakes election, here’s how they could show it: Challenge their opponent to present, by Sept. 15, a broad-based, specific budget/tax deficit-reduction plan so Americans can compare and contrast and discuss and debate before they vote.