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The “fiscal cliff” that awaits the economy at year’s end, largely because of Mr. Obama’s opposition to making the 2001 tax cuts permanent, only adds to this economic paralysis. If we go over that cliff and 90 percent of Americans are hit by severely higher taxes, that could plunge the country into another recession. As a result, individual Americans, businesses and investors are socking their money away in Treasury bills and other forms of savings, which has kept trillions of dollars out of risk-taking investments needed to create jobs and boost economic growth.

At the same time, “other data show that Americans are fleeing the stock market and avoiding the purchase of new homes,” the Post reported Tuesday. “They’ve been burned by the stock market. They’ve suffered through capital losses on their homes. And so they’re hunkering down in what they view as the safest place to store money,” said Karen Dynan, co-director of economic studies at the liberal Brookings Institution.

Americans have good reason to be fearful. Jobs are in short supply, median family household income is declining, and the poverty rate has risen to a record 15 percent, with 46.2 million people in poverty. On any given night, at least 700,000 Americans are homeless.

If you think the economy is going to get better anytime soon under Mr. Obama’s anti-growth policies, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke sent a grim signal Monday that the Fed would keep its near-zero interest rates in place at least through mid-2015.

Mr. Romney’s debate strategy will be to attack based on all of the economy’s weaknesses without letting up. He cannot allow the president to tie him down with distractions that have nothing to do with the difficult times Americans are facing under his policies.

Mr. Obama has had four long, insufferable years to fix the economy, and he has failed to do it. Unemployment is still above 8 percent, and the only reason the rate fell from 10 percent was because millions of discouraged Americans stopped looking for work and were no longer counted among the unemployed.

Mr. Romney spent his entire business investment career creating jobs here in America, so he knows how to do it. By now, it should be manifestly clear that Mr. Obama doesn’t.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.