Yes, definitely right track. I did some further testing and, while the economic options don't seem to work quite how they ought to, they're definitely doing something. Deficit falls steadily even without any major growth when I have the deficit option activated constantly.
I'm going to try using these at year-end when the game does major recalculations of the economy to see what impact they have - that'll prove one way or another what the options are actually doing.
I'm relatively sure they're NOT just changing the UI numbers, however.
One thing I have noticed: I think - and this is by no means certain - that having the options on does something weird to inflation. The EU refuses Switzerland entry on the basis of having too high inflation - but Switzerland is only at 1.26%, which is lower than anyone in the EU.
Played a game as the Swiss before and could pretty much join the EU right at the start of the game.