Although scheduled speeches on the economy Thursday by Mitt Romney and President Obama occurred after this column’s deadline, advance stories said neither Oval Office aspirant was going to break any new ground.

Instead, they were expected to repeat recent pledges, like Romney’s promises to green-light the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada and cut taxes, and Obama’s “jobs plan,” which involves more deficit spending partly financed by “tax hikes on the rich.”

As has previously been noted here, without some action by the president and Congress, Jan. 1 will see the arrival of “Taxmageddon,” when various tax hikes totaling $600 billion will kick in — and apply exclusively to “the rich” only if you think average taxpayers are among them.

And then there’s the gaffe of the week, in this instance escaping from Obama’s lips.

Although he backpedaled quickly, the president said at his most recent news conference: “The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government.”

He’s corrected himself on the not-so-robust health of the private sector, but Democratic campaign ads are still claiming that Mitt Romney threatens government workers.

Federal numbers show that it’s true that state and local government employment is declining (state worker job numbers fell 1.3 percent since the last recession began in 2008, while local governments’ employment dropped 2.8 percent over that period).

However, federal employment has risen 11.6 percent since Obama took office.

Private sector employment since 2008?

Oh, despite the president’s claims of growth, it’s still down 3.9 percent. As if you couldn’t tell.

Yes, states and communities have reduced employment in tough fiscal times.

That’s hardly Romney’s fault.

The president apparently thinks that hard-pressed taxpayers should just have to foot the bill to keep on every such worker, even as private employers were trimming their work forces.

And a government growth spurt that began under President George W. Bush and was doubled down on by Obama has led to a burgeoning government that we cannot begin to afford.

As economist Arthur Laffer and social scientist Stephen Moore wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “The numbers are mind-boggling. From the second quarter of 2007, i.e., the first full quarter of a Pelosi-Reid dominated Congress and a politically weakened President Bush, to the second quarter of 2009 when President Obama assumed office, government spending skyrocketed to 27.3 percent of GDP from 21.4 percent. It was the largest peacetime expansion of government spending in U.S. history.”

And then, “After taking office in 2009, with spending and debt already at record high levels and the deficit headed to $1 trillion, President Obama proceeded to pass his own $830 billion stimulus, auto bailouts, mortgage relief plans, the Dodd-Frank financial reforms and the $1.7 trillion Obamacare entitlement “

What about the deficits? Democrats like to blame President Bush for the current tide of red ink, and Obama himself recently said, “Spending under my administration has grown more slowly than under any president in 60 years. So this notion that somehow we caused the deficits is just wrong. It’s just not true.”

But as blogger John Hinderaker noted on the popular Powerline site this week, deficits in Bush’s second term were $318 billion in 2005, $248 billion in 2006 and $161 billion in 2007.

In 2008, the fiscal year in which Democrats had taken control of Congress, the deficit rose to $459 billion.

That brings us to Obama’s first year in office, with his party in full control of Congress. That year, as noted above, with the stimulus in full swing and other spending rising, the deficit hit $1.4 trillion. It was $1.3 trillion in both 2010 and 2011, with 2012’s red ink estimated closer to $1.5 trillion.

We can absolve Obama and the Democrats of responsibility for those numbers only if, as Hinderaker says, “we assume he has had nothing to do with events that have taken place subsequent to his inauguration.”

A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week indicated more registered voters trust Romney than Obama on economic matters, by a 46 percent-43 percent margin.

Some national polls are starting to show Romney leading Obama among likely voters — at a minimum the race is tied.

Meanwhile, a June 12 Federal Reserve report disclosed that in the past three years, as Investor’s Business Daily noted, “median income is down 10 percent, family net worth has plunged 39 percent (!), 23 million Americans are out of work and the official unemployment rate tops 8 percent for the 40th month in a row, the longest sustained period at that level since the Great Depression.”

That leaves Americans, The Washington Post said, “roughly on a par with where they were in 1992.”

I’m not clear about this, so perhaps someone can help me out — is that the hope, or is it the change?

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer. He can be contacted at:

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