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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

What’s Realistic? Pawlenty’s 5% Aspiration or Obama’s 4.1% Projection?



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During the opening minutes of this week’s debate, a great deal of the early questioning surrounded Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s economic plan that contended that a large part of the nation’s debt and job creation problems could be alleviated if the country could create the conditions for rapid and sustained growth, about 5 percent GDP growth per year.

Among moderator John King’s questions:

Senator Santorum, you mentioned — you said you have executive experience, as well as your Senate experience. Governor Pawlenty laid out an economic plan. A lot of tax cuts in that plan. Some economists said he had some unrealistic expectations, and he said you could grow the economy 5 percent a year, then 5 percent a year, then 5 percent a year. Do you believe that is a possible? Or

…Governor Pawlenty, answer the critics — and as you do so — who say 5 percent every year is just unrealistic.

…Governor Romney, I want you to come in on that point. Is 5 percent overly optimistic?

The great James Pethokoukis examined whether the projection was realistic, concluding that the likelihood “really depends on the pace of innovation.” (This was written before President Obama identified the cause of our national economic doldrums as ATM machines.)

However, easily forgotten from Pawlenty’s critics on the left is that his allegedly unrealistic goal only a smidgen higher than the administration’s projections: “Looking ahead, the Administration projects moderate GDP growth of 3.1 percent in 2011, with growth then rising to an average rate of 4.1 percent during the next four years.” (And as we all know from the unemployment chart how reliable those Obama administration projections can be.)

Of course, one is an aspirational goal; five years of, say, 4.7 percent GDP growth would still feel like nirvana after the mess we’ve endured in the past few years, and would be comparable to the mid-1980s or late 1990s. I’d argue that a projection deserves more caution than an aspiration; if you botch the projection, you find yourself in much worse economic shape than you expected and may be unprepared for the related challenges.

It is hard to argue that Pawlenty’s 5 percent goal is unrealistic, but that the Obama administration’s projection of 4.1 percent is realistic. But I am sure some folks on the Left will try.


Tags: Barack Obama , Tim Pawlenty


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