David S. Broder's column about the lack of meaningful debate in this presidential campaign ["Questions We'll Wish We'd Asked," op-ed, Sept. 19] did not touch upon a central issue: priorities and funding for the next administration.

A Bush administration would be likely to continue to support a strong military and beefed-up intelligence and domestic security while holding the line on or trimming entitlements. President Bush probably would rely on tax cuts and restrained regulations to stimulate the economy without increasing tax rates. Whether or not one agrees with his priorities or his fiscal plan, his position is unambiguous.

The Kerry campaign has not spelled out how the candi- date would fund his vision for America.

John F. Kerry has few options for finding the substantial additional funds for the domestic initiatives he is advocating. He cannot cut back significantly on military or intelligence budgets, in this era of global terrorism, or levy a big tax increase; Congress would be unlikely to go along with either of those approaches.

Eliminating the Bush tax cuts on incomes of more than $200,000 would not raise anywhere near the revenue a Kerry administration would require. Barring an as-yet-undisclosed master plan, Mr. Kerry probably would be reduced to tweaking the tax code by reducing or eliminating deductions, closing loopholes, and adding fees and user charges.

With massive expenditures almost guaranteed irrespective of who wins, the core unaddressed question in this election is: What is the most sensible and least painful way to raise the revenue we are going to need?

Perhaps the debate tonight will flesh some of this out. But by all means, follow the money.


Silver Spring