After presiding over three consecutive years of trillion-dollar deficits, President Obama told an audience in New York on Tuesday not to believe critics who accuse him of running a “bloated government.”
“The only time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under me,” Mr. Obama said at a high-tech manufacturing center in Albany. “I make that point just so you don’t buy into that whole ‘bloated government’ argument that you hear.”
Actually, data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that federal employment has risen under Mr. Obama. When he took office in January 2009, there were about 2,064,000 federal workers, excluding the Postal Service. Last month, there were 2,202,400 such federal employees, an increase of 6.7 percent.
Including postal workers, overall federal employment has risen from 2,792,000 to 2,821,000 since January 2009.
The president’s claim about government employment is correct when factoring in state and local government jobs, which have been hit hardest by the recession. State governments have lost about 100,000 workers during his presidency, and local governments have lost nearly a half-million more.
Meanwhile Tuesday, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney attacked the Obama administration on exactly the charge Mr. Obama was denying — that he has revived a strain of old-school liberalism that puts its brand of politics far to the left of former President Bill Clinton.
“President Clinton said the era of big government was over. President Obama brought it back with a vengeance,” Mr. Romney said in an address at Lansing Community College in Michigan, where he attempted to cast Mr. Obama as an out-of-touch radical.
“President Clinton made efforts to reform welfare as we knew it,” he said, referring to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that Mr. Clinton signed in 1996. “President Obama is trying tirelessly to expand the welfare state to all Americans, with promises of more programs, more benefits and more spending.”
Having all but sewed up his party’s nomination, Mr. Romney is basically holding daily campaign stops while barnstorming the nation raising money for his general election campaign against Mr. Obama.
The president used his own Tuesday speech to criticize congressional Republicans for not going along with his proposal to provide states with money to hire more teachers and first-responders, which would have cost about $30 billion.
“This is at a time when we know one of the biggest drags on our economy has been layoffs by state and local governments,” Mr. Obama said. “Each time there was a recession with a Republican president, we compensated by making sure that government didn’t see a drastic reduction in employment.”
He added, “If Congress had said yes to helping states put teachers back to work, and put the economy before our politics, then tens of thousands of more teachers in New York would have a job right now. And that would mean not only a lower unemployment rate, but also more customers for businesses.”
When he wasn’t blaming Republicans for the slow pace of economic recovery, Mr. Obama was urging Congress to approve a “to-do list” of initiatives that he said would spur job growth. His wish list includes renewing tax breaks for clean-energy companies, creating a “jobs corps” to help veterans find employment, and ending financial incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas.
“The only way we can accelerate the job creation that takes place on a scale that is needed is bold action from Congress,” Mr. Obama said. “I know it’s an election year, but it’s not an excuse for inaction. Six months is plenty of time for Democrats and Republicans to get together and do the right thing, taking steps that will spur additional job creation right now.”
Mr. Obama visited the State University of New York’s Nano-Tech complex to highlight the region’s gains in high-tech manufacturing.
Former Gov. George E. Pataki said upstate New York has experienced the kind of job growth that would be fostered by the policies of Mr. Romney, rather than by Mr. Obama’s agenda.
“It doesn’t happen by demonizing those who are successful in business,” Mr. Pataki, a Republican, said. “It doesn’t happen by saying the one thing you will do is raise taxes on successful business people if you have a second term, as President Obama has said.”
In contrast, he said, Mr. Romney would start by “empowering the private sector, lowering the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, incentivizing the private sector.”
“That’s how you win the jobs and win the future — not by putting a half-billion dollars into a failed company like Solyndra that’s owned by your political cronies,” Mr. Pataki said.