When will candidates get real, and really specific, about economics?

Social Security COLA
FILE -In this May 8, 2008 file photo, blank U.S. Treasury checks are seen on a roll at the Philadelphia Financial Center, which disburses payments on behalf of federal agencies, in Philadelphia. Millions of older Americans who rely on federal benefits will get a 1.7 percent increase in their monthly payments next year, the government announced Wednesday. It’s the third year in a row the increase will be less than 2 percent. The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, affects payments to more than 70 million Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees. That’s more than a fifth of the country.

Now that Republicans and Democrats have mostly sorted their choices for president, isn't it time for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and their interpreters to show us more about how they will raise money and pay for their schemes of growth and greatness?

How do Americans want our taxes spent? "Helping to ensure the Social Security system will not run out of money should be the top economic issue addressed by the next U.S. President," agreed 640 of the 1,000 adults queried last month by Harris Poll for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the pros licensed to track money for businesses and people who can afford CPAs.

Even among 18- to 34-year-olds, Social Security was the top economic issue, Harris tells us. Fewer than half of Americans cared as much about the federal deficit, unemployment, cutting taxes, and foreign trade.

An even smaller group said Job One is to keep interest rates cheap. The smallest group - 40 frustrated savers, of the 1,000 polled - say "the next president should increase interest rates."

It is sad that TV news has been relying on candidates and the professional TV squawkers - not economists, accountants, or other money pros - in its very limited coverage of the candidates' economic programs this year, say researchers at the liberal news-study group Media Matters.

The group credits conservative-friendly Fox News with talking more about the economy than other networks. But none of the networks is pushing candidates to declare between higher taxes and cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the military, or debt payments - which together make up more than 80 percent of the federal budget.

Trump's patter by now is familiar: "We're gonna take our country back and we're gonna make it great for everybody. We're gonna bring back jobs. We're gonna bring our companies back. We're not gonna let foreign countries steal our companies and destroy our jobs anymore," as he chanted before an overflow crowd in West Chester, a day before winning every county in Pennsylvania.

No more falling wages, either: "We're gonna turn that around" with tougher trade deals, employer incentives, and fewer "foreign-born" workers.

Clinton is similarly on record calling on the nation to "raise incomes for hardworking Americans so they can afford a middle-class life," based on "business tax reform," "comprehensive immigration reform," "faster broadband," and cheap road-repair loans.

She also wants more paid family leave, and sick days, and a higher minimum wage, and profit-sharing, and "debt-free" college.

I wish the candidates addressed the tough questions raised by such pros as James R. Hines, the Michigan law professor and economist who codirects that school's law and economics and tax policy programs and is a busy scholar of real-life "job creation" and public finance.

Hines spoke Wednesday at a Drexel University program on "Tax Incentives and Competition for Economic Activity." He said rational tax policy means slapping heavy taxes on businesses that can't leave town - retailers, local services - while easing taxes on factories and other big employers that can move their relatively well-paid jobs to cheaper places. And, by the way, factory jobs are vanishing everywhere, he added.

There's no shortage of smart businesspeople who back Trump. Donald J. Payne, who worked at IBM, ran start-ups and held top jobs at Dunbar and Brink's armored-car companies before retiring to northeast Maryland, tells me he backs Trump because George W. Bush caused - and Barack Obama failed to prosecute the authors of - the "weapons of mass destruction fraud" that led to the Iraq invasion and the "fraudulent" finance that wrecked banks in 2008.

Will Trump do better? "There are things he does that I'm appalled at. The language that he uses," Payne told me. But "I see the empire he's put together. You can't do that without having people whom you trust and who have a lot of talent. . . . I understand what he's doing. He's appealing to the hearts and minds of the people. He's brought out more people than Romney and McCain. I think he's going to clean up his act and become more presidential."

Payne's old college classmate Lee M. Cassidy, who retired to Haverford from his old job as a marketing manager at the DuPont Co., disagrees.

"My experience in both business and government, including running a White House exchange program [in the Carter administration], tells me that few business executives really understand that government is very different," he told me.

"Herbert Hoover was a highly successful businessman, [but] a disaster as president." Even Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, victor in Europe, couldn't rewrite laws without Congress or enforce them without the bureaucracy, he added.

"The country is not operating well for the majority of its citizens," Cassidy agrees. But that doesn't make such messengers as Trump or Sen. Bernie Sanders qualified for reform, he says. Despite her style, "even her truthfulness," he's for Clinton as the best-prepared.

JoeD@phillynews.com

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NOTE: In the previous version of this column, University of Michigan Law School Prof. James R. Hines Jr.'s law school was misidentified